What is self-esteem? It is our
belief that we have innate value and potential.
Innate value. We know that we are important simply for being a
part of life. We believe we have an "inalienable right" to be
here, to express ourselves, and to be happy. We believe that we
are good. We are certain that we have a purpose for living
(although perhaps we have not yet discovered that purpose). We
have dignity and poise, regardless of our physical appearance,
financial status, possessions, occupation, and accomplishments --
and things which we cannot control, such as other people's
judgments of us. Self-esteem exists within a part of us that is so
deep and fundamental that it can't be touched by outside events,
and it does not need to be subjected to any standard or rational
explanation. We value all aspects of our life:
Innate potential. We know that we possess unique talents and
perspectives which make an important contribution to society (even
if the contribution is on a relatively small scale). We have the
right to develop that potential to the fullest possible extent.
It is a sub-constellation within the ego's constellation. The
constellation of self-esteem is the collection of thoughts,
images, energy tones, and physical habits which correspond to our
evaluation and opinion of ourselves.
What are the
benefits of self-esteem?
Because self-esteem is a characteristic of the ego, we gain
the benefits which are derived from a healthy ego (as explained in
the chapter regarding the ego). For example (as explained in that
chapter): we can approach people from a position of strength and
abundance and vigor, rather than from neediness and emptiness; we
can be unpretentious; we can endure input from the other parts of
the psyche, and from other people.
is not wholly self-generated and unconditional. We might believe that
we have inherent value regardless of anything that we become or do,
but this self-esteem is difficult to maintain if we contradict other
factors in our life:
Invalidation from other people. In childhood, our family and
acquaintances responded to us in ways which indicated whether we
were "all right." We established self-esteem if they accepted us
as a real person whose thoughts and feelings were valid, and if
they respected our unique individuality. (Paradoxically, we
developed self-esteem if our "individuality" was somewhat
restricted by parental limits and discipline -- because those
things indicated that our parents "took us seriously.") While we
created our ideas about ourselves, we were particularly vulnerable
to other people's teasing, insults, rejections, and shaming. As
adults, we are less vulnerable to the same assaults; ideally, we
have learned that we are responsible for our own self-esteem. As
Eleanor Roosevelt said, "No one can make you feel inferior without
your consent." And yet, because we are social creatures, it is
difficult (if not impossible) to have self-esteem without support
from people -- at least from the people whom we respect.
Invalidation from our system of values. For example, if we
value honesty, and we violate that value, we might be damaging our
self-esteem, if we respond with shame instead of guilt. Guilt is
merely an impersonal "alarm mechanism" which informs us that we
have violated our values; it does not condemn us nor does it tell
us to hate ourselves. When guilt is triggered, we can consider
We can try to correct the action. For example, we return
the money which we stole. If we correct the faulty action, our
self-esteem is restored and even enhanced because we
have indicated to ourselves that we are competent in living
life fairly and directly.
We can question the values which were violated. We might
realize that our values are ineffective for the purpose of
enhancing our life; if so, we can change them.
We can shame ourselves. Shaming is a harmful act in which
we proclaim that we are innately flawed and incapable. In one
sense, shame is the opposite of self-esteem; it damages
techniques for creating self-esteem.
We can do archetypal field-work:
Self-talk. We can use the ideas in the first paragraph of
this chapter, to develop affirmations regarding our innate
value and our innate potential.
Directed imagination.. We visualize ourselves in situations
where we have poise, self-confidence, self-love -- and an
ability to interact effectively from a base of soulful power.
Energy toning. We develop the energy tones of poise,
self-confidence, self-love, self-appreciation, joy, etc.
The as-if principle. We act as if we have self-esteem.
We create a healthy ego. As we develop the ego, we develop
self-esteem; as stated previously, self-esteem is a
sub-constellation of elements within the ego's constellation of
elements. Self-esteem gives permission to the ego to grow as an
effective interface with the human world.
We examine our values. Because we can have full self-esteem
only if we are complying with our values, we need to have the
particular values which provide valid feedback on our actions,
such that they trigger guilt when we commit an act which is truly
destructive or self-destructive. If we value life, we value this
"alarm mechanism" which tells us that our current actions are
diminishing our life.