Lately I’ve been hearing a lot about self-esteem and the lack thereof.
Here’s my definition of self-esteem. Make good decisions that impact your well-being in a positive way.
Someone who has good self-esteem acts in a way that requires people (including themselves) to respect them and treat them well. People with good self-esteem have good boundaries.
People with poor self-esteem often make poor decisions, and by that I mean they make decisions that impact their own well-being in a negative way.
How do you improve your self-esteem? Make better decisions. Decide to treat yourself better.
Of course, in order to do this, you have to think well of yourself. How do you do this? Focus on the positive. Not in a “I’m the greatest person in the world,” delusional kind of way, but in a “I’m worthy of love and respect, just as every other being on the planet is,” kind of way.
We want others to treat us well, so we treat them well. But in order to be treated well by others, we have to treat ourselves well.
If others think you are a doormat (because you behave like a doormat,) they will treat you like a doormat. It would be nice if people stopped taking advantage of your good nature, but if you can’t be bothered to protect yourself, why should they?
If you want to know how your self-esteem is, pay attention to what you say to others. How many times a day do you apologize? What are you apologizing for? For taking up space in the room?
I was recently on a conference call with a group of people and three of the people who responded to a question immediately apologized for speaking up. Then, after speaking, two of them asked the group if they were making sense. They spoke coherently and in English. Why would they think they weren’t making sense?
This may seem like an insignificant example, but I think it is a sign of a bigger problem.
If I’m apologizing to my colleagues at work and my teenager questions me at home when I tell him he can’t do something I consider dangerous, I’m more likely to cave on my decision if he’s insistent (as only teenagers can be!) I haven’t developed any trust in myself or my own authority, so I give in too easily.
A small, insignificant bad decision can start a cascade that leads to bigger and bigger bad decisions.
Many years ago, I waited tables with a woman who told me she had “low self-esteem.” She got involved with a man who turned out to be physically abusive and, oh yeah, a drug dealer. Did she leave him? No. Not until they had a child together and the child was taken away from her because of her involvement with this man. She started making different decisions, “raised” her self-esteem, and got her child back.
What’s your definition of self-esteem? Tell me what you think in the comments.