Become the Source of Your Self Esteem

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Feeling good about yourself on a consistent basis is only possible if you are willing to experience yourself as the source of your own self esteem. Self esteem is the reputation we acquire with ourselves. Whenever you allow others to decide your worth, life is an roller coaster ride over which you have little control. Taking that responsibility back gives you the power and freedom to be in charge of your life. Ultimately, no one else can decide for us whether or not you have worth. So I’d like you to consider whose judgments about you have allowed to be more important than your own. Certainly as young children, we internalize the messages we hear from our parents. They give us two (unrequested) gifts. One is a snapshot of ourselves and the other is an evaluation of that snapshot. It doesn’t matter how healthy or imperfect they were, we internalize their view.

So what were the messages you heard from your parents, about your worth, capabilities, and so on? Like Carol, from a few weeks back, are you living to prove them right? Are you seeking to convince them they are wrong? Do you argue with them about how they’re wrong? Are you still trying to get them to change their perceptions before you can feel differently about yourself?

Incredible how so many people grow into adulthood still believing or holding onto the messages of their parents. They may even see their parents as imperfect people, yet are locked into a “dance” with them in which they cannot grow beyond the messages they heard from them so many years ago.

But it’s not just parents. We often give power to other “significant” people in our lives. We let them think for us, in a sense. Their perceptions matter more than our own self esteem. Often unconsciously, we give voice to their evaluations and judgments, in the back of our minds. Sometimes those voices are supportive. Often they are critical.

I did that with Jerry Bach, MD. Jerry was the founder of The Bach Institute, a well-renowned marriage and family therapy clinic in Minneapolis. I did a two-year internship at the Bach Institute when a graduate student at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Bach was thought to be one of the top four or five family therapists in the country. I was in awe. But unfortunately, Dr. Bach and I never did form a good relationship. He didn’t reach out to me, as he did to some of the other interns. Even though our interactions were limited, I carried my perception of his voice in the back of my head. I could not do therapy without being keenly aware of his commentary of my every intervention. It came to be that Jerry’s opinions became more important than my own. It caused me to continually question and second guess my own instincts, at least until the day I gained the courage to level with him … and take my power back. (That is another story.)

So I want to ask you whose voice, opinions, judgments you’ve allowed to become more important than your own? To whom have you given your power, responsibility for what to think and how you feel about yourself? A parent? Spouse? Peer? Sibling? Boss? Co-worker? You feel good when they approve and bad when you perceive their disapproval. You second guess or mistrust your own instincts or capabilities. It’s a hard way to live.

Are you willing to “take back” responsibility from those individuals for how you feel about yourself? You certainly don’t need to be a perfect human being to do so. You only need to be willing to be the source of how you feel about yourself. To take a stand that what you think, how you feel, who you are, is enough and not dependent on others.

So here is an exercise to boost your self esteem.

1. Identify one person who you’ve allowed to be responsible for how you feel about yourself. (You feel great when they approve of you and hurt or defensive when they disapprove.)

2. Write down a few examples of when and how you have let this person be responsible for how you feel about yourself.

3. What has it cost you? (Take your time on this step. List everything you can think of. This step gives you the fuel to make a change.)

4. Write a statement, as though speaking to this person, informing them of your decision to “take-back” responsibility for your own self worth. Do so in a way that doesn’t blame them but owns your own responsibility.

5. Identify new choices you may make as you own your responsibility for your self-worth.

Be firm, clear and strong in your resolve! You need to feel your new decision. It has to be a gut thing and not just a head thing, and you’ll notice a significant shift in your experience of life.

And leave a comment on my blog. Let me know about your experience in taking back responsibility for how you feel about yourself.

Would you like to read more? Have a look at our blog post The source of how you feel about yourself.


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