Failure. It's not a nice word, is it? For many of us, we see failure as a glaring red stop sign. "Go no further," failure tells us, "You are not good enough to succeed." But did you know Walt Disney's first animation company was dissolved within six months? That J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter was rejected by 12 publishers? For both, failure was not a stopping point–they continued to try until they found success. How did they keep believing in themselves, instead of seeing failure as a message they couldn't succeed? They separated their work from their self-worth.
Building Self Esteem
How do we define our personal values? In my post last week, "What Is Self-Worth", I explored the topic of self-worth. When we are living with low self-esteem, we often struggle to find self-worth. This comes from believing we are unable to succeed at the things we value personally. But where do these values come from? How do we decide what is important to us?
Developing skills helps improve low self-esteem, and it's worth it to try. You see, when you have a healthy level of self-esteem, you are able to realize what your capacities are. You understand what you are capable of doing – and who you are capable of being. But if you suffer from low self-esteem, this kind of perspective becomes obscured. You struggle to see exactly what you are capable of. Low self-esteem can lead to extremely negative views, like how you aren’t capable of doing anything right, achieving anything positive, or progressing in any shape or form.
What is self-worth? How does self-worth show in our actions? I recently met two students who had both received a B+ on a test. While the first was practically jumping with joy, the second was more subdued. When I asked the latter if she felt the same excitement as her peer, she responded, "I can't stop thinking about how many questions I missed. I'm an idiot." Though both earned the same grade, one saw it as a sign of her worth, while the other saw it as a sign of worthlessness. This led me to think about, how do we define self-worth? What is it that makes one person believe they are worthy, while another that they are worthless?
We must learn to say "no" because one of the ways that we lose self-respect is when we constantly say "yes" to people. We say yes even though we desperately want to say no. There are multiple reasons why we might do this. We might not want to seem rude. We might want to maintain our self-image as a people pleaser or as someone who is easy-going, agreeable, fun, and open to everything. But by saying yes all the time, we will inevitably act against your our desires and interests. By learning to say no instead, we can build self-esteem. Learning to say no can be a powerful way of respecting yourself.
Explore your low self-esteem? How do you do that? Picture a road map. On one side is a bright red dot, labeled "High Self-Esteem." This is our destination, the place we dream of arriving. Our map is covered in routes that twist and turn, approaching the red dot from all different directions. On our journey we will be able to explore these, finding the ones that lead us closer to our goal. But in order to begin, we need to find the dot labeled "You Are Here." We have to know our starting point. We have to explore the starting point of our low self-esteem to know how to raise it.
My name is Britt Mahrer, I’m a new blogger at HealthyPlace. I’ll be writing on "Building Self-Esteem." This is a topic I’m passionate about and eager to explore. My own self-esteem exploration has taken me many unexpected places, including living as a monk in Thailand, musically directing a Broadway workshop, founding a non-profit organization, dancing and singing on a piano, teaching yoga and circus acrobatics, and fighting mixed martial arts (MMA). My journey with self-esteem has also taken me to some dark, miserable places I never thought I would escape. Needless to say, I have experienced many successes in my life and lived through many failures.
Depression and low self-esteem often go hand in hand. When you constantly beat yourself up, this can make you vulnerable to depression. Having an extremely low opinion of yourself can lead to depressive symptoms such as persistent sadness, guilt, hopelessness, and lack of motivation. A vicious cycle can then ensue. The symptoms of depression can lead to even lower self-esteem. This makes the depression worse.
For a long time, I avoided dating because of low self-esteem and because I always found it too awkward. I limited myself to meeting people spontaneously or in other contexts. But the truth is if you avoid dating completely, you’re likely to stay single for a while. While dating can bring up nervousness and anxiety like a job interview, it’s often something you have to do in order to increase your chances of meeting the right person for you.
The process of building self-esteem can be a slow one because low self-esteem may have already caused many issues in your life, affecting your job, relationships, and general personal development. When you instinctively view yourself in a negative, harsh way, this can also be a painful experience. This can lead to persistent feelings of sadness, depression, anxiety, anger, guilt, and shame. If you’re determined to build self-esteem and improve your mental health, you may want a quick fix. But it’s important to understand that the process of building self-esteem is often long and gradual. Here’s why.