Self-esteem is THE major challenge of our era. It lies at the heart of many of the diverse issues and challenges we face in life.
In fact, it is precisely because low self-esteem does not seem to be the problem, that it is so very insidious. Many people who suffer from low self-esteem attribute their life challenges to wholly different causes. It does not even occur to them to relate their problems to how they regard themselves at the deepest level. Instead, they blame their problems on a mean boss, racial or sexual prejudice, a talent for choosing abusive love partners and so on.
In this way, the problem is externalized. However, doing this merely moves a person further away from the real problem, and consequently from the solution. Thus by disguising itself as some other more immediately visible issue, low self-esteem is never tackled and overcome. It remains to rear its ugly head again.
Whatever challenge you face, you can rest assured that someone else has had it even worse, and yet gone on to triumph. If so, what prevents you back from doing the same? The answer must inevitably be - yourself. YOU are the primary force shaping your life. If others faced similar external challenges and triumphed, then external circumstances are NOT the primary determiners of your life. Your attitude of mind is.
How Low Self Esteem Arises
People with NO apparent self-esteem problems may still be susceptible at a subtle level. For example, failing to shoot for your dreams when you were young, and settling for a safe route to an unchallenging existence, can damage how well you regard yourself. In later life, it could manifest in short temper, cynicism when others DO try to better themselves, and even physical illness. However, it seems hard to pinpoint the exact problem.
At the heart of compromises such as these is the fact that you did not believe in yourself sufficiently. In other words, self-esteem issues, often inherited from your parents, appeared at this early stage.
There are many causes of low self esteem. We gain our predominant world-view by the age of five. In other words, whether you consider the world to be a safe or dangerous place, and whether you will react to events in a primarily positive or negative manner, is determined by this age. Parents are the prime shapers of our young psyches at this time. However, schools, society, and our peers also play an important role. Our later experiences in life merely reinforce the core impressions we gained at this very early age.
As the role of parents is so vital, they need to be FAR more conscious of the consequences for their child of EVERYTHING they do, say, or even think. Moreover, this care must begin whilst the child is still in the womb! Parents are too often far too casual about how they bring up their children. They unconsciously pass on their own limitations to them as a result.
Facing The Challenge Of Ourselves
What can you do to improve your self esteem? The first thing is to understand the difference between self-esteem and self-image. Self-image forms as a result of comparisons you make between yourself and those around you. It is the judgement you make of yourself - the image you have of yourself. Sadly, it is often negative as you can usually find someone better than you at almost everything. Self-image in turn affects self-esteem. An easy way to understand this difference is to look at young children. They have perfect self-esteem BECAUSE they have no self-image. They are not continually judging themselves against externals and falling short.
The key is NOT to work upon self-image. This is what many people try to do. However, working on self-esteem IS the heart of creating radical change. When you work from the inside out, how you feel about yourself in comparison with externals must eventually improve as well.
The key to improving your self-esteem is to take conscious control of your self-talk. Negative self-talk is the prime cause for creating and maintaining negative self-esteem. The things you say to yourself in your mind, as well as the meaning you attribute to events in your life, combine to create the reality you end up living. Most people's self-talk is roughly 95% negative. They see the worst in themselves and in everything that happens. Putting a stop to such self-destructive thinking is vital. It is our thoughts and expectations that shape and produce what we become. The quality of our lives is a direct result of them.
One excellent way to combat and overcome negative self-talk is through using positive affirmations. The principle behind them is that the brain cannot entertain two contradictory notions at the same time. Eventually one of the two contradictory notions must win out and cause the other to collapse completely. The belief that finally wins out is the one that you invest with the most emotional energy and constancy of thought.
Affirmations such as
"I like myself"
"I am a positive person and I create a positive life"
"I am a wonderful person of immense value who deserves to be loved"
and others like these will do absolute wonders. Note how all good affirmations are framed in the positive. Never frame an affirmation in the negative, e.g. "I am NOT a negative person". The subconscious literally cannot see the word "not" and will therefore interpret and act upon the affirmation as if you said "I AM a negative person"!
Create a series of affirmations like this and resolve to use them throughout the day. You can write one or more of them out ten, twenty or more times a day. You should also take every opportunity to say them out loud to yourself. Always do so with enthusiasm and gusto; really feeling the positive emotions surging through your body. This is the true key to making affirmations work in improving self esteem. Putting all your emotional energy behind them gives the affirmations the power to destroy negative self-talk and low self esteem.
An extremely powerful way to use affirmations is to record yourself speaking them quietly onto a tape, perhaps with some soothing background music that you like. Then you can play this tape quietly in the background at every opportunity. You have effectively created your own subliminal tape! Try playing this to yourself when you sleep at night, using an auto-reverse walkman. The results in your life will be truly tremendous.
Recognition Of The Problem Is Halfway To The Solution
There are many effective ways to remedy low self-esteem. However, the key to success in life is to recognize the existence of the problem in the first place! Therefore, consider where self-esteem issues may be lurking in your life, but manifesting as apparently external problems. The key attitude for success in life is to take total responsibility for what happens to us. We must work upon ourselves continually in order to manifest what we want. Creating high self-esteem is one of the best things you can ever do to totally transform every aspect of your life.
Copyright 2000, Asoka Selvarajah. All Rights Reserved.
Dr. Asoka Selvarajah is an active writer/researcher on personal development and esoteric spirituality. Asoka's work helps people achieve their full potential, deepen their understanding of mystical truth, and find joy in their true soul's purpose.
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