Saying that self-esteem can mean life or death might seem a bit melodramatic. However, it’s stated quite plainly in Barksdale’s Building Self-Esteem. And he does make a good point.
Self-esteem is not just how we see ourselves. It plays a critical role in things like our emotions, reactions, life decisions, the health of our relationships, the health of our bodies–and yes, even life itself.
Whether our self-esteem is high or low, we should at least invest the time to examine it and become more aware of its influence on our lives.
What is Self-Esteem?
Self-esteem is actually not about being infatuated with ourselves and having a big ego. Furthermore, it’s not even based on our level of intelligence and accomplishments or our character and personality (5,7).
“…history is crammed with cases in which the most intelligent and gifted people have become alcoholics or drug addicts, or committed suicide in order to escape from a self they have come to loathe.”Building Self-Esteem, 6
So all those external factors such as intelligence, accomplishments, popularity, status, talents, and personality, have no bearing on how we deeply feel about ourselves. Rather,
“Sound self-esteem is rooted in unconditional acceptance of ourselves as innately worthy and important, despite mistakes, defeats, and failures.”Building Self-Esteem, p6
This feeling is deep and often hidden. It can be so hidden that most people don’t even know how they truly feel about themselves (7).
That can be a problem.
Not understanding our own self-esteem can result in living our whole life completely oblivious to what is at the heart of our reactions, major life decisions, the health of our relationships, and more. Fortunately, understanding grows with reflection.
To help, let’s reflect on the following questions.
- Are you keenly aware of your level of self-esteem?–Not in the egotistical sense but having unconditional self-worth.
- How would you rate your level of self-esteem? Take a self-esteem quiz here.
- How has your level of self-esteem impacted your life?
- Is your self-esteem holding you back?
- Do you ascribe to the myth of perfection?–This is a sign of low self-esteem that comes from a belief that our free will should make us capable of perfection. The result is us going through life pursuing perfection without really knowing why or how to get there (7).
If your answers to these questions make you cringe, know that there is hope. Just as low self-esteem is developed over time (more on that later, but stop blaming yourself), higher self-esteem can be developed as well (also more on that later).
For now, some introspection is in order; and that alone is a major step, considering most people will never reflect on their level of self-esteem. Therefore, they will never be able to address the root cause of many struggles in Mind, Body, and Soul.
Barksdale, L. S. Building Self-Esteem. The Barksdale Foundation, 1989.