“What exactly is SELF-ESTEEM?” Many people have only a general concept of what self-esteem actually means. I totally get it. The word is often used in swiping broad terms; it can be hard to pin down the definition as it applies to our life. Self-esteem is often used as blanket statement when someone says, “I have, he has, she has, low self-esteem.” With a broad brush, self-esteem can be loosely defined as the way we feel about ourselves. Self- esteem, however, is actually multifaceted in that there are many aspects of the self. So a good question to ask is, “Exactly which self are we taking about when we speak of self-esteem?”
The internal self, the external self, the professional self, the significant other self, the performance self… there are too many to name. The fact is we can have great esteem for ourselves in one area of our lives and have poor self-esteem in others. For example, a person may have great confidence in their professional lives and suffer greatly in their personal relationships, or a great sense of worth in their interpersonal relationships and suffer deeply in their romantic lives, feel confident in their physical appearance and feel inept in their intellectual world, the list could go on and on. When working with a client who suffers in any area of self-worth, I assist them in examining all the aspects of their worth as they have defined themselves. In this way we are able to work on the areas that legitimately need addressing and to help them reach their internal and external goals. We also work on discarding negative self-concepts based on childhood experiences, society’s ever-fluctuating ideas of self-worth, or wherever we picked up the negative. Though we are ever changing, it is important to take a stand, to give ourselves our value, establish our own worth, set our own standards based on who we are. These are not standards defined by others, family, friends and especially the dominant cultural standards which are ever fluctuating and which blow like trees in the wind and which most of us fail to measure up to in the first place. So if you are measuring yourself against a yardstick that is perpetually moving, you are bound to feel like you come up on the short end of the stick! Self-esteem can be tricky business.
Using mindfulness as a path to happiness.
Mindfulness can be a direct path to happiness. It allows us to be present with all our experiences, both good and bad, most especially all the in-between moments in life that we often don’t pay much attention to. We allow much of our day-to-day experiences to slip though the cracks of life. Mindfulness is a discipline of mind that allows us to be present in moments of anxiety, anger, fear, depression, sorrow as well as joy, love, tranquility in the exact moment we are experiencing these emotions. Mindfulness can also offer a more objective, reflective perspective from moment-to-moment. We can learn to pay attention to all that is present. I have found that much of the time, we are usually negotiating with our feelings in one-way or another, trying to manipulate, defend against or avoid them to some extent or another. We have assembled an arsenal of ways to try to control our feelings, but instead of using our artillery, we learn to relax and experience our feelings in their fullness. Sounds somewhat crazy, huh? Who in their right mind wants to be in any sort of discomfort? The truth is, only when we can allow ourselves to be present to what is, can we find the relief we are seeking. We accept what we are feeling in the moment and have compassion for ourselves, which is very different from pity, and we allow our feelings to reach the surface and teach the lesson we are learning. We must be brave enough to learn it.
So again, what is Mindfulness? It is the ability to really experience our lives, as it is, in the moment and resist the urge to wish it were different and that is hard to do. I often have to pry myself away from wishing life was different than it is. Mindfulness is having the courage to accept and examine our feelings, that space between the stimulus and our response to it. For me, when I can manage it, it feels like stillness, a brief moment of silent space between taking in a breath and letting one go. Have you ever noticed that in-between pause?
The benefits of mindfulness is a clarity of mind that helps us maneuver better through life, allowing us the distance we need to access and examine our feelings before we act upon them. Much of the time we are so busy living our hectic lives, running towards or moving against something or other, striving so hard that we loose sight of our moment-to-moment experiences. The irony of mindfulness is that by allowing ourselves to slow down, we begin to notice life, we begin to fully realize that nothing is permanent, thereby we begin to be more appreciative of life as it is and to let go! We can then look at life from a perspective of curiosity and compassion for ourselves and for others. We learn that acceptance is often the prerequisite for change, not the other way around. Just speaking my peace!
“Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.”
“The heart that cannot be fulfilled through its own love is like a container with no bottom; it can never be filled, not even with the love of the whole universe.”
The Guest House – by Rumi
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
Who violently sweep your house
Empty of it furniture,
Still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
For some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
Meet them at the door laughing,
And invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
Because each has been sent
As a guide from beyond.
“Not to assume it impossible because you find it hard. But to recognize that if it’s humanly possible, you can do it too.”
“He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.”
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
your thoughts become your words,
your words become your actions,
your actions become your habits,
your habits become your character,
your character becomes your destiny.”
“Only in an open, nonjudgmental space can we acknowledge what we are feeling. Only in an open space where we’re not all caught up in our own version of reality can we see and hear and feel who others really are, which allows us to be with them and communicate with them properly.”