Help with Self Esteem, Part 2 of 5

Understanding your Uniqueness

Self-esteem is a complex issue. It’s a result of our early childhood experiences, the choices we make as we grow ourselves into adults, the effects of letting others choose for us if we don’t make choices, and how those choices shape our lives.

In Help with Self-Esteem Part 1, we discussed the main ingredients contained in self-esteem, or, our value, from infancy to adulthood. We also provided five important tips to improve self acceptance and self love which is where self worth begins.

In Part 2, we will take a closer look at how our relationship to others can have a significant impact our self worth. If your worth has not been affirmed by others, or you have not been showered with adoration and care, you may not naturally understand the value of your individuality and uniqueness. Without understanding your worth, you may not believe you deserve anything other than what you have at this moment…which may feel less than satisfying.

Today, we live in an advanced society where conformity to certain standards of living is the norm, and anything less than those standards is considered inferior. Take ‘net worth’ for example. Unless you have multiple investments, own assets (real estate) and have a certain level of ‘liquidity’, you may be grouped into the ‘have nots’. The old adage “keeping up with the Joneses’ refers to a competition with your neighbors to see who could acquire the most stuff. That is not living an authentic life. Comparing yourself to others in this capacity can lead to self-judgement, harming your emotions. Never let the failures or success of others be the driver for how you see yourself. We can learn from others mistakes and successes, and that is wise…and enough.

Speaking of success, it’s generally understood that if we succeed, we can expect to be praised and our value becomes apparent. But if we fail, for any number of reasons (and we will because we are human), family imposed shame or self-doubt can lead to isolation and feeling alone. Nobody is an island and we all need help from one another. Two books that help one to understand the healthy side of failure include Failing Forward, by John C. Maxwell, and Bounce, The Art of Turning Tough Times into Triumph, by Keith McFarland. You will learn how failing, forward, is necessary and that without failure we cannot truly grow and become more. Are you afraid to fail? Are you doing your best, but the best doesn’t feel good enough? You are not alone. Millions of people have felt this way too. You can get through it. We try and prevent mistakes when possible, but all we can truly control is ourselves. Everything else is left to circumstance, luck and chance. Slow down with decision-making and listen carefully to your inner voice – it is an excellent guide. The old saying ‘haste makes waste’ has proven to be true time and time again.

You personality and how you interact with others can have an impact on how you see yourself. If you are a naturally quiet person among loud non-stopping talkers, you may never find a voice and take a ‘back seat’ to other people’s ideas, whims and opinions. Is that really what you want for yourself? Perhaps it’s time to shatter your limiting beliefs and tap into your unique personhood. You are a shining star and you were meant to shine. Shine with your own glow, with your own color, with your own, original style.

But how do we get there? If your life took a turn-of-events or detour off your planned path, where to next? To answer that question, you will need to answer some other important questions first:

What am I currently conforming to and why?
Is my conformity a default because of how I was taught or raised?
Is conforming to these standards enough?
Am I aligning with people and organizations who have shared beliefs?
Where is my tribe, or who represents my community?
What do I believe? How do these beliefs benefit me and others?
What are my interests? How can these interests benefit me and others?
What are my values and how do these help me and others?

Communities are based on beliefs, values, common interests and shared values. Getting clear about the type of people who can support your growth, and the kind of people you want to support in their growth is key to increasing your self-worth and value. But, before you can build into others’ sense of worth, you have to master yourself first. Aligning with the right people is critical as they will be the ones cheering you on. Spending time with like-minded people may also give you the sense of kinship you are missing too, or provide the validation for just how awesome you really are.

Don’t be afraid to explore what is new and different and find out if it works for you, or not!

Before our society became complex, we were all essentially from small tribes, communities, townships or families. We each had a role to play. The skill or service we acquired, or imposed upon us, added value to our lives and our community. We worked together as a collective for the greater good, not individual good. Individual good is about getting, and that alone will not satiate a need for connection.

In the ancient Hebrew scriptures there’s a proverb that says “with all thy getting, get wisdom, and with wisdom, get knowledge.” If we seek to understand just as we understand, we find the balance to value – a give/give relationship with the world around us. We are relationship-based creatures who need to feel connected, loved and cared for. Without a tribe or community, we may lack the deep sense of connection we need, and therefore feel alone.

When we are disconnected from ourselves and others, and we are not taking care of ourselves, our lives may become a series of compromises and sacrifices that result in depletion or harm. You may be doing this because you feel good when you are pleasing others. That’s very generous of you, and yet it is essential first to care for yourself before you can truly take care of others. If you have not affirmed your own worth, now is the time to give yourself the deep care you deserve and need.

If you don’t feel good about yourself, don’t worry. Every day you wake up is yet another opportunity to create a better version of yourself. Some days are failures and some days are successes. Improvement strategies are plentiful and there’s a bold statement used in the business world that summarizes finding your place in the world – “Grow or die.” Sounds pretty harsh doesn’t it? What this means is that if we are not growing, pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones and expanding, we are essentially experiencing attrition and will die. An example of this is how hard a seed has to work to become a tree. Plant a seed and it must grow, pushing up through the earth, around rocks and sticks, possibly through other vines that attempt to choke it out. It could encounter torrential rains and flooding, or freezing, or birds and insects that eat its leaves. It can get stepped on or get acid rain from an animal, and yet it can’t leave – it’s stuck there, to grow, through all that lands in its path. You too have to put forth tremendous effort to find your “place” in this life. It’s not easy, but for those who endure, the rewards are many.