“It’s not what you are that is holding you back.
It’s what you think you are not.”
This section is dedicated to people who suffer from low self-esteem. It was my problem in the past. I thought I am not worthy. The image of self that I had back then was a pile of rubbish mindsets further aggravated by my self-destructive habits. I worked hard to rewire everything in my head. I hope some of the things I share will help you to untangle your own issues with self-esteem.
According to Wikipedia, self-esteem is the overall subjective emotional evaluation of your own worth. Simply put, it is the way you think about yourself. “Think” — is the keyword here. Your vision of yourself is a thought-form. It is a mental construction. Similarly, to brick construction, mental constructions can be upgraded, repaired or entirely demolished and rebuild from the ground level.
The way you think about yourself is not fixed, it is dynamic, and hence can be altered by both external and internal factors. It is your responsibility to make sure that your self-esteem is a product of a thorough premeditated design otherwise you risk dealing with a self-image that is heavily skewed by external conditioning.
Building healthy self-esteem literally means “rethinking” all of your concepts of self. Luckily, there is a methodology to do it.
Apply the “First Principles”.
The reasoning from the “First Principles” that we discussed earlier in the section About Education can be reapplied to craft self-esteem. Slightly modified, those principles equip us with a practical self-assessment tool.
Principle #1. Identify and define your concepts of self.
Examine your self-image. Dissect all your concepts of self one by one using the following questions:
- Would you call this particular concept of self an objective truth or a subjective opinion?
- Was this concept of self shaped by personal experience? If yes, was it a repeated experience or was it a single event that determined your subsequent self-judgment?
- If the concept of self is not deduced from the personal experience, what is the source of it? (friends, parents, teachers, school, workplace, books, videos, etc.)
Analyze which of your convictions are ineffective and no longer serve you. Constraining components of self-image must be eradicated entirely or substituted with functional ones.
For instance, let’s take a look at a particularly toxic mindset: “Nobody likes me; I am not worthy of love” or even a more severe version: “Everyone hates me; the world is cruel and unfair.” This belief fails to pass the test by the first question. Clearly, such self-perception is a subjective opinion and not an objective truth. The implication of this is obvious: through the right mindfulness and right effort, any negative self-image can be changed.
The relationship between your perception of self and the objective reality is more than just a connection. Your perception creates reality. The reality follows your subjective concepts of self to prove you right regardless of whether said concepts are positive or negative by their nature. If you are convinced that the world is an unfair and cruel place you will start seeing more things or attract events that will reinforce your belief. You are literally making the world a hateful place by thinking about it that way. The “hateful” world makes you callous. It’s a self-sabotage loop.
From the first day of life, countless factors shape your self-image: your parents, friends, culture, language, surroundings, environment. We grow up calling that day a “birthday” but your real birthday is the day when you come to the understanding that you don’t have to live as you have been programmed all your life. The day when you realize that you are free to choose your thoughts including all your concepts of self — that is the day your life truly begins.
If the body is a temple, then the mind is a holy garden. Nurture it and it will blossom with beautiful thoughts, abandon it and the hogweeds of self-destructive beliefs will scourge your spirit. Identify the problematic mindset, admit its existence. The next step is to extirpate the weeds from the garden.
Principle #2. Break down your concepts of self. Find the roots.
If you successfully detected a dysfunctional belief, the next step is to identify the point in your life when the exact inception of it took place. You have to find the roots of the problem. Examining a belief try to dig down to its origin, ask yourself: “What made me think this way?”
Taking myself as an example, the idea that money can only come as a product of exhausting hard work was imprinted on my mind by my parents. They meant me no harm, it was their way to cultivate in me a mindset of frugality. Instead, as a result of such programming, I developed a scarcity mindset. The aftermath of such “financial education” haunted me for years.
Once I was able to trace back to the point in life where my understanding of money was distorted, the scarcity mindset started to dissipate giving place to new knowledge. I began to imbibe practical mindsets and tools. I discovered that money doesn’t necessarily have to be a result of hard work. When you love your craft it never feels like hard work and money is generated as a by-product.
Make sure you understand the source of your low self-esteem. Once debilitating mindsets have been pulled out by their roots you can apply the last principle.
Principle #3. Build new concepts of self from scratch.
As you already know, if something is not working out in your life, something is not working inside of you. Once you have built a resolve to change it is time to take action. Train yourself to disregard the voice of self-condemnation.
You are worthy.
Periods of self-distrust are inescapable, that’s just the way life is. The human mind is designed that way — every time we hit low negative self-talk starts to paint pictures of current and future failure. Dispel doubts by movement. I invite you to a mind-altering realization that all of the self-degrading thoughts you have about your current state are irrelevant. Progress can be made by acting mechanically.
Blind belief in negative self-talk is the greatest enemy of self-esteem. The main prerequisite of the ability to silence negative self-talk is the ability to detect it. You will not be able to detect negative thoughts if your attention is riveted on them. You have to disconnect yourself from the voice inside your head. This is when meditation comes into play. Meditation creates a space between “you” who is listening and “you” who does the talking. If thoughts that undermine your self-esteem exist within you, give them a right to exist. Allow them to be. Negative thoughts might be there but it doesn’t mean that they are true.
You have thoughts. Don’t let them have you.
Take a good care of yourself.
One of the reasons a negative mental chatter overpowers positive thinking is quite banal — hormones. If the biochemistry of your body is off-balance you may experience significant mood swings that will aggravate pessimistic states of mind.
Use proven brain hacks to exploit your hormones and optimize your mental performance. Abstain from toxic substances, eat food that doesn’t jeopardize your health, maintain sleep hygiene, go to a sauna, treat yourself a massage, exercise, take a cold shower. Doing things that trigger “good” biochemistry — that is what the self-love is all about.
Deploy 30-days challenges.
Actions that build up the sense of self-respect lay the groundwork for robust self-esteem. You don’t even have to have a goal. As long as the challenge forces you out of your comfort zone, you will benefit in significant ways.
4 weeks of challenge fly fast. If it doesn’t change you to good you can end it and forget about it like it never happened. But what if it does and a habit will stick? I promise you that if you pick-up a challenge and withstand it, your self-respect will grow and so will your self-esteem.
Don’t overload yourself with challenges. It will deplete your willpower. Start with a single realistic challenge, “the box” you can tick off on a day to day basis. Here are some ideas:
- Running in the morning.
- Intermittent fasting.
- Push-ups challenge.
- Early rising.
- Cold showers.
All these challenges have the potential to become habits but the best habit of all you will develop in the course of these challenges is the habit to keep searching for new ways to test your strength of will. The life of serial never-ending self-trial is not easy but it is exciting and the reward for those who dare to live such life is bulletproof self-esteem.
Write down your Mission.
Work is one of the main sources from which a man derives a sense of dignity and self-worth. If the strength and solidity of your self-esteem are your ambitions you must formulate the very reason for your existence. You’ve got to find the answer to the question:
What gets you out of that bed in the morning?
If you found “your thing” if you know your way of improving this world you have an obligation to execute on it. There is a job that has to be done and no other person in this world is capable of doing it but you. That reason alone is sufficient to prove to you that you are worthy.
Spend time with those who love you.
Sometimes an outsider’s view gives us a fresh perspective. We can use constructive feedback on our life to better understand how we are perceived by others and adjust our behavior accordingly to further fortify our self-image. A word of a friend can become a source of great revelation. Thus, compliments are indicative of our strengths and can potentially point out the ways to magnify them. Those who bonded to you by spirit will hold you up safely, above your swirling negative thoughts.
Create your own gratitude mantra and keep it to yourself. Repeat it right after your waking, before each meal, and before going to bed. Don’t confuse, gratitude should not be seen only as a spiritual practice. Repeating gratitude mantras is a scientifically proven method to rewire your brain on a cellular level. The major argument in favor of practicing gratitude is not spiritual. It is neurological. A brain of an experienced gratitude-practitioner is a brain that is highly trained in positive thinking and neglecting negative thoughts. For more details, watch the TED talk by Shawn Achor “The Happiness Advantage: Linking Positive Brains to Performance”.
Assertiveness is the most important element of a healthy self-esteem. Let’s talk about assertiveness in the next section.
Thank you for reading my book “Meditations of the Millennial”.
If you want to support me on my mission, please, share this book with someone you love. Maybe they will find what they seek on its pages.