If you’re reading this it’s probable that, like me, self-esteem is something you’ve struggled with in your life.
Here I’m going to share a radical realisation I came to about the nature of self-esteem. It’s a profoundly simple understanding — but once grasped it could change the way you look at yourself forever.
The issue of self-esteem is something that’s unique to human beings.
It’s not something that animals or plants have to bother about.
There’s a simple reason for that.
They’ve already got it sussed! In fact, they have a great deal to teach us about what is, for many people, is a thorny issue.
I wish I’d learned the truth about self-esteem when I was growing up. It would certainly have made my life a heck of a lot easier.
Self-esteem might be defined as your overall sense of worth. It’s the notion you hold about your inherent value.
Your self-esteem affects just about every aspect of your life. It determines how you feel about yourself. It shapes your outlook and behaviour at a fundamental level.
The problem is, we live in a society driven by competition, comparison, attainment and acquisition.
We’re raised to believe that our self-esteem is conditional and determined by external factors.
In other words, we believe that to legitimately feel good about ourselves, we have to be a certain way.
Like me, you’ve not doubt internalized or created various self-limiting beliefs about why you can’t be happy with yourself.
You maybe tell yourself your self-esteem wouldn’t be a problem if you were a little taller, better-looking, more talented, wealthier or more popular.
The reason we can’t accept ourselves varies from person to person. One person might berate themselves for not having the perfect body, or for not being smart enough.
The basic problem is the same.
We feel inadequate and lacking because our bodies, minds or life circumstances don’t measure up to how we think they should be.
We have a conceptual idea of what constitutes adequacy and, unfortunately, most the time we simply don’t hit the mark.
This is a recipe for disaster and a lifetime of misery.
Low self-esteem can adversely affect every area of your life, from your relationships to your education and career.
At the root of the problem is a misapprehension. It’s the mistaken assumption that your self-esteem is conditional and depends on innumerable outside factors, most of which you have no control over.
But what if your self esteem was innate and unconditional?
What if there was nothing you had to do, become or prove in order to know that you are worthy, valuable and innately good?
I could take a gold coin, scratch it, burn it, cover it in dirt and spit on it. Yet nothing I did to it would diminish its value. It has innate value because its nature is gold. It’s impossible to remove ‘goldness’ from the gold.
And, you know what?
You are gold too, through and through!
You are good enough by virtue of what you are: an expression of consciousness functioning through a unique body/mind/intellect. The light that animates you, pure awareness, is the most precious thing in the world and it can be neither added to nor subtracted from in any way.
You have nothing to add to ourselves and nothing to prove in order to have worth.
Your self-worth is innate and inalienable.
It’s your birthright and the only thing that can ever take it away from you are the unquestioned thoughts of your own mind.
The capacity of human beings to think, analyse and differentiate is a great blessing, unique to our species. But it can be a great curse.
I’ve always had a great love of animals.
As I said before, animals are great teachers. They live in a state of perfect integrity and authenticty. They’re just themselves: perfect exactly the way they are — the way they’ve been programmed to be.
They have no issue with that. They have no issue with themselves.
Imagine how absurd it would be if a puppy developed low self-esteem because it didn’t think it was as big as the other puppies in the litter, or it felt it was the wrong colour, or its tail was the wrong shape.
Or if a cow felt inferior because its markings were different to the other cows in the field.
Or if a little chihuahua had low self-esteem because it lived next door to a great dane.
Clearly that would be ridiculous.
Yet that’s what we humans are doing all the time — and it’s no less ridiculous!
You are the way you are.
You didn’t create your body, and to a great extent, you probably didn’t choose the circumstances around you or the limitations you have to contend with every day.
Life is what it is and you are who you are. There might be a hundred and one things you judge and condemn and want to change about yourself.
But beneath that, there’s an innate perfection at the core of your being. It’s the clear light of awareness, the Self that animates your being; the light in which all phenomena arise and subside.
How can your self-worth not be innate?
How can it depend on outer achievements and notions of success and failure?
The fact is, regardless of whatever you strive to attain in life, you’ve ultimately going to lose it anyway.
A newborn baby hasn’t achieved a single thing in life. It can’t even speak or feed itself, and yet no one would claim that baby is worthless. It’s worth is there by virtue of its existence — its Being, its shining consciousness.
In reality, there should be no such thing has low self-esteem or high self-esteem. Self-esteem should be unconditional. It should be fixed and immutable, in the same way as an animal’s is.
Your value is much like that of the gold coin. No matter what you might do, what you might gain or lose, nothing affects your value in any way.
A homeless man on the street ought to have the same measure of self-worth as the president of a country. Obviously, they both have very different circumstances. One is highly successful and important by worldly standards and the other ‘a nobody’ or ‘loser’.
But beyond those mind-made judgements, both have the same level of importance, value and worth.
We all do.
And no one can take it away from us, regardless of what they might think about us or say or do.
As I write this, I’m watching some birds hopping about outside my window.
To the best of my knowledge, none of them thinks they are any better or worse than any of the others. They’re each different, and yet not different, and each perfect exactly as they are.
Human beings are no different. We just tend to think we are — and therein lies both the problem and the solution.
How much easier would life be if you realised that no matter what life throws your way — and no matter what other people think or how they treat you — nothing can diminish your innate worth and value.
It’s non-negotiable! You were born with value and nothing can ever take that away from you. End of story.
How freeing is that?
It releases you from the immense stress of trying to justify your existence and prove that you matter and are worthy of love and acceptance.
You don’t have to do anything to be worthy of love and acceptance. You already are, and you always will be.