The comedian, Katt Williams, once described self-esteem as “the esteem of one’s self,” meaning, the respect and worth you feel about yourself. In his skit, he alluded that we are not responsible for another person’s self-esteem. Therefore, he inferred if your self-esteem is low, it is your problem. What the comedian missed in his standup was that our self-esteem develops based on our life experiences. Meaning parenting style, being praised, or criticized, being respected or disrespected, all have correlational influence on having low or high, secure or defensive, self-esteem. So, in some degree, we do influence how someone’s self-esteem develop, based on our relationship to the person.
Many people struggle with self-esteem. It is believed many of our problems come from how we feel about ourselves. Likewise, people beat themselves up and have issues with self-sabotaging behavior and “stinking-thinking” because of low self-esteem. I personally had to overcome these issues. My sister did also. So, I know first hand the effect of someone's words and behavior on self-attitudes. When I was young, my parents divorced. Both of my parents suffered off and on from addiction and their personal issues effected their behavior towards my sister and me. Neither could effectively parent us. My sister and I were raised by relatives, so we both had abandonment issues.
I remember several experiences that impacted my self-esteem during my childhood and informative years through my young adult years. One experience, I was about eight years old, my mother dropped my sister and I off with our father while she went on a binge. She did not pick us up for several days. My father begged friends to feed us and to give us hand-me-down clothes to wear because my mother did not prepare for us to stay with our dad for as long as we did. In fact, I remember hearing my father say very derogatory things about my mom, and he feared my mother was not going to return. He did not know what to do with us. I remember feeling so scared that he would leave us with strangers if my mother did not return. When my mother finally came to pick us up, my father was furious. He yelled and cursed at my mom, and threatened her for leaving us with him. I remember feeling very unloved and unwanted.
Another experience was when we lived with relatives because my parents could not care for us. My older cousins rarely took me out with them to play. However, they took my younger sister often. I once asked why I could not go out with them. I was told, flatly, I was “too ugly." In fact, one of my cousins always called me “Ug-Mug.” I rarely received any praise, attention or affection as a child, other than having basic needs cared for until my teen years. When I was older, I was called “attractive enough for a dark-skinned girl,” “smart enough for a girl from the hood (though I was an honors student),” or some other underhanded compliment. Each of these incidents made me feel devalued and made me question my worth, inteligence and appearance.
I now know these experiences contributed to why I suffered from low self-esteem until my early 20’s. It took me many years to build positive beliefs about myself and to learn to value me. It was not an easy journey. But, with counseling, coaching, my meditation and Buddhist practices, I have become a person who loves who I am, warts and all. My journey started when I changed my mindset and started to see myself clearly. I learned it is more important what I think about myself than what others think. I know my worth.
What about you? I am not one to say if I can do it, so can you. But, I will say that you can build your self-esteem, if you want. I have worked with clients, in conjunction with their therapists, to incorporate mindfulness and solution-focused coaching in their lives. I am always excited when I see other people overcome self-esteem and self-sabotaging behavior. It is freeing, satisfying and a joy to discover your worth and be unwavoring from your belief about who you are and what you can do.
If this is an area you struggle with, you can work on how you think about yourself and learn to respect, honor, and love yourself just as you are.
Here are some items I have personally applied on my journey, and a few of my clients have chosen to also follow:
Have self-compassion and focus less on what other people think or say about you
Get counseling to help you identify where the correlations between your experiences and self-esteem development exist (e.g., childhood experiences), or to identify if there are other conditions such as depression and/or anxiety that need to be treated
Hire a mindfulness-focused life coach to help you create goals and activities that will help you develop your self-esteem
Tap into a spiritual-based or mindfulness-based practice
Build a positive support network of encouraging people
Release people from your life who are negative, belittle you, or make you feel worthless
Recite to yourself positive affirmations: you can start right now just by looking in the mirror and saying, I value me, then, begin taking actions that demonstrate your affirmation
Focus on your accomplishments and what you know you are good at
Participate in activities that will help you build your skills and confidence
Limit your social media exposure - there are several studies where researchers found social media can negatively influence self-esteem
If you would like to learn more and start creating activites and goals to help you build your self-esteem, contact our offices at firstname.lastname@example.org or 856.435.8483.