“If my aim is to prove I am “enough” the project goes on to infinity-because the battle was already lost on the day I conceded the issue was debatable.” – Dr. Nathaniel Branden
Self-esteem is a core human need. Self-esteem determines how we act, think and reveal ourselves in life and relationships. The essence of self-esteem is worthiness. To believe we are worthy of meaningful life, love and happiness is a function of healthy self-esteem. Self-esteem is also rooted in our belief in our ability, adequacy or competency to handle life and deal with change. Where unworthiness might whisper, “I don’t deserve it,” low self-esteem whispers, “I can’t handle it.”
Self-worth is the value we believe we possess as human beings. Self-esteem is the anchor that directs that value. When we struggle with low self-esteem, we attach additional meaning to the words of others- we take things personally. We strive, perform, and people-please to prove our worthiness. When we are constantly striving to prove our worthiness, we can become addicted to the external approval of others. While the approval of others may temporarily make us feel better, we eventually return to the internal thermostat of our beliefs.
Self-esteem is our evaluation of self. It is how we project ourselves in the world, and in turn, how life responds. The great psychologist, Nathaniel Branden, in his definitive and classic book: The 6 Pillars of Self-Esteem describes it this way: “The value of self-esteem is not merely in the fact that it allows us to feel better but that it allows us to live better-to respond to challenges and opportunities more resourcefully and more appropriately. The level of our self-esteem has profound consequences for every aspect of our existence: how we operate in the workplace, how we deal with people, how high we are likely to rise, how much we are likely to achieve, with whom we are likely to fall in love, how we interact with our spouse, children, and friends, and what level of personal happiness we attain.”
Healthy self-esteem leads to a healthy life. It aids our creativity, courage, flexibility and rational thinking. Low self-esteem can be blinding, making us doormats for abuse, or can cause us to become rigid, fearful, rebellious, irrational and hostile toward others and ourselves. Healing our relationship with the self is the foundation for the great endeavors of this life that we are called to accomplish. We tend to feel at home with people whose self-esteem mirrors our own. As we seek healthier relationships, we don’t have to look much further than within. When we begin to consciously heal and raise our self-esteem, it invites relationships into our lives that mirror this elevated view of self. All of life, love, and relationships get better when we get better.