“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Many of the constructs of our society are based upon our sense of self-worth. We believe that if we buy or own certain items, we are worthy and have achieved success. At work, we believe if we work harder and get a promotion, attain a particular title/status and earn a certain salary that we are worthy. The challenge with much of this is that we are dependent on external factors for our sense of self-worth. It can also limit our ability to learn new things and try new experiences as our fears of failing and impacting our sense of self worth means we limit ourselves from growing and developing. It can in many ways explain our lives which are busier than ever, in our quests to feel worthy and fulfilled and yet nothing ever feels enough.
We live in a time where we are overloaded with information and images of who we should be, how we should live our lives and what we should even look like. Unless we have clarity of who we truly are and what is important to us, as well as embrace who we are, it becomes increasingly difficult to lead a fulfilled life that is in alignment with what is important to us.
The result of this is that we get caught up in a vicious circle of trying to do more and more to live up to these standards to feel better about ourselves. It presents itself in the form of never feeling like we have enough time or we never feel like we are enough because no matter how much we do, we still do not feel fulfilled.
It can also limit us from realizing our true and fullest potential as we are so busy leading the lives that others think we should be leading and busy trying to gain others acceptance and approval, that we lose a sense of our own self and purpose.
One alternative could be developing a healthy self-esteem. This means, having inner confidence in one’s worth and abilities. It is about knowing not only what your strengths are but also having an awareness of your weaknesses. It’s about embracing both of these and not allowing these perceived weaknesses to take away any degree of your self-worth. For when you do so, you see mistakes and failures as a necessary part of growing and developing and they strengthen rather than weaken you.
It also means that you start operating like a thermostat rather than a thermometer. What is the difference between the two? A thermometer is completely dependent on its external environment and its temperature readings fluctuate based on how hot or cold it is around it. The same can be said of our feelings and perceptions. Without clarity of who one is and a healthy self esteem we are highly dependent and reactive to everything around us.
A thermostat on the other hand self regulates temperature to maintain it at a constant temperature and is not affected by its external environment. In the same way, having clarity on who one is and a healthy self esteem means that we regulate and control our feelings and perceptions, that is, it comes from within and is not dependent on the environment and others perceptions. With this comes clarity, focus, inner strength, the freedom of being able to handle and overcome any situation and environment one is exposed to as it comes from WITHIN and YOU CHOOSE how to react.
A healthy self-esteem allows you to:
· Acknowledge and constructively deal with your inner critic
· Stop comparing yourself to others
· Set clear boundaries
· Embrace and accept yourself, your unique strengths and abilities
· Possess an inner strength and strong sense of who you are which allows you to not only utilize your fullest potential but gain inner peace and fulfillment
· Define your own vision of success and develop the courage to live it free from fear of judgment
It is that which we most fear that often holds the key to our liberation. Confronting it allows us to let go of the shackles that bind us.
It is possible to nurture and develop your self-esteem through the 4 A model:
A - Awareness of who you are through self-discovery
Gain clarity on your values, strengths, goals, what energizes and depletes your energy
Identifying WHO you are and WHAT your strengths are and what you enjoy, provides you with the awareness to invest more time doing that which you are really good at and enjoy and allows you to further develop this. We are problem solvers by nature and are often so focused on that which is wrong and what we need to improve, that we fail to see and acknowledge our strengths. Being aware of and focusing on further developing our strengths is a key part of developing a healthy self esteem.
A - Acknowledge your inner critic
Identifying your inner critic and learning how to constructively deal with it.
It’s important to be able to name and acknowledge your inner critic for what it is. By providing it with too much space to breed and grow, we diminish ourselves and our self esteem in the process. This lack of self-compassion often holds us back from opportunities to grow and develop and impacts our ability to pick ourselves up and move on or try again. Once we recognize its existence, we need to adopt a new perspective by seeing it through the lens of a best friend who cares about us deeply and imagine what they would say to us.
A - Accepting your humanness to allow you to practice self-compassion
Learning how to constructively deal with setbacks and acknowledge your self-worth.
A key outcome of the self-discovery process is identifying what makes you unique, that is, what makes you YOU. Yes, not everything will work out and yes you will make mistakes, but when this happens, acknowledging it and reminding yourself of why you are worthy, what your strengths and inner skills and abilities are, allows you to take the situation into perspective. A key part of this is accepting that no one is perfect and we all have strengths and weakness and embracing this.
A - Action through micro – steps
Setting small achievable micro goals and commit to action to nurture your self-worth.
Nurturing and developing self-worth requires making small changes in our lives, and the actions we take to support those small changes consistently over time is what leads to transformation and a new state of being. Examples of small actions you can take are for example:
On a daily basis, writing down what you are grateful for and actions or qualities you displayed on that day that you were proud of. Doing this consistently over time, helps you retrain your brain to focus just as much on that which is working well as that which is not
When your inner critic appears, counter it by imagining what you would say to a close friend if they were in your situation and acknowledge the strengths you possess and qualities and abilities you have consistently displayed over time
Commit to taking small steps every week to use more of your strengths. Identify which strengths you would like to use more of and how you can take just 1 or 2 small actions at work or privately to use more of them
To be human is to be imperfect and to appreciate all the beauty this brings with it. For it is not others perceived perfections that allow us to connect with them deeply but rather their vulnerabilities and struggles. And in so doing, it makes us realize how we are all so much more alike than different and also intricately connected.