Saturday, August 22, 2009

Importance of self-esteem


To other people, your physical and psychological characteristics, your strengths and weaknesses, and your external sources of identity define who you are. But more importantly, your internal sources of identity such as beliefs, values, principles and needs determine who you think you are. Your self-concept relates to the beliefs and opinions you have about yourself. It is your identity and your reality derived from your personal belief system. From the idea or concept of who you think you are, you develop an awareness and an image of yourself. Your self-image is how you see yourself rather than how others see you. The ultimate source of your self-image is internal, based on the conception of yourself and your role in life. It is the root of your self-esteem. It depends on how you perceive your abilities, achievements, family life, physical appearance, relationships, social status and education. If your intimate relationships or any other aspects of your life are not satisfying your emotional needs, you owe it to yourself to confront the problem. Whether you see yourself as a worthy, confident and loving person or not, radically affects your self-esteem.
What is self-esteem? There are many definitions and interpretations of self-esteem. Your self-esteem is how worthwhile you judge yourself to be and is an indication of your level of self-worth. Self-esteem is the way you think and feel about yourself, not what someone else thinks or feels about you. It is the capacity to experience self-acceptance, self-love and well-being whether or not you think you are successful at any point in your life. It is also related to concepts such as self-confidence and self-respect. It is the confidence in your ability to cope with the challenges of life and to feel worthy of happiness. It plays a vital part in how you live your life and it influences your attitude, resourcefulness and flexibility. It is often associated with your ability to control your environments. Self-esteem enormously helps your ability to make decisions. It allows you to withstand outside pressure and do what is right rather than what is most expedient or popular. Having healthy self-esteem and expressing it with humility and integrity actually makes you strong and confident.
The effects of low self-esteem are devastating to the quality of your life. If you have a low self-esteem, you feel insecure, unworthy, clumsy and incompetent. You find it difficult to interact with people and make important decisions. You become your own harshest critic, ignoring all your good points. You are constantly sending yourself damaging messages through your negative thoughts and images. It is very important that you become aware of these negative messages so that you can refute and replace them with positive affirmations of self-worth. You have to realize that until you work on enhancing your self-esteem by loving yourself in small ways, you cannot expect to change yourself in big ways.
The quality of your self-esteem is deeply connected to the relationship with your first critics, your parents. Regardless of your past experience, you need constantly to nurture and enhance your self-esteem. Enhancing your human need of self-esteem gives you the capacity to cope with change and to live a fulfilled life. Of all the opinions you have in your life, there is none as important as the opinion you have of yourself. You really have to love yourself first and everything else tends to fall into line. You cannot hope to realize your full potential as a human being without a healthy self-esteem. You are more likely to develop good relationships with people, to persist in the face of adversities and to attain personal happiness with a high self-esteem. By enhancing your self-esteem, you strengthen and muster your resources for your healthy growth and development. It gives you the ability to keep your emotions in balance, even when what's going on around you generates fear, anxiety or guilt.
How much self-esteem do you have? It is not something you can measure and quantify in absolute terms or figures. Self-esteem plays a vital part in how you live your life and the depth of satisfaction and joy you experience in playing, learning and working. In fact, most psychological problems you may have are related to some deficiency in your self-esteem. Your level of self-esteem is variable. It changes as you relate to the sense of well-being within yourself, and in response to your interaction with the environment, including people. On a scale of 1 to 10, at the bottom end, a person with a self-esteem of 1 is totally maladjusted and unable to cope with life at all. At the top end, a person with a self-esteem of 10 is the picture of self-reliance, contentment and confidence. Do not confuse self-esteem with boasting your confidence, bragging about your wisdom or being arrogant. Such actions may in fact reflect a lack of self-esteem.
There is no hope for happiness if you don't have sufficient self-esteem and self-love. The higher your self-esteem the more confident you feel that you can handle anything life gives you and the happier you are with yourself. You become more inclined to treat people with respect and fairness, and to be open and honest when dealing with them. You don't need some kind of external confirmation of self through achievement, admiration, praise, money, power, and the like. You are capable of liking others as much as you like yourself. Your level of self-esteem affects every aspect of your existence. This is reason enough for improving your self-esteem.

