Monday, January 7, 2008

Self-Esteem - The Root Cause to Wellness

I believe self-esteem is the core of getting well. I had to work on this after leaving home and going to college. I didn't know it at the time, and I had no mentor or instruction manual to follow, that self-esteem was so important to all aspects of one's life.

My father was an alcoholic (and now I am married to one). I was a teenager, raging with anger and bitterness. Raging may be a strong word, for it was not constant. I grew up in a tough neighborhood where boys fought, played sports and debated. We were poor, but we argued politics. We were somewhat well informed, because we read newspapers and Newsweek/Time magazines. Not sure how we actually got these now that I reflect back, for we were poor.

When I graduated from college, my main mission was to get a "real" job that required a college education - not manual labor like I had done all my life. I was fortunate and did get a job in a fast growing technical industry.

Over time I realized I would need to develop my people skills and learn how to motivate people to do their best. After a little crisis where my manager quit and I was put in charge of a sizable office, I knew I had to find some thing to help me become better at management, leadership, personal development, etc. So, I always heard from my father and mother, that the answers to a lot of things could be found in reading - from the library.

I was never much of a reader, so when I went to the library, I was lost. It was Dewey WHo?! -Decimal System - wHAt?! I came across videos - yes - videos! I would not have to read! Yahooo! Or so I thought at the time.

To cut to the chase, and get to the main topic, I came across Brian Tracy's video Pathways To Personal Progress. It was an hour long video, that this guy (Brian Tracy), went through 21 key ideas and concepts on how to become more successful at work. There were actually over a 100 different concepts, including;

  • You Become What You Think About
  • Read for an hour a day in your field and you become an expert
  • Time Management
  • Critical Success Factors (Key Result Areas)
  • Self-Confidence
  • Positive Mental Attitude
  • Positive Communications .... AND Much More

The entire program was about building self-esteem, essentially. Self Esteem, a pwerful concept and foundation to our well-being. I cannot recall if Brian Tracy actually used the term self-esteem, but throughout the video, at it's core is self-esteem. In his other programs he does talk a lot about self-esteem. A good book to check out of his, that captures a lot of what Al-Anon discusses from a different vantage point is Maximum Achievement.

Self-esteem is the idea or principle in esteeming yourself. It is considering yourself as a valuable, likable, worthwhile human being. It is you about yourself. Not how others think about you. Otherwise it would be called "other-esteem."

The concept of self-esteem is a psychological concept and it has been called the greatest discovery in mankind. Self-image is closely tied to self-esteem. Self-esteem is how good you feel about yourself. It is the emotional quality of your personality. It is the key to happiness and personal effectiveness. The more you feel good about yourself, the more enthusiasm, energy, effective and optimistic you are.

The two keys to self-esteem and the feeling you have about yourself. First is how valuable and how much you like yourself as a person. You cannot have high self-esteem if you are constantly tearing yourself down and beating yourself up for every little or big thing you did. This is not to say, you should not feel bad or have remorse about saying or doing something [My opinion only. There are some readings that say remorse and guilt have no useful purpose at all. My point is here, is that I believe not feeling bad about saying or doing something stupid or hurtful is callous or uncaring in some way. But how long you dwell on it is the point].

You can have innumerable setbacks, failures and difficulties, and still feel good about yourself. In fact, having difficulties and overcoming them, and looking back to see how much you've grown and how far you've come, can be a big boost to the self-esteem.

Second, another part of self-esteem, is how well you do something that is important to you. For example, you may be really good at work. If you are good at work, it can spill over into other areas of your life and uplift how you perform in these other areas. This is more of a competency based factor. It can be work, a hobby, a sport, it can be a skill, or any area where you are receiving some feedback.

While this second part can have an outside influence (being the highest sale producer or we won the tennis match) it should be really interally driven.


Here's why; If you derive your value from someone or something else, it's great when they say, "Good job." But what if they say nothing? Or, if they say, "You suck." We become an emotional wreck.

We become emotionally dependent upon their approval. Do you know what I am talking about? I think we all do.


These two things reinforce each other (how well I like myself and competency).

I am a big believer in self-esteem. In fact, I can trace a lot of my unhappiness to times when I felt bad about myself, or didn't like myself too much for something I did or how I behaved. Or I relied on outside "approval," the pat on the back, so to speak and it didn't occur.

