Wikipedia defines self esteem as, “A term in psychology to reflect a person’s overall evaluation or appraisal of his or her own worth…some would distinguish how self-esteem is what we think about the self.”
Now, this is pretty clear and simple, yet when we suffer from low self-esteem we are overcome by our view of ourselves. Our feelings have taken on a life of their own, and we cannot remember with any clarity that what we are thinking about ourselves is all that needs to be adjusted.
To me, this feeling of constantly ebbing and flowing between high and low self-esteem is never more palpable than in the teenage years. Never do I remember feeling more beat up by myself on a regular basis.
The cruel trick is that we all go around looking for our esteem outside of ourselves. On one day we may receive a compliment that has us soaring, only to come crashing down again. This is because we have little understanding of our own amazing contribution to our self-esteem! We have forgotten that self-esteem comes from inside. Buddha himself imparts this wisdom saying, “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
This is to say that if our feeling of worth comes directly from how we are holding ourselves in our thinking, than our feeling of low self-esteem is as transient as thoughts themselves. If we are wise enough to recognize that our thoughts about ourselves mean absolutely nothing in terms of fact, and simultaneously everything about our experience of reality, than we will live a life with much more ease and well-being.
Think of what this understanding could do for teens today with all the issues that they face! What if we were raising our teens to be at the default setting of security, so that when faced with judgement, their natural response would be to question it rather than to believe it? What if they could all be aware of their own ability to shape their experience through their thinking? What if everyone remembered the definition of self-esteem in all of its simplicity? Out teens deserve this and they need it!
“Right now I’m in a time in my life where I am not as happy as I used to be…. I tried having boyfriends to help with my happiness, but it’s only good for a little while. I’m down and it’s getting harder to play it off… I present myself as a real happy girl, but I am not.” ~Unknown Teen Author