Self-image and self-esteem check

Your self-image and self-esteem is a package you put together based on your experience and feedback, and your perception of who you think you are and how you feel about yourself. The way you behave and interact with others is related to and influenced by your self-image and self-esteem. Most people are self-critical, believing that whatever they do is not good enough and that they are selfish or simply not as competent as others. You can check whether you have a healthy self-image and self-esteem by going through this simple exercise.
Find yourself a comfortable and quiet place to sit down and relax. Think of a special person you like very much and whose qualities you admire. Visualize this person as vividly as possible sitting beside you. Share with this person all your thoughts and feelings about him or her. Tell this person what you think of him or her and why. Take as much time as you need and when you have finished, say goodbye.
Repeat the same exercise but this time visualize that this special person sitting beside you is yourself. If you find it easy to think of loving thoughts and feelings about yourself and if you can find numerous qualities about yourself that you like, then you most probably have a very healthy self-image and self-esteem. You can use this visualization technique to give yourself the best advice you can on difficult issues in stressful times. On the other hand, if you have difficulty saying and finding self-enhancing thoughts, feelings and qualities about yourself, you may need to work on your belief system to enhance your self-image and your self-esteem.

How to raise your self-esteem

If you wish to improve your self-esteem, you need to know what specific practices are beneficial and integrate them into your life. The first step is to find out who you are by assessing yourself honestly, rationally and realistically. Accept your feelings about yourself with compassion and without judgement. Acknowledge that you have intrinsic worth as a human being as you are. Without self-acceptance, enhancing your self-esteem is almost impossible. Be realistic about your assets and shortcomings. Once you accept full responsibility for your self-image and what you believe and feel about yourself, you can choose to treat yourself with more respect and compassion. You need to be fully conscious and aware of your core beliefs, values and needs, and to start living your life more and more in harmony with them. Be willing to live your life in alignment with your purpose in life and be responsible for your self-esteem and well-being.
We have internal dialogue with ourselves all the time, internalizing messages and information about ourselves. Unfortunately, the negative messages that you sometimes send to yourself are very damaging to your self-esteem. Take care in avoiding self-criticism, instead remind yourself of accomplishments and achievements each day, no matter how small they are. Talk back to your internal critic. Train yourself to recognize and write down the recurring self-critical thoughts. Evaluate and monitor these thoughts and you will find out that most of the time they are grossly distorted. Understand that you cannot earn worth through what you do, how you look and how much people love you. It is only your sense of self-worth that determines how you feel. Acknowledge the fact that you have both positive and negative feelings. You need to pay particular attention to your negative feelings and listen to the messages being sent. The result of careful introspection is to increase your awareness and understanding, allowing you to respond to them by taking appropriate and constructive action. Practise talking back to your critical thoughts to develop a more realistic self-evaluation system. You are what you think you are. One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is a sense of individual identity, uniqueness and worthiness.
It is essential that you write your negative critical thoughts down as it will become much more evident to you how distorted they can be. The written method cannot be bypassed because it exposes the illogical nature of most of the thoughts that trouble you. You can then respond to your internal critic in more realistic terms and you can substitute your self-critical thoughts with more objective life-enhancing thoughts. You can learn by noticing what you did or thought that lowered or raised your self-esteem.
A good way to start boosting your self-esteem is by setting simple, short-term goals. Everytime you achieve one of your goals or do something worthwhile give yourself a pat on the shoulder. Compliment yourself for everything worthwhile you are doing right now. Encourage yourself as you would encourage your best friend. You enhance your self-esteem everytime you express your opinion with confidence by making decisions and choices, following through with dedicated commitment. If other people praise you for the way you handle a tricky situation, accept the accolades graciously. Accepting compliments about your appearance, your work or anything you do can help to build your self-respect and self-esteem. Reinforce the positive messages you receive. Don't take criticism personally. Acknowledge constructive criticism with which you agree and discard unfair or unwanted criticism by refusing to let it affect you. Associate yourself with positive and effective people. Avoid people who tend to put us down. Keep a list of all your accomplishments and all the goals you have already achieved. When you are feeling down and discouraged, read your list of accomplishments and remind yourself of all the goals you have already met. Honour your beliefs, values and needs by having the courage to assert yourself when you think it is necessary. Know your needs and ask others for what you want in a clear and honest way. Cultivate cheerfulness by being grateful for your blessings. Cheerfulness enhances your self-esteem by eliminating the feelings of inadequacy from your life and makes life more fun. Always do the best you can, given your awareness at the time. Let your ideals, values and convictions match your behaviour and action.
From whatever point you are starting, you can choose to enhance your self-esteem by putting some of these principles into practice. The more you integrate these practices in your daily life, the more you enjoy high self-esteem. When you treat yourself as being worthy of respect, esteem and happiness, you feel better about yourself and about all aspects of your life.

