|A rainbow is a projection of light through water droplets|
Self esteem is often acquired as a child from the opinions of others. We see ourselves as a projection of our parents approval. Thus, if my parents approve, I am good. In the dating years, we can’t help but place value on the reaction of our beloved to the projection of our self. In both cases, the projection is not the true self. Our parents approval projects to us a level of competency just above where we currently are which makes us think that where we are is not good enough. Our beloved’s approval is based on what parts of our self we choose to reveal. The beloved may or may not value what we reveal. We take a risk in revealing and then are crushed by the rejection that often happens.
True self esteem is just as it says esteem of self. It cannot come from the projections of others. It is self validation based on personal goals and achievements that we alone recognize as such. We choose to self validate or to continually push for outside approval.
God says that He unconditionally values us. He redeemed us without pausing over our individual merit. He knows our name. He knows our true nature and guides our life’s experiences to help us discover the truth about ourselves.
We can unconditionally accept ourselves also called self validation. It is easier if we choose to act in ways that correlate to our core value system. I know people who say they accept themselves but underneath they know that their actions don’t match their values and it is a difficult argument to win with the self over what is right and wrong when actions and values don’t match. I also know people who don’t accept themselves even though their actions and values do match. This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense — it is emotional and speaks to an underlying belief in a false assertion that no matter what you do, you will never be good enough. Believing that false assertion is a choice and discarding it is also a choice.
Humility is a factor of self esteem. It is only possible if I am authentically honest about what I am. Excessive confidence is a shield to protect the self from the view (and possible rejection) of others. I am humble when I exhibit an inner strength and peace about my weaknesses and faults as well as my accomplishments. I am humble when I can look myself in the eye. That confidence is apparent when I look you in the eye.
Honesty is another key to self esteem. When I pretend to be what I am not, I may act confidently but inside I am not confident. My lack of confidence is based on fear over what will happen when the other person finds out the truth about myself. Honesty is a choice that overcomes fear because there is solid ground to stand on. Many people are afraid to be honest. They fear rejection from others which again is seeking approval outside the self. When I am honest, others may feel uncomfortable and choose to leave the situation, but I self validate that I’m standing in the truth.
Working hard increases self esteem. This kind of effort is easy to self validate. I see that my efforts are good in comparison to my ability which is a self evaluation. My effort gives me the confidence to say “I did my best” even if the outcome is below my expectations. Low effort, while understandable in situations where the task is above my ability, is not conducive to high self esteem. This is a second example of how actions do affect self esteem.
Loving others without self esteem is a bid for outside approval. It can also be an attempt to compensate for the experience of being unloved. However, loving others after one has self validation, makes it possible to graciously accept that others make mistakes.
Loving God without self esteem is possible but incomplete. I know people whose devotion for God is the whole focus of their existence. But God has asked us not only to love him but to love others as we love ourself. Loving only God is only part of what love is. Thus self esteem is a foundation for loving others.
Faust, James E. Self-Esteem: A Great Human Need. BYU Speeches. 23 Aug 1983.