“Concern yourself not with what is right and what is wrong but with what is important.” ~Unknown
I personally do not know anyone who, after all is said and done, is not after high self-esteem.
It may not be blatant or obvious to the eye, yet once you break down the motives and emotions surrounding the things people choose to do and why they choose to do them, you will find that what they really want is to feel good about themselves.
They want to have high self-esteem. So the big question is: How do we raise our self-esteem and keep it at a high level?
I know for me it has been and is still is a daily and almost constant battle to keep my self-esteem at a normal to high level. Some days I do better than others. What has changed over the past year or so is that I have realized what it is that triggers my self-esteem ups and downs.
What Is Self-Esteem?
According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, self-esteem is a confidence and satisfaction in oneself or self respect. So how do we gain confidence and satisfaction in ourselves? Why is it that some people have higher self-esteem and some have lower self-esteem?
Why do some successful people have low self-esteem while at times people who have failed have a high level of self-esteem? Is it something that we gain from external sources such as praise or is it something internal?
Here is what I’ve discovered:
Self esteem is inseparable from your values and your integrity.
What Are Values?
Values are deeply held beliefs that guide us in what is right and wrong.
Values are subjective, because every single human being views life through his own subjective point of view. Every person's point of view is unique and therefore every person's set of values is unique. Our values are our compass in our lives.
There are values that are positive and there are values that are negative. There is friendship as well as hate. There is charity and there is grief. There is happiness and depression. There is family, honor, individuality, work, tolerance, respect, and hundreds of other values.
We are made up of our personal values. Our personal values are a combination of values ingrained in us from an early age as well as ones we have adopted ourselves over the years.
Why Are Values Important?
Values are the set of rules we have for leading our lives.
They let you know what is important to you and help you prioritize. Values help you gain clarity and focus in your life. Values help you make decisions—which leads us to integrity.
What Is Integrity and Where Does It Fit In?
According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, integrity is a firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values.
In order to be a person of integrity we have to live up to the values we hold to be important. (Again notice how subjective this all is—the values we hold to be important.)
With integrity, it doesn't matter what your values are. It matters whether or not you live up to them.
Integrity is integration between your values and your actions.
So How Are Values and Integrity Connected to Self Esteem?
Society may expect certain things from us, yet we are the ones who choose whether or not we internalize external social values and make them our own.
About six years ago, I was hospitalized for ten days with mild hemiparesis, one-sided numbness in my body. It was one of the worst times of my life. The uncertainty was agonizing. It was that illness that led me to rethink the truths in life and I became exposed to the whole “new age” culture.
There were things there that I was beginning to believe might have some truth in them, yet in my circles, many of those ideas were unaccepted.
I was so insecure that in order for me to feel the answers were right and that my point of view was legitimate, I needed people to agree with me and my way of thinking.
What I have learned over the years was that it is okay for other people to have different points of view, and if I truly believe something is right, in general or right for me, it does not matter what others think. I have begun to trust my own value system and not rely only on what others think.
Each of us has many values. Not all of our values are as important to us at the same time. Things also shift over time.
I try to write down five to ten of my top values every few months. Sometimes they change, sometimes they stay the same. By listing the values that are most important in my life at any given time, I am choosing to focus on them and work on them.
The more important our values, the more they will affect our self-esteem.
Sometimes we have values that clash, not because they’re opposites of each other, but because we can’t honor both at once.
For example, family and work are two of my values, and I find myself working more and having less time for my family. My family wants my attention and pulls at me. I want to feel fulfilled through work and career and that pulls at me.
The more my work value is being fulfilled, the more integrity I have with regard to that value. On the other hand, I am not living my family value with as much integrity as I would like to. When there’s a rift between how you’d like to honor a value, it leads to a loss of integrity.
That loss of integrity is the cause of lowered self-esteem.
If you have low self-esteem, that means you need to go back to your values and reassess how you can rearrange your life to feel like you are living with integrity based on what matters to you.
Is It Really That Easy?
If you’re like me, you might wonder you can possibly live with integrity based on all your varied values.
What helps me is to challenge all-or-nothing thinking. Sometimes it can seem that if you can't do things right or all the way, it’s a non-accomplishment.
Integrity is built from a pattern of small and consistent actions. Little changes can indeed build into big changes. One step at a time, a little bit each time, really does work magic.
How Can I Work On Living My Values With Integrity?
- Know your values.
- Keep your values at the center of your awareness. Know when you have an internal conflict between values.
- Walk the talk. Try to make sure you have integration between your values and actions.
- Learn how to give things up. Ask yourself, “What am I really willing to sacrifice?” If you want to start a new career, maybe you need to learn to let other things go. And if you do decide to give things up, do it without feeling bad about it or feeling guilty. It is a decision.
- See yourself as a unique person who has many resources.
- Use the words: “I choose to_______” instead of helpless phrases like “I can't because_________” or “I am like this because of_________”. You have a choice. You decide the circumstances.
- Listen to the voices in your head which give you a litany of excuses why you can't do something. Those voices don't want change. They want to keep the status quo. Evict them.
- Be authentic and be assertive. If you don't want to do something, say you don't want to do it.
- Don't beat around the bush. If something is important, go for it.
- Visualize and plan. Know what you want and plan for it.
Self esteem is like a bank account. When you live your values with integrity, you are making deposits into the bank of self esteem. We can be rich or poor. We are the ones who decide how many deposits we make.
Photo, with permission, by holymakeral