In the book, Courage to Change, an Al-Anon approved book, I looked at the index this weekend, and self-esteem has references to 15 different sections in the book.

I have several Al-Anon books. I will be honest here. I was pissed off and resentful that I - I - ME, I had to read these because of my spouse's drinking. VERY RESENTFUL. To the point to where, I didn't. Until I HAD to read them because I speak this Saturday at my Al-Anon meeting.

I realized after reading this book in a way that I had not considered before, that the book is really a self-help book, a self-development book, a psychology book for me to use. It I struck the work "alcoholic" and it's variations, out of several sections, it really is a self-help, instruction manual for dealing with life's problems, people, and building my self -confidence. [That too is another story to write about. But I mention this only in case you are like me and say, "Why do I have to . . . ].

So, how can we MAKE ourselves like ourselves more??????

The word "make" is probably not the best word. Choose "help" or "get" or whichever word that works for you. But the point is - How do improve our Self-Esteem?

  1. First, not through others. Others opinions should not influence how we feel about ourselves. Unfortunately, as much as I like to think this and know this is true, we are affected by other's opinions of us, especially those we esteem highly (like our parents, our spouses, our brothers, our friends, etc.)
  2. Let's stay on number one for a bit longer. If our friends and/or others we HAVE to be around say bad things about us, we must build a coping mechanism to destroy or erase what hurtful things they have said. They are not perfect. They are only hurting and they are hurting so much they feel they need to lash out and make others feel miserable too. Therefore, I forgive them and wish that God protects them. Second, friends or people we don't have to accept as hurtful things we can confront them and make a statement and ask them to not say those things again. No ifs, ands, or buts. No rebuttal. Just "Hey, no more OK?" If they say, "You're too sensitive." Say, "Thank you. I may be." And then you decide whether the relationship is worth it or not.
  3. It's all about making ourselves feel good about us a human beings. I read spiritual literature, self-help books, leadership books and psychology books. When I read, I am up early in the morning. I read for an hour. I take notes (this forces me to not allow my mind to wander). I have a cup of coffee. By the time my hour is up, I am ripped roaring and ready to go.
  4. I do not read the newspaper. I do not watch the news before bed. It's too negative. I do sometimes watch the news. I find myself being sucked into the drama, and I begin to feel lousy. My foundation starts to erode with the negativity.
  5. I going to stop here. Because I think too many things may be confusing and dilute the post and the message I hope I can share with you.

This is the last thing. If you read and reread and write out the Just For Today messages, these are all self-esteem building exercises. You can click on the Just For Today here or above. Or go to the side panel on the right where I have a link to them already for you to use at any time.

I hope this note finds everyone well.

PS - I think I am going to use "Self-Esteem" as the main point of my topic this Saturday at Al-Anon. Either Self-Esteem or Resentment.

Any thoughts as to what people would like to try to work on? Let me know.


nanceelee said...

Great post, once again, one I will read and re-read.

I think the Self Esteem is a great subject, as I always like to hear the positive that we can achieve for ourselves. I often think that with higher self-esteem, resentment can naturally reach a lower level, for me anyway, less focus on the negative, more on the positive.

Joe said...

Me too - I need positive today. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I agree self esteem is very important. I think I'm ok in that department. I really struggle with the whole the guilt thing, what impact has my decision to stay with my alcoholic husband had on my children. I made that choice, they didn't, now he is 4 months sober and the realisation of what I have done by staying, is my biggest struggle.

Ashley said...

anonymous, I totally understand where you are - I'm experiencing the same guilt, but unfortunately, my 2 month sober husband relapsed around Thanksgiving. The good thing that's come from the last four months is we are much more honest with each other and able to communicate without hurting each other. Because we aren't screaming at each other anymore, the kids are much happier as well.

With regards to self esteem, I think it's an excellent topic for a meeting. The first open speaker Al-anon meeting I attended used this as the topic. I never really thought I had self esteem issues, but the more I listened to people, the more I realized I was really good at faking self esteem. I come across as a confident, independent woman, but inside ... not so much. It was a very good meeting.

I also agree that ODAT and Courage to Change are self help books that works for more than just the relationship with the alcoholic. I've started applying some of the principles in my work environment as well, and the results have been very positive.

Excellent post, as usual. :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you!