Building Self Esteem:
Overwhelmed people often say that they need to “take care of themselves.” But they usually don’t know how to do it. They assume that by giving themselves some free time, eating foods they enjoy, or buying new clothes or new toys, they will take care of themselves. While they might give themselves some temporary pleasure, they won’t be building self esteem in the long run.
In order to be happy, we want to feel in control. Feeling in control makes us feel good. To achieve this feeling, we tend to do what we perceive is going to make us feel or look good. When we choose what feels good, we feed our ego. When we choose what makes us look good, again we feed our ego.
However, as it is explained in the article What is Self Esteem?, building our self esteem requires we reduce our ego, not feed it.
But there is a third choice: we can choose to do the right thing, hence feeding our self esteem.
Examples of what feels good, and feeds our ego
• Instant gratification such as addictions (drugs, alcohol, etc.) and obsessions (food, work, shopping, home renovations, etc.)
• Blaming others and looking for entitlement instead of responsibility – “I have the right to...” vs. “It is my responsibility to...”
• Exercising power through anger, authority, guilt trips, etc.
• Getting even – an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth
Examples of what makes us look good, and feeds our ego
• Seeking status by buying expensive clothes, cars, houses, etc.
• Making money the center of our happiness - using the power of money instead of our own power
• Making others look or feel smaller by controlling them so we can feel taller
• Cheating, lying, or blaming others so that we can either seem powerful or appear like a victim, which protects us against attacks and reproaches
• Tooting our own horn, in order to attract compliments
• Being around the rich and famous – living their life instead of living our life – because we believe we are judged by the company we keep
• Buying a diploma as opposed to earning it
Trying to feel or to look good is just a band-aid solution. It is limited to feeding our ego – our false self – and its temporary effect actually reduces our self esteem. Deep down we know we are not doing anything good to ourselves and we get caught in a vicious circle, constantly acting in a way that feeds our ego instead of building self esteem.
When we want to feel good, we tend to do the opposite of what we need. We look for respect from others and forget to seek self-respect.
The key to making ourselves feel good is not to try to feel good, but to do what is right, so we can have a better opinion of ourselves. By doing what is right, we immediately increase our self esteem because when we feel proud of what we do and we like ourselves. We create our own respect and we are not demanding it from others.
What is "Doing the right thing"?
It is living according to our values or what we know is right. It can be living according a specific religion, ancient traditions, family rules, set principles, or anything that is “right” for you.
Usually, doing the right thing involves some kind of effort, knowing that this effort will reward us internally, i.e. without counting on the praise of others.
Examples of Doing the right thing
• Learning a new skill or trying something difficult
• Replacing a negative behavior with a positive one
• Recovering from a failure
• Improving a relationship or forgiving someone
• Being honest with ourselves
• Getting things done instead of procrastinating
• Admitting when we are wrong – humility requires strong self esteem and increases it
The key is doing all these things without expecting any compliments or recognition. If the compliment is expected, we are increasing the ego. Doing the right thing without any expectation is a sure way to building self esteem.
Remember, increasing the ego with what feels and looks good is a temporary solution that may have a negative impact in the long term. Building self esteem by doing the right thing is your road to living a happier life.