The importance of self-esteem as a guiding force in our lives cannot be overstated. Your self-esteem includes your feelings about your adequacy in many roles you play in life. Nathaniel Branden, the author of ‘The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem’ says that the ultimate source of self-esteem can only be internal. It is the relationship between a person’s self-efficacy and self-respect. Self-efficacy is the learned expectation of success. What we do or try to do is controlled by our perceptions or beliefs about our chances of success at a particular task or problem.
Your perception of your self-efficacy can influence which tasks you take on and ones you avoid. Albert Bandura views this component of self-esteem as a resilient belief in our own abilities.
Self-respect, the second component of self-esteem, is what you think and feel about yourself. Your judgment of your own value is a primary factor in achieving personal and career success. People who respect themselves tend to act in ways that confirm and reinforce this respect. People who lack self-respect may put up with verbal or physical abuse from others because they feel they are unworthy of praise and deserve the abuse. Branden believes that the healthier our self-esteem, the more inclined we are to treat others with respect, goodwill, and fairness, since we do not tent to perceive them as a threat, and since self-respect is the foundation of respect for others.
To understand self-love and the development of self-esteem, it is helpful to examine how you form your self-concept. Your self-concept is the bundle of facts, opinions, beliefs, and perceptions about yourself that are present in your life every moment of every day. The self-concept you have today reflects information you have received from others and life events that occurred throughout childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. You are consciously aware of some of the things you have been conditioned to believe about yourself. But, Sharon Begley believes that many comments and events that have shaped our self-concept are processed at the unconscious level and continue to influence your judgments, feelings, and behaviors whether we are aware of them or not. Therefore she advices for self-love and self-acceptance.
The kind of self-love and self-acceptance being advocated is not about loving yourself in a self-absorbed, conceited way. This form of self-love is self-less. You give more than you take. You offer without being asked. You share when you do not have much. You find happiness by making others smile. You love yourself because you are not all about yourself. You are happy with who you are because you make others happy to be around you.
Loving yourself is not about being selfish, self-satisfied, or self-centered; it is about accepting your life as a gift to be nurtured and shared as a blessing to others.
Instead of dwelling on your imperfections, your failings, or your mistakes, focus on your blessings and the contribution you can make, whether it is a talent, knowledge, wisdom, creativity, hard work, or a nurturing soul. You do not have to live up to anyone else’s expectations. You can define your own version of perfection.
Finding your purpose is the first important step to living a life without limits. Maintaining hope for the future and faith in the possibilities even in difficult times will keep you moving toward that goal. But to be fulfilled, you must know in your heart that you are worthy of success and happiness. You must love yourself, just as God loves all who are faithful. If you do not accept yourself, it not only leads to self-destruction, it leads to isolation.
If you do not shine from within, it may be because you rely on others to validate you, to give you confidence, and to make you feel appreciated. But that is a sure road to disappointment because you must accept yourself first. The only important measure of your beauty and value as a person should be the one that comes from within.
Life can be cruel. People can be thoughtless or just plain mean. So you must be able to look inside for strength, and when that inner strength fails, you can always look above, to God, the ultimate source of strength and love. Self-acceptance and self-love are important but often misunderstood concepts these days. You should love yourself as a reflection of God’s love and as someone put on this earth to make a unique contribution. Too many teens and adults settle for a more superficial meaning when they buy into the extremes of narcissism and self-indulgence. This is due, in no little part, to the cult of beauty and celebrity promoted on reality shows, movies, podcasts, and videos. When you watch those shows, it is easy to forget that life has a greater purpose than looking good, living in luxury, and hooking up.
Nick Vujicic says in ‘Life Without Limits’ that it cannot be imagined that any previous generation has been lied to as much as the present ones. “We are continually bombarded with messages that we need to have a certain look, a certain car, and a certain lifestyle in order to be fulfilled, loved, appreciated, or considered successful. We have come to a dangerous point in our culture when being in a sex video is considered a path to fame, fortune, and fulfillment.”
Nick, an Australian Evangelist and Motivational Speaker born without limbs, says further: “When you get caught up in material goods and surface beauty, and when you let other people determine your value, you give up too much of yourself and risk letting your blessings go to waste.”
He goes on further to advise, that when you feel your spirits tumbling because you have been hurt or bullied or disparaged, go to the mirror and find one feature you love about yourself. It does not have to be a physical characteristic. It can be a talent, a trait, or something else that makes you feel good about yourself. Dwell on that special something for a while. Be grateful for it, and know that your beauty and value come from the unique person you were made to be.
“When you are hurt, you build walls to keep from being hurt again, but you cannot build an interior wall around your heart. And if you will only love yourself as you are, for all your natural beauty inside and out, others will be drawn to you, and they will see your beauty too.”
Instead of dwelling on that pain within, reach out to ease someone else’s pain. Put your focus on someone else in need. If you cannot resolve your own issues, be the solution for someone else. After all, it is better to give than to receive. “If you do not love yourself, and then give yourself away. If you do that, you will be amazed at how valuable you feel.”
You want to keep striving, keep growing, keep giving all you have to give so that, in the end, you can look back and say, I gave it my best shot.
Take a look in the mirror right now and say, “This is who I am, and I accept the challenge of becoming the best I can be.” You are beautiful because God created you for His purpose. Your challenge is to find that purpose, fuel it with hope, drive it on faith, and put your ‘you-niqueness’ to the highest possible use. “Loving and accepting yourself is the only surefire cure for self-pity and victimhood. Drugs, alcohol, and promiscuity offer only temporary relief, and eventually they bring only more pain.” In conclusion Nick offers this: “My best advice for finding inner happiness is to reach outside yourself, to use your talents and brains and personality to make life better for someone else.”