It seems as though there is a bit of a misunderstanding out there (not based upon this blog or comments, but on quite a bit of reading that I have done)… a misunderstanding of the notion of the inner child and folks who tend to use it as permission to justify irresponsibility. It is certainly true that we all need some irresponsibility and playfulness, but only at appropriate times and appropriate places. Our inner child is that spontaneous, emotional, self-centered part of us that needs the adult to guide, direct and monitor our overall well being. Without the adult part of us overseeing the inner child, our lives can become chaotic and out of control. Much of our frequent “debting” and “compulsive spending” is the result of our inner child wanting what it wants when it wants it. Without supervision of the adult part of us, we may self-sabotage ourselves; quit a job before you either have another; never balance our checkbooks, saying yes, when you need to be saying no; we are floating, bouncing pieces of fluff… it is all about balance, balance, balance… recognizing all parts of us… the inner child and the grown up.
Now onto self esteem…. You may be shocked to hear that research has shown that over 85% of us experience some form of diminished self-esteem in our lives. It appears that most of us have some sort of self-esteem issues in certain situations and settings. Most irritating is that it is in the key emotional moments in our lives that diminished self-esteem can hurt us the most. For example, you may be applying for a job and you are given a tough question and all of a sudden, you start feeling uncomfortable or you may even sabotage your chances by saying something foolish because you lack the necessary self-esteem to hold yourself as a great prospect for the company interviewing you. Or, perhaps, it could be the area of dating and intimacy where your poor self-esteem might prevent you from achieving your desired results. All too often unproductive levels of self-esteem in certain key areas are passed on to children who experience problems similar to those that their parents have.
So how do you build self-esteem? I have found a few things essential for the nurturing and sustain of healthy self-esteem – they are:
The practice of living consciously: respect for facts; being present to what we are doing while we are doing it; seeking and being eagerly open to any information, knowledge or feedback that bears on our interests, values, goals and projects; seeking to understand not only the world external to self but also our inner world, so that we do not act out of self-blindness.
The practice of self-acceptance; the willingness to own, experience, and take responsibility for our thoughts, feelings, and actions, with evasion, denial, or disowning and also without self-repudiation; giving oneself permission to think one’s own thought, experience one’s emotions, and look at one’s actions without necessarily like, endorsing or condoning them; the virtue of realism applied to the self.
The practice of self-responsibility: realizing that we are the author of our choices and actions; that each one of us is responsible for life and well-being and for the attainment of our goals; that if we need the cooperation of other people to achieve our goals, we must offer values in exchange; and that question is not “Who’s to blame?” but always, “What needs to be done?” “What do I need to do?”
The practice of self-assertiveness: being authentic in our dealings with others; treating our values and persons with decent respect in social contexts; refusing to fake the reality of who we are or what we esteem in order to avoid disapproval’ the willingness to stand up for ourselves and our ideas in appropriate ways in appropriate contexts.
The practice of living purposefully: identifying our short-term and long-term goals or purposes and the actions needed to attain them (formulating an action-plan): organizing behavior in the service of those goals; monitoring actions to be sure we stay on track; and paying attention to outcomes so to recognize if and when we need to go back to the drawing board.
The practice of personal integrity: living with congruence between what we know, what we profess, and what we do; telling the truth, honoring our commitments, exemplifying in action the values we profess to admire.
Soooo, we see that self-esteem is not a free gift of nature. It has to be cultivated… it cannot be acquired by blowing oneself a kiss in the mirror and saying, “Good morning. Perfect.!” (Although that may help)… It cannot be attained by being showered with praise or by sexual conquests or my material acquisitions or by scholastic, career achievements of yourself or children. It cannot by truly attained by a hypnotist planting the thought that one is wonderful. It happens by living consciously, practicing great self-acceptance, operating more self-responsibility, function more self-assertively, living more purposefully and bring a higher level of personal integrity into your life. No one – not your parents, partner, friends, lovers, psychotherapist, support group –can “give” you self-esteem. If and when we all fully grasp this fact that is the act of waking up and smelling the flowers and practicing….. doing the “do”.
Self-esteem reflects our deepest vision of our competence and worth. Sometimes this vision is our most closely guarded secret, even from ourselves, as when we try to compensate for our deficiency with what I call pseudo-self-esteem – a pretense at a self-confidence and self-respect we do not actually feel. (Whew!!!!) Nothing is more common than the effort to protect self-esteem not with consciousness but with unconsciousness – with denial and evasion – which only results in a further deterioration of self-esteem. A good deal of the behavior we call “neurotic” can be best understood as a misguided effort to protect self-esteem by means which in fact are really undermining it all. Whether or not we admit it, there is a level at which all of us know that the issue of our self-esteem is the most burning important thing we are doing/working on.
This is an area that I have personally been working on … it all starts with acceptance of the “self” and goes on from there… well, I am doing the “do”…. how are all of you doing?
Certainly enough left brained stuff this early in the morning… I really think my “do” is finding some caffeine…. Thanks for spending a bit of time with me….