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Self Esteem - What It Really Is and How to Raise It

Self esteem.

Now there's a well used and little understood term. Self esteem seems to be one of those terms that we frequently use without really knowing exactly what it means. Just what is this self esteem thing? And where do you go to get some? I've never seen a self esteem store at the mall. Not yet any way.

Many people tend to define self esteem as the way you feel about yourself, which seems to be a little redundant. For the sake of this column, let's define self esteem as the perceptions and beliefs you have about yourself.

Having said all that, let's focus in on a quick and simple way to improve your self esteem.

One of the quickest and simplest methods for improving your self esteem is simply to rate it on what I call the Self Esteem Rating Scale(TM).

Here's how it works: on a scale of one to ten, with one being the worst and ten being the best, rate your self esteem in these four ways?:

1) what it is now2) the worst it's ever been3) the best it's ever been 4) how you would like it to be

Now, having done that (if you haven't done that, go back and do it before you read on, it just takes a few seconds!) consider these things:

What were you doing when it was the worst that you might need to eliminate?

What were you doing when it was the best that you might need to resume doing, continue doing, or do more of in the future?

If your self esteem now is higher than the worst it's ever been, what did you do to change it that you might want to continue to do?

Now take a look at the difference between what your self esteem is now and what you would like it to be. The difference is the ground you need to cover to improve your self esteem. Now for a seemingly bizarre and unrelated question. How do you like your pizza? Just bare with me here. However you like it, what would happen if you tried to eat an extra large version of it in one bite? That's right, you couldn't do it and would probably choke. So you slice it into smaller pieces and then take even smaller bites to accomplish the task.

It's the same way with self esteem. For example, let's say your self esteem is now a five and you would like it to be a ten. That's a difference of five self esteem levels. If you tried to jump from a five to a ten all at once, you would probably become frustrated, discouraged and give up. It's just to big a leap.

What you can do is begin to break it into manageable pieces by asking yourself "What will it take to move from a five to a six, a six to a seven?" , and so on. In this way you are biting off manageable chunks that will give you the opportunity to achieve small successes, which can then motivate you on to the bigger successes of accomplishing your self esteem goal.

While using the Self Esteem Rating Scale can be a quick and easy way to improve your self esteem, that's not to say it won't involve some struggles. And that's a good thing because I believe there is value in the struggle. A patient of mine recently shared the following wonderful story about butterflies and the value of struggling.

Now if you have ever had the privilege of watching the amazing process of a butterfly leaving its cocoon, you know its quite a struggle. Well, it seems some scientists, in their esteemed wisdom, found a way to get butterflies out of their cocoons without a struggle. What they found however, was that the butterflies that had to struggle out of their cocoons lived longer, flew better, and were more beautiful than the butterflies that were removed without a struggle.

Besides saying something about the value of the struggle, I believe it also says something to us about the difference between science and success!

Maybe it's like something Tom Hanks said in the movie "A League of Their Own." One of the players was complaining about how hard something was and Hanks responded, "Of course it's hard. That's what makes it good." Or perhaps it's like I say to many of my patients who want to change their self esteem, "I won't promise you the struggle will be easy, just worth it."

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