Havenít seen you about in quite a while. I was browsing and ran across this a few minutes ago. I realized that I hadnít seen it before, and thought Iíd like to take a shot at a response.
I think about the same sort of things from time to time.
I wonder if there isnít a bit of a language problem involved sometimes when we start talking about ďhavingĒ self esteem, as though it were a pair of stylish shoes that sometimes were wearing, and sometimes weíd inexplicably left at home. Today, Iím going barefoot. I donít know why I left my self esteem at home, usually I put it on right after I slip into my socks, but today for some reason I decided to wear only one sock, and no self-esteem at all. I have no idea why.
Thatís the sort of puzzle we seem to be creating for ourselves when we talking about ďhavingĒ self esteem, as though it were a possession.
Really, I donít think self-esteem is a possession at all. You donít have it. Nobody gives it to you.
Thinking about self-esteem that way seems to make people feel puzzled and powerless, and they tend to wonder how come their self esteem is low, as though it were oil or gasoline.
If weíre going to talk about it, I think it makes a lot more sense to talk about self-esteem as something we ďdo.Ē Itís an activity, like walking or breathing or eating, and when I say Iím not feeling very good about myself, that my ďself-esteemĒ is low, it may be more helpful to begin wondering how I might actually go about esteeming myself.
Being difficult at times, and having little practice at asking that question about myself, itís possible that I find the question makes no sense at all when I ask it about myself. That is often the case, especially because Iím out of practice, but more particularly because the way Iím used to thinking about the question is so different. Iím not used to thinking about the question as something that is under my own control. Iím used to thinking about the question more as a matter of fault ó whatís wrong with me, in other words, that I feel bad so much of the time?
Basically, nothing. I simply donít understand that there are things that I can do that I might admirable, and that I can practice doing them and noticing how I feel when I put a little time in on them. I can talk those things over with people I admire and learn how to do them better. And that these are skills that I can build up, and which I can share with other people as well. We can practice being pleased with how well we are doing and we can practice learning how to pass the skills on. For me, a lot of these skills have to do with altruism and service, but I donít presume to tell you where the sources of your self esteem might lie.
The question might be open to exploration if you ask yourself what qualities you esteem in other people, and then if you try to get some support in trying to learn to do some of the things that you admire in these other people.
You might also need to do some thinking about the sorts of ways you admire other people going about learning new and important skills like these. And you might think about the sorts of conversations youíll want to have to make the process as much of a pleasure as it could be, instead of turning it into work. Think of how much fun building some real self-esteem could be as you bring your playfulness and creativity to bear on it.
I have to say that Iím sorry that it took me so long to find your question, and so long to respond to it, but that Iíd be happy to continue the discussion if you or anybody else has an interest in the subject.
My best, Bob Kaven