Wednesday, September 17, 2008
I was speaking to one of my best friends, recently, and she was very upset about an incident that she had witnessed. There was a man eating in a restaurant at a table next to hers and he was ranting and raving in a negative manner about women and various other groups of people. My friend sat in silent horror, as did everyone else in the restaurant, and simply listened to the man's prejudice. She left the restaurant feeling angry and unsatisfied, wishing that she'd said something to the rude man. I told her that I agreed with the 'turn the other cheek' policy. Anything else would have brought more attention to a man who was really just making a fool of himself anyway. Not to mention that challenging him would fuel his fire and give him a stage for his one man show. All she really wanted was to teach the man some respect but respect is not taught, it's grown... and one must have it for themselves before they can start to feel it for others.
A person who respects himself, or herself, is respectful of others. They don't need to learn respect because it comes naturally to them. People who truly respect themselves may appreciate respect from others but they don't need it or ask for it. It's simply not an issue because people who respect themselves are not overly concerned with what other people are thinking, or saying, about them. They are able to listen to and accept complements or negative feedback and respond to either with a simple thank you. This, in my opinion, is a true sign of strength. Of course it's always nice to hear complements and it's certainly necessary to hear negative feedback as well but to allow oneself to be puffed up or torn down by the opinion of others is exhausting and it can really wear down one's self esteem.
Self esteem is, very basically, how we feel about ourselves. Ego and self esteem are not the same thing. Ego is a sense of self that depends entirely on one's perceived successes or failures in any given arena. I liken self esteem to the love a parent feels for a child. A good parent, in my opinion, loves their child regardless of the child's actions, successes or failures. Imagine asking a parent why they love their child... They love their child simply because the child is, they don't need a reason. This is exactly the kind of love that, when cultivated for ourselves, builds a strong and healthy self esteem.
I've been told for most of my life that loving ourselves is pretty much the key to everything. Knowing this is great but how to 'do it', that's the tricky part. Personally, I think that the most effective way to start building self esteem is to simply take the best care of ourselves that we possibly can. Imagine what you would want for the people that you love and then include yourself in that list. Not too long ago I took the advice of author Louise Hay and started saying "I love you! I really really love you!" to myself in the mirror. I said it, I meant it and I actually let it in. I was amazed at how empowering it felt. This simple act of giving and receiving love to and from myself had a definite and immediate impact on my self esteem.
I believe we choose who we want to be, that we choose our actions as well as our reactions. That being the case, who do you want to be; the person whose self esteem depends on the opinions of others or the person whose sense of self worth remains unaffected by praise or blame? Personally, I'm striving to be the latter.