As the years go by, your self-esteem builds from your level of self-worth. If you have low self-worth as a child, you have low self-esteem as an adult. It’s time to rebuild both so that you don’t have so much fear and insecurity in your life.
Also, I read an email from a listener who is struggling between being a child and an adult in different situations. It’s constantly stressing him out and he can’t seem to step into that adult role when needed.
“Every word, facial expression, gesture, or action on the part of a parent gives the child some message about self-worth. It is sad that so many parents don’t realize what messages they are sending.” –Virginia Satir
We start off as young and impressionable children, gaining social cues, attitude, and behavior from those we feel closest to (typically parents and other caretakers). Then, we turn into adults, believing things about ourselves that are merely interpretations from a child’s perspective.
Self-worth is how we interpret what others feel about us.
In childhood, we value ourselves as much as we believe we are valued by others. When you’re a child if you don’t feel valued you don’t value yourself! Then, as we grow up, however “worthy” we feel (self-worth) transforms into our self-esteem.
Self-Esteem is the result of years of how much we value ourselves.
So, in a nutshell, when we feel low self-worth in childhood, we develop low self-esteem as an adult. So if you lack confidence today, the cause probably derives from how worthy you felt as a child. If you have a healthy, worthy perspective of yourself, however, you will likely have high self-esteem causing you to feel confident even when you aren’t sure how you’re going to accomplish the task.
I used to “model” someone who had more confidence than I did. “Modeling” just means emulating someone: Their mannerisms, behaviors, how to talk and present themselves, and other nuances that exude the way you want to be.
By modeling my manager, Robert, back in 1993, I was actually able to develop higher self-worth and self-esteem because that’s what I saw in him.
When you see something in someone else that you wish you had in yourself, model them. That way, at least you’ll start to understand what they do to feel confident and self-worth. What I did was notice all the small things he did and just responded to situations the way he did.
What this did was allow me to experience how other people reacted to my behavior. I noticed almost everyone reacted favorably, and I told myself, “Wow, this behavior makes me feel good!” So what if it was building my ego! So what if my behavior wasn’t authentic! I was trying to build my self-esteem, and it was working.
Soon, I felt great and no longer had to emulate anyone. I was in a space of high self-confidence brought on by high self-esteem. Modeling was an excellent way to rebuild me as a stronger, more independent, and overall confident person. It wasn’t the only thing I did to help improve my previous situation, but it was a powerful step in the right direction.
Another way to raise self-esteem is to visit your past and give yourself support as a child.
Let me explain… I teach a process where you imagine a time in your childhood where you needed support but you didn’t get it. Maybe you needed someone to be there for you or say something to you, but they never did.
If you want to try this, here are the steps:
First, pretend you are the most genuinely confident person you know. Model someone, whether real or fictional until you have the characteristics of a confident, competent person.
Now in your mind’s eye, visit yourself in the past when you felt the least worthy, the least accomplished, and maybe the most failure. If you can’t think of a specific time and place, think about when you really wanted attention or love and you didn’t get it – even if it was yesterday! This usually works better however if you can remember a time like this when you were a child.
Now, “visit” that memory as the confident adult that you are now. Just visualize yourself showing up in the memory as the adult you are, seeing your younger self “over there”. That child might even be surprised to see you, but very happy you’re there. They might even think, “Oh good! Someone who understands me.”
Tell that child, “I know what you’re feeling. I’ve been right where you are now. And I’ve come here to tell you how proud I am of you. You don’t know it yet, but you’re going to turn out alright. Sure, there are some hard times ahead, and you may not be getting all the love, support, and attention you deserve, but always know that I am so proud of you, and I thank you for what you are going through to make our life possible. Thank you. You are valued and loved.”
And just be with that child for a minute.
Now come on back!
That’s step one: Visit yourself in the past and give that kid in you a pat on the back letting them know that they’re great.
Step two is to embrace your ego.
I realize we’re told to let go of our ego, but the ego is a tool that can be utilized in a positive way. You can let go of your ego when you’re meditating if you’d like, but today, embrace that ego.
Think of everything you’ve done that you’re proud of… Maybe something creative, maybe something simple but it turned out pretty good. For example, I’m proud when I clean the kitchen or the bathroom. That’s a great feeling!
I’m proud when I make a good salad dressing from scratch.
Think of things that you’re proud of. Afterward, think of things where you showed off and people enjoyed it.
I used to ballroom dance. I got a great feeling when I did that because people would watch with their jaws dropped. I wasn’t that good, but so many people didn’t know how to do it so they watched in awe.
What did you do where you showed off and impressed people?
