Self-esteem – How to find it?

self-esteemPsychologists have found that self-esteem goes along with being confident and assertive, having good physical health, and pleasing relationships. Yet some people have low self-esteem. They feel bad about themselves. What do you think of yourself? Are you pleased with who you are or ashamed? When someone makes critical remarks about you, is it water off a duck’s back or do you fold inwardly?

How can one feel better about oneself? The answer depends on who you are.

A way for those feeling low self-esteem

Many people with low self-esteem may not necessarily think they are `worthless’ but nevertheless they do feel as if they do not matter much and have little to offer. As a child you may have had somewhat critical parents and taken on board their repeated judgments about you. Perhaps you rushed home from school proudly telling mum or dad `I came second in class’ only to be asked about who came first. How crushed a child would feel — especially if the parents found it hard to express warmth and affection.

If we have a poor sense of self-worth, we often experience an inner voice unfairly criticising our thoughts and actions.

This voice makes snap judgments and jumps to conclusions merely on the basis of superficial information. It prevents us from trying new things and puts us down. It compares us unfavourably with other people and attributes any success we may have merely to chance. Our failures are only to be expected. If we interpret what we do as a failure, then it is a short jump to saying `I am a failure’.

Cognitive-behavioural counselling might help those who are able to learn to recognise this unhelpful voice,  challenge it and find more realistic habits of thought.

A way for those feeling low self-esteem

Repeated abuse, whether verbal, emotional, physical or sexual, drums in a message that the child is inherently bad, and deserving of punishment. If this was your experience of childhood why not try to get some in-depth psychodynamic counselling to explore the roots of your problem?  You can be helped to see past experience through the eyes of an adult and find a more realistic and coherent narrative about yourself. You can’t change the past but you might be able with professional help to come to terms with it and learn to move on.

Self-esteem for Christians

If you are a Christian and do not feel good about yourself, you may be wary of self-esteem as promoting too much self-centredness or disguising the need for God. The trouble is a punitive idea of God is still around and some Christians have felt what they believe to be their basic sinful human nature deserves his condemnation.

If your relationship with God is undermining you then perhaps you could ask whether your image of God is at fault and needs ditching in favour of one that makes more sense. Why not replace him with a God who is not harsh like the one depicted in the Old Testament, and not one with anger appeased by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.

An alternative religious view sees us as being neither inherently good nor bad, instead, being born with both positive and negative inclinations. We recognise in the baby’s ignorance of right and wrong an innocence of all blame. We are surrounded by a complex interweaving of problematic situations, interpersonal difficulties and social wrongs that influence our behaviour. We cannot be personally responsible for everything that is wrong in life. We need to distinguish between unrealistic and realistic guilt.

According to this view, the justice of God can only hold us accountable for the things we intentionally do believing them to be wrong.

Self-esteem for the spiritual sensitive person

I would say to the spiritually sensitive person that feeling good about what you do is very different from feeling you are good. We can humbly acknowledge that all that we achieve that is good in our lives is due to a spiritual force which is greater than we ourselves.

Paradoxically the result of this is that we would experience a greater sense of worth. We would see that all the worthwhile things we do is a result of being a willing channel for the power of divine love and wisdom.

Copyright 2011 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Inferiority – How to heal this feeling?

inferiorityDo you feel lower in status or ability than others? Perhaps you find yourself engaging in self-disparaging self-talk from time to time. ‘I can’t do this as well as them’; ‘I fall behind because I’m basically too slow’; ‘They look down on me because I’m not good enough’. Here we have a sense of inferiority causing doubt and uncertainty, feelings of not measuring up to standards, and a lack of self-worth.

Consequences of feelings of inferiority

As a result, others around you may note that you are the sort of person who seems unsure of yourself often seeking attention and approval, someone who feels inadequate to deal with anything without relying on them for encouragement and reassurance. When these feelings of inferiority really get you down then you have a state of mind that you may inwardly realise needs healing.

Being at risk for a sense of inferiority

To have a sense of inferiority, you don’t have to be a member of an ethnic minority, be poor and out of work, have a physical disability or have a childhood memory of failing to live up to parents expectations, but, if you do have any of these, you may be more at risk.

Perhaps you happen to believe that people who are successful are more important, or that people of a certain race, or state of health are at the top of the list. Maybe your self-criticism has some measure of truth but, even if true, does this make you a lesser mortal than the majority of humanity? An inferior sort of human? Doesn’t everyone have their own weaknesses as well as strengths?

Some healing suggestions

Open yourself to healing by:

1. Catching yourself running yourself down. Instead get into the habit of being fair and reasonable regarding your strengths and weaknesses. What you say to yourself may be unfair if you are exaggerating your negative side.

2. Affirming the idea that no matter how others denigrate you, we all deserve respect and happiness because of unconditional love that is the spiritual source of all things. A good parent loves the disabled child as much as the able-bodied one not because of their abilities but because of their needs.

3. Watching out for manipulators – individuals who seem to like to put you down in subtle ways that are not obvious. Perhaps this can be heard in their tone of voice, sarcastic asides, and focusing on negatives about you without much in the way of any positives. These people want to feel superior and so they try to cause you inferiority feelings. They are practised at knowing how to detect weaknesses and once found, they use someone’s weaknesses against him or her.

4. Remembering a spiritual perspective. I really believe that healing of the spirit will happen if you have a deep desire for living a full life of usefulness unencumbered by self-doubt, and anxiety.

Story

There is a story in the Bible about a loving mother who approaches Christ for help because of her concern for her suffering daughter said to be possessed by demons. The mother is a Canaanite – a nation in the story the Jews despise.

As a woman she is a second class citizen in a culture dominated by men. This was the case two thousand years ago in Palestine and is still the case in some parts of the world now. Considered more like property, she functions more like a servant, and a producer of children than someone to be cherished as a loving companion. She has a husband who by law is allowed to divorce her for any reason. Enough, one might think, to give anyone strong feelings of inferiority.

On top of that she is intimidated by this religious teacher – first ignored, then told to go away, and then suffering his stinging words saying his mission is not for her people’s benefit and that she is nothing better than a dog.

Nevertheless, she is not put off by his inattention and rudeness but shows humility and love in her renewed plea. As a result the story tells us the healing takes place.

In his book 12 Miracles of Spiritual Growth, E. Kent Rogers suggests that if we are possessed by feelings of inferiority, we would be wise like the woman in the story to be persistent in our efforts to find healing and be willing to struggle with God as the source of all healing.

If we are tired of the way our self-depreciation, inhibits our ability to love and connect with others, if we are saddened by the way our self-hatred affects others negatively then we will be empowered to tenaciously petition God for healing until we receive what we want. “(E. Kent Rogers, Swedenborgian writer)

So if you are troubled by a feeling of inferiority why not be persistent in humbly asking for help in private prayer?

Copyright 2014 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems