A Visual Guide To Self Esteem

Babies don't compare themselves to other babies. They don't ponder questions like "is the baby in the next crib cuter than I am?" or "does that baby across the room make more money than me?"

Granted, they do have more pressing concerns (clean diaper, anyone?). But there is another, more profound reason. They are still living in the original state of perfection, i.e., without doubt.

Later in life, they will begin to absorb verbal and non verbal messages and this original perfection will begin to fade. These messages will accumulate over time and eventually become beliefs. And it is these newly formed beliefs that will eventually cause the child to develop conditional self esteem. The feeling that "I am OK" grows into the conditional "I am OK if..." Now, positive feelings toward the self must be justified or "earned." This fateful transformation is diagrammed below.

So, is it detrimental to have conditional self esteem?

Well, in a word - yes.

There is an important distinction to note here. Reaching goals and celebrating good fortune are positive activities. It is when these become the pillars of self esteem that they reveal their harmful side.

Since conditional self esteem requires proof that it is deserved, it typically leads to unfortunate social behaviors. The simple pleasure of enjoying the relaxed company of others will be marred by persistent thoughts of comparison and competition. This will often lead to judgmental and devaluing thoughts of others, though it can also lead to increased feelings of unworthiness, if the self is judged as "not as good."

At its heart, conditional self esteem is driven by the belief that the self is "not good enough." And that belief will lead to a never ending process of proving, justifying and earning. The finish line will never be crossed because every day, self esteem must be justified all over again.

How can inner peace ever be attained with a mindset like this?

How does one begin to let go of the belief that "I am not good enough?"

First, let go of a durable delusion.

Then, open up and see what you have been holding inside

You'll be surprised by what is in there.

And remember what you instinctively knew the day that you were born

... before you began to doubt.

True self esteem can never be earned, proved or justified.

You are worthy simply because you are human.

Beyond all illusion and delusion lies a kernal of truth

...that you have always known, though you may have forgotten.

The gift is you