Extract from Become Your Best:

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Build self-confidence and confidence in others


We all have confidence. It is just a question of cultivating and nurturing it. If you grow up in a home where praise, encouragement and caring are the rule, then you are more likely to have confidence in yourself. Confidence is a measure of a person's self-assuredness. It springs from knowledge, ability, skills, discipline, tenacity and perseverance. It does not mean boasting or bragging or being arrogant. Self-confidence is the calm conviction that you can achieve whatever you set out to do. It does not mean that you need to know everything and be capable of doing it all by yourself. You develop confidence by setting a goal and achieving it, and by making a promise and keeping it, one at a time. You build self-confidence by having the ability to set and achieve meaningful goals, by fulfilling your needs, by keeping your promises, by acting with integrity and courage.
Like most people, you may have some self-doubts about your capabilities and potential. In the past, you made mistakes, had failure and rejection, and did not live up to your expectations. Don't let these shortcomings erode your confidence. You can rebuild your self-confidence by putting power in your commitment and focusing your mental energy on your immediate goal. If you don't have confidence in yourself, how can you expect anyone else to have confidence in you. If you lose confidence in yourself eventually others lose their confidence in you too. You hold certain values, beliefs and principles to which you are committed. As a result, you have an inner purpose around which you make your decisions. You need to become a person with integrity and conviction who can make courageous decisions to change your life for the better. Confidence in yourself gives you the strength to make good ethical decisions despite pressure to act otherwise. It is very easy to give up but it takes courage and strength to be caring and yet firm, and to do what you know you ought to do. As you look toward the decisions you would like to make to change your life, have the confidence and the courage to act on them.
There are two powerful concepts: Faith and Fear. If you have faith in yourself, in your abilities and in your future then you also have self-confidence and courage. If you allow fear to creep in your life, the fear you cannot do something can wipe out your faith and self-confidence. The reason so many people are not confident in themselves is that it hurts to keep on trying when their efforts always seem to fail. The fear of failure sets in. Acknowledge and accept your fears rather than ignore or deny them. To build self-confidence, you need to be willing to push through the discomforting barriers and to act despite your feelings. It is through the experience of overcoming your fears that you will make the most strides in enhancing your self-confidence.
The act of striving and persevering in face of obstacles provides a sense of satisfaction and pride that promotes confidence. It takes strength and endurance to keep on trying and doing what you know you ought to do when the going is rough. It's much easier to give up and quit. During your period of weakness, self-defeating behaviours and negative self-talk can come back to haunt you. Don't replay the memories of past failures, disappointments and mistakes, it robs you of your self-confidence. Recognize that we all experienced failures at one time or another, even the most successful people. You can expect problems, setbacks and changes in circumstances, but you don't have to agonize over them and live in fear of them. When changes happen, look for what else is possible and choose the most viable alternatives. View the obstacles as opportunities from which to learn and grow rather than events to be feared. Have faith in yourself. It frees your mind from the self imposed limitations of doubt, fear and discouragement. Faith provides you with the courage, inspiration and self-reliance you need to live life purposefully. Give yourself permission to take reasonable risks and accept responsibility for mistakes. Start taking small calculated risks and venturing occasionally into the unknown. Be alert and prepared for head-on encounters. It's by striving to overcome obstacles as they arise that you build your self-confidence. Fear or faith, failure or success, you have to choose which path you want to follow. Never allow fear to rule your life, always have faith in yourself. Acting with confidence can break vicious cycles of fear. This can be a hard inner struggle but persevere and you will come out a winner.
