It is often said that we cannot love someone else unless we love ourselves. It is also often said that loving yourself is all about self-esteem (i.e., you can’t love yourself if you have low self-esteem and vice-versa), and self-worth. But … what does it mean exactly? And, how do we get self-esteem? How do we love ourselves to get our self-esteem back? I know this is a concept I have struggled with for … well, let’s face it, probably most of my adult life, like most of us – or at least those of us who have thought about this. I’d like to share some of my journey and some of what the research shows self-esteem, or loving yourself, is all about.
First, let’s look at the definition of the words themselves.
Self-esteem: a feeling of having respect for yourself and your abilities.
Self: Well, that doesn’t really needs a definition, right?
Esteem: respect and affection.
Love: a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person.
Self-love: regard for one’s own happiness or advantage.
Self-worth: a feeling that you are a good person who deserves to be treated with respect.
Hence, I think we can all agree that loving yourself, self-esteem and self-worth all mean the same thing. And, please, let’s not confuse any of these with getting your mojo. The term mojo is defined as: a power that may seem magical and that allows someone to be very effective, successful, etc. While, I hope everyone gets their mojo, I think it more important to get your self-esteem.
So there are all kinds of ways that we can love ourselves and get our self-esteem back. We can take long baths with candles (preferred by women, in general), get a massage, get a mani-pedi (again, generally preferred by women), go shopping (I wouldn’t recommend this one, but it seems to be a preferred “therapy” for some, if not most). We can also do more enlightened things, like recite affirmations, go to personal growth retreats and/or seminars, read books, listen to inspiring CDs or watch inspiring videos, and even watch funny movies or go to shows and/or comedy clubs. I should point that, at least in my humble opinion, partying, drinking or taking drugs (this includes pot) is definitely not the way. I offer this not in judgment but as an observation. These feel good for a time because they diffuse your thoughts. That is, they calm your brain. They slow down the millions of thoughts you think, sometimes simultaneously. However, when you come out of the buzz and/or the high, you’re still feeling a lack of self-esteem. (see, Abraham-Hicks on Alcohol)
I know that I have watched numerous videos, listened to a variety of CDs, read a vast quantity of books, and attended some seminars. You may have too. If you’re like me, and like most people who have done the same, I would bet to venture that you are still left with … a hollow feeling inside of you. While all of these help, you’re probably still feeling that you are not entirely worthy. You’re still wondering how you can achieve this blissful state of self-esteem, self-worth and self-love where you are happy no matter what. I know I am, though I get closer every day. Let me share.
Based on my experience, the hollow feeling comes from the fact that obtaining your self-esteem back requires … work (gasp). It does not come naturally to the vast majority of us. Therefore, though we start on the path (see above), we soon give up. Why? Well, because it is hard and also because we live in an “instant” society. Think about it, we can’t even take the time to write long sentences anymore. Twitter restricts us to 144 characters. Texting, at least for the new generation, requires the use of acronyms and emoticons, all so we can get to the point faster. News are now served to us in 30-second bites. We are all impatient … I want it, and I want it now! This is a trend that started more than 50 years ago with the introduction of the credit card: Get it now, pay for it later! We live in a society in which we must fulfill our needs NOW! Even 30 seconds later is too late.
Let’s take for example our national obsession: slimming down. We all know the key to it: eat less, eat healthy, and work out. We all know that following this program works. Yet, It takes effort. It takes dedication. More importantly … it takes time. And time is precious. Time is money. Time is ticking. Time waits for no one. So many expressions to let us “know” that we don’t have time.
So, we start eating better – more greens, less meat, etc. We eat less. we drink less alcohol. We start working out. At first we see results. A pound here, another pound there. But then … time takes over. This is taking too long. I don’t have time to eat right, let me grab a burger and fries just for now. I don’t have time to go shopping for fresh foods, never mind cook. And corporations make it easy to forego our intentions, to deviate from our path. That chocolate cake looks so good … perhaps just this once. I’m exhausted tonight, I’ll skip Yoga or going to the gym (personally, I prefer the outdoors to a gym any day).
It’s no different for our path/program to self-esteem. It requires work, dedication and time! It requires passing up on most things that have you brought pleasure in the past. And, let’s face it, the pleasure of eating that doughnut, pizza, watching TV instead of working out, etc., was fleeting and followed by guilt. It requires a totally new perspective on life. It requires going against the flow. It requires, sometimes, standing by yourself and being true to yourself. It requires not listening to well-intentionned friends and sometimes family. It requires not buying into corporations’ attempts to make you believe that this or that product is the key to loving yourself. You can do it, but will you?
In the end, getting your self-esteem back, feeling worthy, requires action. You can sit all day repeating to yourself that you love yourself, that you are worthy, etc. You can listen to Oprah, Wayne Dyer, Abraham-Hicks, and the myriad of other gurus (by the way, I encourage everyone to do so) that have important messages to deliver. But in the end, you must take the time and have the dedication to apply all of these lessons, or at least the ones that resonate with you. You must have the courage to act in a way that you are not used to. You must make the time to be true to yourself.
Once you dedicate the time, another and most difficult part remains: look for your self-esteem on your own. No one can give it to you. It is a treasure that only you can find, and you can only find it within yourself. When you become dependent on someone else to provide it for you – usually in the form of a relationship, be it love, work, friends, etc. – then you will be disappointed at some point in time. That’s because the other person(s) you have become dependent upon has(have) their own path(s) to travel. They will, at some point in time, deviate their attention to someone or something other than you. Since you are now dependent on their light shining in your tunnel to show the way (so to speak), when the light faces a different direction, you become lost. The same applies to circumstances that surround you and things that you “own.” You cannot control people (at least not for long), you can’t control circumstances, and “things” provide fleeting pleasure at best (probably why we have the expression: buyer’s remorse).
There is only one thing you can control …. YOU! YOU can control how YOU view and react to the events in YOUR life. YOU can control what YOU eat. YOU can control when and often YOU work out. YOU can control what it means for YOU to have fun. YOU can control how much time YOU dedicate to what YOU love. YOU can control the people YOU wish to associate with. YOU can control what YOU watch, what YOU read and what YOU listen to. YOU can control what YOU choose to believe. YOU control YOU and YOUR thoughts! What are YOU doing to achieve YOUR goals? How hard and long are YOU willing to work at it?
Like slimming down, getting your self-esteem back will take, for most of us, a long time … for some, perhaps a lifetime. Can YOU stick with the program? It is oh! so very easy to just go with the flow, to give in and give up. It’s up to YOU.
For those of you interested, I have a worksheet that can help you on your path. You need but request it and I will be delighted to send it to you free of charge and with no strings attached.
“Everything that happens to you is a reflection of what you believe about yourself. We cannot outperform our level of self-esteem. We cannot draw to ourselves more than we think we are worth.” Iyanla Vanzant
As always, in love, Jean-Pierre
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