Do You Know What Drives Your Self-Esteem?

Jun 07, 2023

I've battled self-esteem issues all my life, and at 50, I believe I'm finally understanding what drives my self-esteem in positive and negatives ways. I want to explain my discovery, but I also want you to know that the same things that drive my own sense of self-esteem might not impact yours, and vice-versa.

I've found this to be a very personal journey, and no one can tell you exactly what direction to point to increase yours. My hope is that I can help you see where to look. 


Self-Esteem is About Being True to Yourself

There are 8,000,000,000 people on this planet, and no two are the same. Let me emphasize that a bit. Comparison will cause self-esteem issues. We most often think of low self-esteem. When we talk about having self-esteem issues, we are not only talking about having a shrunken sense of self, but we can also have an inflated sense of self.

Judgement is a form of comparison and causes an inflated sense of self by making others less in your own mind. Making someone else less by judging them, or by perceiving yourself as better than them, is a sign of inflated self-esteem, and since this belief is built on a faulty foundation, it's a matter of time before it will shatter - leading to low self-esteem. 

Self-esteem is about being the very best version of yourself that you can be in any given moment, making choices that are authentic for you (which do not intentionally hurt others), and allowing others to do the same. When someone needs to put on a mask, be a chameleon, use a schtick, or hide any part of themselves away to feel safe, adequate, or significant, they are operating from shrunken self-esteem. If someone stands behind their accomplishments, achievements, accumulation, or some outcome as the source of their value, they are also demonstrating low self-esteem. If at any point an individual judges or diminishes another in any way, they are demonstrating inflated self-esteem.

When an individual recognizes their uniqueness without comparison, is true to themselves, allows others to succeed and fail without judgement, and does whatever they can do to grow and evolve each day to the best of their ability (even when that's not a lot), they will see an increase in their sense of self. I am 100% confident in this premise.


The System is Rigged Against You

The most painful phrase in the English language is "You should." This phrase only causes guilt and shame, and mostly serves to lessen someone's sense of self-esteem. "You should" signifies that even though I'm not fully absorbed in your thoughts, emotions, beliefs, preferences, talents, and desires, I've still got it all figured out for you. Think about that. A unique individual is telling another unique individual what to do. How does anyone know what's perfect for another?

During my lifetime I have been fed a lot of "You should." My dealings with religion, politics, career, business, family, health, and everything else in life has been at some time or another influenced or controlled by another unique individual. When you're a child it's accepted that parents program and condition the children to be just like them. We often "educate" and "discipline" our children's uniqueness away through structure, rules, dogma, doctrine, and programs that are made to homogenize individuals into one collective body. 

In other words, we train and manipulate our children to be who we think is in their best interest instead of asking them who they are here to become. We then say that they are too young to make that decision for themselves. So then why don't we wait a bit before indoctrinating them into our systems until they can challenge what they're being taught?

Structures and framework that teach one approach or utilize one method to reach everyone damages self-esteem. A 6-year-old boy has the need for adventure, play, and movement, and when he won't sit still, we say that he has behavior issues and medicate him. We basically teach him that he is defective because we are more interested in having him come out the other side of a manufacturing system "prepared" and "normal" than we are in allowing baby humans to be themselves. 

To develop healthy self-esteem, we must allow individuals to be and evolve into themselves instead of making them cookie-cutter because of abusive, expired societal norms.


Self Esteem Requires That You Discover and Be True to Yourself

Forget what others want for you and from you.

Instead try this - make a choice in your life (which does not intentionally harm anyone) and pay attention to if it makes you feel good about yourself or not. Self-esteem can be summed up as your ability to feel good about who you're being. Since whom we're being is contained within the choices we make, self-esteem will increase and decrease, so by observing how you feel about yourself and shifting choices accordingly, you can progressively be truer to yourself. Shift your relationship with your self-esteem to be a guide, not just an outcome or circumstance. 

As you learn how to positively impact your sense of self - your ability to feel good about who you're being, you will feel more whole, natural, and significant in the world. And I promise you that being more naturally you will always lead to more health, wealth, success, love, and positive impact in the world. We seem to believe that if we're true to ourselves, that it must be at the expense of others. I've found that if we're true to ourselves, others prosper even more because we give them permission to do the same. 


My Experience with Self-Esteem

Ever since I was a kid I've struggled with my body, body image, and feeling good in and about my body. I've had a hard time positively interacting with the people in my life while prioritizing the uniqueness of a very sensitive body. If I mistreat my body, I can easily gain 10 pounds in a day, and if I treat my body well, I can easily drop 3 pounds a day. I have weighed myself before bed and when I wake up, and I've seen up to 6-pound swings. My body responds rapidly to food that doesn't serve me, and it responds even more rapidly to food that doesn't. 

Over the course of my life, I've been on a rollercoaster with the physical size of my body. I've been 100 pounds overweight, and I've been super skinny and muscular. Here's the rub: I know what it takes for me to be healthy. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that when I go all in on being healthy, I crush it. My body doesn't like wheat products, cow's milk products, beef, pork, and lamb. My body loves most fish, raw and slightly cooked veggies, fresh fruit, and peanuts. Where it takes the average person 2-3 drinks to feel the effects, I feel the effects from 1/2 of any drink - and that feeling brings the desire for MORE!!!

The crazy part is that my body wakes up in response to how I treated my body the day before. When I exercise, feed my body only "good" food (for me), and hydrate, my self-esteem increases. When I am not true to myself, I feel it shrink. This changes from day-to-day based on how I treat myself. 

I've been at my very best in life when I've gone all-in on my physical health. When I exercise daily and cut out anything and everything which does not create energy and health (for me), I feel like I can conquer the world. When I feel good, I am kinder and gentler to myself, I am more loving, my work is more impactful, and life is just more enjoyable for me and those I love. 

However, when I negotiate and try to maintain some sense of "balance", it doesn't end up well. I only end up not feeling good, and this often means that I continue the slide until I go all-in again. 


Societal Impacts to Authenticity

Society convinces us there's a right way to do things, and anything else is broken or flawed. In my description about my health above society would say that I obsess over my weight, have food disorders, and that I "should" develop a healthier relationship with my body and food. Friends and family sometimes suggest that I "should" eat what and when everyone else is eating. The world says that food is a means of celebration and entertainment, not just a means of nutrition, and if I want to experience food differently then there's something "wrong" with my approach. 

I have started to see my relationship with food differently than friends, family, and society. While they can view it however, they want, I choose to view it my way. My way makes me feel good and increases my quality of life. Since they're not in my body, and because they don't have the same challenges as me, of course they relate differently. But some of these same people that think my issues need to be resolved to look more like society's view are not making the same impact in the world as I do. Maybe we could just stop comparing, stop trying to make everyone the same, and tune out the world and tune into what our self-esteem is telling us. 

No one can tell you what's right or best for you. But you can. And you can use your own self-esteem as a trusting guide. As a friend of mine said once “You don’t need anyone else to like you. You only need you to like you.”

 Photo by Bekah Allmark on Unsplash

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