Most of us do not have the privilege of building our self-esteem from scratch and if you’re reading this you’re probably at one extreme of the self-esteem scale— low or inflated. Most likely, low.
PS: This post is not about how to overcome low self-esteem. If you think you have low self-esteem, the first step is to get free from it, then you can continue on this journey of building it from scratch. I have covered that in this article. The Cure For Low Self-Esteem
Now that you are free from low self-esteem, I have found that trying to build high self-esteem as an end in itself is faulty and has some disadvantages that can follow. The aim of building high self-esteem is I want to see myself as someone important, but the question is why? Why should you see yourself as someone important or valuable? Are you truly valuable?
If you build a valuation of yourself as someone worthy and important when you truly are not, you are setting yourself up for a mega self-esteem crash when the test of self-esteem comes. That is why the emphasis is on building true self-esteem— giving yourself the exact valuation that you are actually worth.
With this, if you are not worth much, you simply accept it and from there you work on increasing your worth. This is more tamper-proof than building high self-esteem on nothing.
If everyone had been helped to build true self-esteem from childhood (where self-esteem develops), there would have been no need for this entire series. There’ll be no contention between having high or low self-esteem. Everyone will just see themselves as they are and life would have been more beautiful. Anyway, it is not so and we are here already.
How Do You Build Your True Self-Esteem From Scratch
1. Understand the overall program of life and be convinced of it
Before the entire issue of worth or value comes up, you need to understand the place of worth and value. Your worth or value is your importance to a particular program; however, you should be careful not to define your worth in life by just your importance to a particular course.
For example, don’t say because my family, work, and church thinks I’m not important or because I don’t have any contribution to make to them it means I am not important or worthy.
Those are just minute aspects of life as a whole. Your value should be judged based on your importance to the overall program of life, not just with regards to a single role.
Also know that any self-esteem that is built on anything else is not your true self-esteem because you aren’t valuable at all if you aren’t valuable to life. Also, you are valuable no matter what anyone thinks as long as you are valuable to the essence of life.
2. Understand your significance to that program through your personal purpose
You were created to make certain contributions to life that fit or contribute to the overall program of life. That contribution is your purpose. In this purpose are your value, worth, and importance. The only reason why you are truly valuable is that you have a role to contribute, for the overall purpose of life to be successful.
It’s like the program of life hinges on you because if you don’t contribute what you are meant to contribute, the overall work wouldn’t be complete. However, that shouldn’t give you an inflated sense of self-importance because that program doesn’t hinge on just you; it is a joint work and everyone has equal importance and equal significance.
The same way the grains of rice look like the most important ingredient in making Jollof Rice, you still wouldn’t have Jollof Rice without the seemingly minute seasonings that are required. In the end, none is more important than the other.
We are all playing significant roles in life by fulfilling our individual purposes and that makes everyone valuable and worthy. This is the only basis on which anyone should have high self-esteem: the basis that they have a significant contribution to life.
3. Discover your personal purpose and commit to fulfilling it
Now that you understand that your value is based on your contribution to the overall program of life through your personal purpose, your next assignment is to discover what that purpose is and how you can actually contribute to life through it.
For example, we know that our car is useful to us but if it’s just there doing nothing, what then is its significance? It only becomes significant when it actually moves and conveys someone or something somewhere. Your self-esteem is the value you place on yourself; finding and committing to a purpose reassures you of that importance and contribution since you now see something that validates your importance.
Your self-esteem won’t be built if you are aware that your worth is defined by your contribution to life and yet you aren’t contributing. The same way you feel inferior when you base your self-esteem on social or workplace contribution because you feel you aren’t doing enough, basing your self-esteem on life’s program and not contributing will also make you feel you aren’t doing enough (inferior).
4. Avoid comparison
This is built on the understanding of what I explained earlier that everybody’s purpose no matter how big, impactful, or minute it looks to us based on our standards is playing an equally important role.
It is easy to fall into this trap after changing your definition of your worth; you can begin to see others as being more valuable because the fulfillment of their purpose seems to be making more contributions.
Like the Jollof Rice illustration I gave, even if your purpose seems like the minute seasoning that cannot be noticed, you must still understand that the program of life cannot be complete without you then stop trying to be “significant” like other ingredients.
Imagine all the ingredients in the Jollof Rice want to “feel significant” and they all try to be rice grains. That will mess up the whole Jollof Rice program.
Apart from messing up the whole program, comparison also leaves you in frustration because no matter how hard you try to do what someone else is doing, you can’t be effective in doing it since you weren’t created for that.
As against feeling significant, it is when you try to do what someone else is doing that you become inferior because there is now a single measure for assessing both of you and you are counterfeit. When you were in your place, there was a different measure for measuring your contribution’s impact and you were satisfying that measure’s requirement
PS: When your contribution seems like a very significant one according to our standard, you shouldn’t be deceived into thinking you are more worthy than others because we all play equally significant roles.
As simple and unlikely as this model seems, it is the right and only true way to build your self-esteem— your true self-esteem from scratch. It is neither inflated nor low. It is high; just what you are worth.
This is the mindset children should be allowed to grow up with, that their worth is not defined by how much they match up to any standard, but in the fact that they have an important contribution they were created to make that is exclusive to just them.
Next in this series is how to maintain high and true self-esteem after it has been built.
Olusegun Iyejare is a career coach and certified counselor. He helps individuals discover and maximize their potential to live satisfying lives regardless of obvious limitations holding them back.