Be humble in the presence of superior knowledge and intellect, be willing to learn by asking questions. Look for and associate with positive and confident people. It is very empowering to have the support and energy of understanding and motivated friends. You can have a positive influence in each others' process of growing and confidence building. Keep visualizing your best moments, the times when you conquered fear, were totally confident, and felt successful. No matter how few these good moments were, don't let them die. By remembering these moments of triumph you slowly build your own self-confidence. Trust the worth you have placed upon yourself. The confidence other people have in you reinforces your confidence in yourself. Confidence breeds more confidence. You then have the courage to take more challenges and make major decisions in your life. You can start to stretch your capabilities and your comfort zone. When you take charge of your life through choices and decisions, you receive powerful boosts to your self-esteem and self-confidence. Making a decision and implementing it builds confidence.
Try to express your courage and confidence not because you have no fear, but in spite of your fear. Even when you don't really feel confident, act as if you have confidence. When you act despite uncertainty and lack of confidence, you reinforce risk-taking and perseverance. Have the courage to decide what you want to do about your life. Have the ability to overcome the obstacles facing you and move ahead to something better. Be assertive when interacting with other people. Don't say anything that would be contrary to your true intentions. You don’tt need to be aggressive to assert yourself. It has been shown that assertive behaviour is very effective when accompanied by a smile.
A lively and positive faith is extremely important for a happy and serene existence. Faith is belief that help is forthcoming when it is needed. It is belief in guidance in time of perplexity and in courage when pain and suffering strike. Have the attitude and conviction that for everything lost there is something to be gained. Confident people are strong enough to admit their mistakes and to be honest. By your courage, openness and honesty, you will experience rewarding relationships, personal growth and happiness as well as some pains. By building your confidence you become less afraid of fear, of emotional pain, of taking risks and of making mistakes. As you find the courage to be honest and to open yourself to others you start to respect yourself and others as fellow human beings. Your life unfolds and develops based on the confidence you place in yourself and in all that you do. You become aware that you are your only security.
A few years ago, I received a telephone call from my tenant, Jacques Begin that gave me some bad news. He informed me that my rental property was burning and that the firemen were trying to save it. My first reaction was to ask him if everyone was safe and sound. He told me that his wife and him were allright although all their belongings were gone, burnt or water damaged. I told him that I would come over right away. When I arrived on the spot, the fire was under control. There was not much of the house left standing. I learned that the neighbour’s house which was under construction caught fire first. The wind blew the flame over, and my rental property’s roof caught fire. I asked Jacques whether he and his wife needed temporary hotel accommodation. He told me that a lot of his friends had already offered to accommodate them in the short term. I inquired whether his belongings were insured and they were. Luckily, my rental property was insured too.
Jacques Begin was very graceful in adversity, and I was very grateful for that. When it came time to rebuild the house, my wife and I were considering asking Jacques to be the general contractor. I knew that he was a fine carpenter, and had assisted in building many houses before. He had previously done numerous repair jobs for us. He had been a good tenant, and we wanted to reward him. Besides, he and his wife were very eager to come back to their home. Although we knew the risk of using an inexperienced general contractor, we trusted Jacques as a person and a professional carpenter. When we finally asked him, if he would consider rebuilding the house for us, he was surprised with the offer. He told us that he honestly did not know whether he could as he had never been a general contractor before who had the responsibility for building a whole house. I told him that my wife and I had confidence that he would do a good job for us, otherwise we would not have entrusted the construction of our new house to him.
Seeing that my wife and I had confidence in his capacity to build our new house, he finally accepted. To make a long story short, he did an amazing job for us. The construction took about three and a half months. In the meantime, he and his wife had found another rental property. The end results were win-win for both parties. More importantly, his first job as a general contractor gave him the confidence to launch himself in the house construction business. Today, he is very successful. Today he always remembers that my wife and I had faith, trust and confidence in him when he was not sure himself. And he is very grateful for that.

For more details, check out my website: