The Self-Esteem Series: Part Three
Last week in part two of the self-esteem series I spoke about the different pillars that contribute to self-esteem, proposed by Nathanial Branden. The different components are to live consciously, to accept yourself, to be responsible for yourself, to be self-assertive, to live purposely, and to have personal integrity. If we work to become aware of these pieces and actively incorporate them into our minds and behaviours, we can experience an increase in our self-esteem and therefore our sense of self.
Easier said than done?
In my experience so far, it takes consistent effort. As I mentioned last week, I realized that a big part of my experience with the six pillars is the practice of conscious living. I recognize that I often put myself in situations where I choose to actively remain unaware and/or avoid doing certain things that would be for my greater good. In doing so, I harm myself because my inactive state only further perpetuates the insecurities that I have about myself; i.e., I’m not doing enough, I’m not good enough, things don’t work out the way I want them to, etc.
It’s as though I consciously choose to not do components of each of the pillars or that I only do them to a certain degree. As in, I choose to not be self-assertive in situations where I want to be or I choose to not pursue my goals with a sense of purpose. And then when this happens, I get down on myself and use it as evidence that, yes, I don’t deserve to have the things that I want.
How do you break the cycle?
Well, as I said last week, I’m no master at taming my self-esteem beast yet. However, having a look into the inner workings of what contributes to self-esteem does help me. It’s as though I have a training manual for a machine that was foreign to me and I’m slowly starting to pick up the mechanical lingo needed to understand the instructions. It takes time. I’m also learning that it requires a heck of a lot of patience and compassion during the process.
A big lesson I’m learning in terms of compassion is that there’s power in admitting to myself that I’m currently in a position of actively avoiding something. As in, “I’m aware that I could be doing more but I don’t feel like I can take this on right now”. At least this way I have a starting point and I know what I can do when I decide to make active changes. It’s then placed on my radar and I can revisit it at a later date, whether that be in a few days or a few months. And in the interim, I can appreciate the courage that it took to get myself there. I can be compassionate to this state and to the process.
When I practice compassion, I’m in effect telling myself that I care and that it’s okay. This in turn begins to create a nurturing environment where deep change is possible. Self-work can be challenging and extremely painful. In my experience, I only began doing my most productive work once I started showing up for myself genuinely and compassionately. I also find that it’s in this space where I gain clarity in the areas where I face obstacles or uncertainty. For example, I’m better able to distinguish what my goals are, what my voice is, what parts of myself I want to express more confidently, and how I can take on more responsibility when I feel like I’m standing in my own corner from a place of love and care.
Self-esteem strengthening takes time, compassion, and a willingness to keep trying even when things seem challenging. It’s an ongoing process that requires you to evaluate your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours to know where you’re at and where you want to go. A big lesson that I’m learning in the process is that my feelings are normal and that many people struggle with self-esteem issues. However, I’m not doomed to always suffer from feelings of inadequacy. I have power, strength, and the ability to make changes where I see fit.