A reader from Middle East wrote to me recently asking how he could improve his low self-image. He said, "it ruins my social and professional life." He wanted to know what techniques he could employ to solve this lifelong problem.
I felt somewhat inadequate in my reply to him and resolved to write about my own struggles to improve self-esteem in hopes that it will be helpful to others.
The dictionary says that esteem means, "to regard with respect; to prize, to appreciate. To recognize quality, significance, or magnitude of, to admire greatly; to value."
I know people who have too much confidence and self-pride, but I don't know ANYONE with too much self-esteem. Most people, in moments of profound honesty, will admit to a lack of self-esteem. They would like to feel better about themselves--more confident and capable--in short, to love themselves more.
It would probably be fair to say that most social problems are result--directly or indirectly--of someone's low self-concept.
Not too many years ago, I was going through a dark time in my life. I was broke--financially, personally, socially--even spiritually. In describing it to someone once, I said, "I had self-esteem of a dead rat." That might have been overstating it a bit but not much.
My life--and my confidence--is much better today. MUCH better.
So what changed? Was it outward circumstances? Did my environment change and with it my inner experience? No.
Somehow I knew that any changes would have to be from me. It would be an inner transformation that would eventually alter outward experience.
Some of things I did unconsciously. Others were done with deliberation.
First and foremost, I removed myself from people who had been particularly critical. By distancing myself from this criticism, I was able to gain a better perspective. I was perfectly capable of taking my own inventory and didn't need someone else pointing out my errors and keeping me focused on my shortcomings.
I immersed myself in good books--books of inspiration, books that increased my belief and books that gave me hope. And hope was severely lacking.
A good therapist helped me to see myself in a better light. Because he wasn't emotionally involved in my problems, he was able to see things differently. He would often point out that things weren't nearly as bad as they appeared to be.