Do you do something now that seems impressive to people? Embrace that about you. Embrace that feeling of pride and accomplishment.
When I was 17, I was so insecure in school that I was afraid to do a lot of things, including talk to girls. I mean, I talked with them, but I was never confident enough to ask them out.
Then one day, my mom bought me a muscle car for $900. It was a 1969 Mercury Cougar.
When I got this car, I was so excited because I finally felt significant.
I had long hair in school, wasn’t very bright, and had no real aspirations. But that car… that really did something for my ego. In fact, I’d say it was the #1 reason I developed confidence.
Kids would come up to me in the hall and comment on my car. I just felt proud!
After a few months, my ego got to the point where I didn’t need the car anymore. I was able to build my self-esteem and my self-worth just by showing off for a while. I was getting so much more attention than I ever received, and I was loving it.
Eventually, I sold that car to a friend, and I think it finally died.
But, I kept my confidence and my new, improved self-esteem. I felt incredible.
If you learn to embrace a healthy ego, you will build your self-esteem. This will cause your self-worth to rise.
The ego is not good or bad, it just is. It gets “bad” when you lose your compassion for others.
Compassion is caring about others. But not caring about others while embracing your ego is where problems start to come in. You can embrace your ego and be proud of what you do and care about others – this is a healthy building of ego.
However, when you start bragging in order to feel superior, that’s when you are being less compassionate and more egoistic. That’s when you can tell you’ve gone too far with the ego: when you care less about others and don’t care if they are hurt by your words or behavior.
The idea is to be equally as selfish as you are giving. When there’s a good balance of both, you build a healthy ego. When the scale is tipped, however, and you lose that balance between caring about self and caring about others – and favor one over the other – the ego gets fed unhealthy programming.
In fact, you can even learn to be overly-compassionate and overly-giving, but this tips the scale too much in one direction and feeds unhealthy programming to the ego. Even though it appears that you are caring about others more than yourself, this is being overly-compassionate to fulfill a dysfunctional need in yourself.
Over-giving is not more compassionate, it usually a sign of desperation to be liked causing you to build your ego in an unhealthy way. If you gain attention and likability by having to be excessively giving all the time, your ego learns to become dependent on that attention in order to sustain happiness. This creates addictive-like behavior causing you to always be seeking your next fix.
If however, you are compassionate towards yourself and compassionate towards others in an equal way, this balance will feed the ego healthy programming.
A healthy ego can lead to more satisfaction in life.
Letting go of the ego is certainly a great goal, but that’s when you also tend to let go of pursuit and passion. And it’s hard to be passionate when you have no drive.
Drive stems from ego. Motivation stems from ego.
Having no ego can lead to peace (where nothing bothers you) where drive and ambition don’t matter So if that’s your goal, just have all your necessities in order before you take that route!
After Eckhart Tolle‘s release of the ego, he spent two years staying at friend’s houses, sitting on benches during the day, going to the beach, and running out of money.
An ego-free life isn’t a worry-free life because eventually, you can go hungry. Eckhart did eventually run out of money so he had to take a temporary job to pay for food. So even though losing your ego is an honorable and enlightening path, it can be a road with many obstacles.
My suggestion is to build your ego by showing off a little, as long as it doesn’t harm others. Be proud of your accomplishments!
I won’t lie, I love getting fan mail from listeners whose lives have changed because of this show. It feels good.
This feeling is ego even though it is mixed with compassion.
The intertwinement of compassion and ego is healthy because you include you in your compassion and them in your ego; whereas the more ego you have (the more about you it becomes), the less proud or caring you can be of others.
The quote I mentioned earlier said that we are somehow damaged when we interpret our role model’s actions, words, facial expressions, and everything else they do as a dislike and disappointment in ourselves. When you become disappointed in yourself because you believe what other people say about you or misinterpret what they think about you, you decrease self-worth and self-esteem.
When you’re proud of yourself no matter what others say, a healthy, egoic pride, you stay motivated and positive. It’s not easy because we typically care what others think of us, which is why it’s important to show off a little to regain some of that healthy ego.
When people congratulate you on something, don’t say, “It was nothing”. Instead say, “Damn right, I feel pretty good about that!” or something else just as powerful.
If you want to completely drop the ego, climb a mountain, and meditate in a cave, go for it! But if you want to experience the totality of everything there is, allow the ego to thrive in a healthy way.
Balance your compassion for others with your compassion for yourself. Be true to yourself and be honest and authentic whenever possible.
A healthy ego creates a more fulfilling life. Embrace both your compassion and your ego, and you’ll be abundant in self-worth and self-esteem.
Listen to the rest of this episode by clicking on the Play link at the top of the page.