THE SELF-ESTEEM ROLLER COASTER
Self-esteem is not static for most people. It often shifts from thoughts of inferiority and shame to grandiosity and euphoria.
Humans often evaluate themselves with universal appraisals: I am smart. I am beautiful. I am thin. I am talented. These broad, idealistic generalizations are followed by assumptions of social value. I am talented; therefore I am worthy and people will like me.
When we lack confidence, we try to boost our self-esteem with even more evaluative statements, repeating “I am beautiful” over and over again, hoping to internalize the statement. Perhaps you try to elicit this feedback from other people, posting photos of yourself on Instagram and other media platforms for likes and validation.
It feels good to make these statements. We experience a burst of positive self-regard. The euphoria is far from permanent, however, and many people who struggle with self-esteem notice that this high quickly deflates.
To end the roller coaster of fluctuating self-esteem, the key is not to focus on appraisal at all.
THE KEY TO LASTING SELF-ESTEEM
True self-esteem is built on an ongoing relationship with yourself, a relationship of self-support, an internal dialogue that says, “I see you exactly where you are, and I support you.”
Rather than seeking affirmations, try radical self-acceptance. It’s a completely different orientation of self. Radical self-acceptance is about recognizing your true self and accepting that person. You may notice qualities that you want to improve, and you allow yourself to be a work in progress. Rather than feeling shame that you aren’t perfect, you feel at ease with your imperfections. You are happy spend time nurturing your growth rather than perpetually striving for perfection.
Outcomes, such as your weight and your achievements, are less important than the process of relating to yourself. You are there to support yourself in any state. The feeling that comes with radical self-acceptance is not ego euphoria; it is a quiet peace and comfort in your own skin.
Self-acceptance requires a commitment to being true to ourselves each day.
An affirmation could be, “Today, I am committed to being exactly who and what I am.”
When we actually see ourselves (rather than evaluate ourselves through societies lens), the truth of who we are is nuanced rather than simple. You will notice the fine details of your personality rather than trying to fit into monolithic categories, such as “beautiful” or “smart.” You are working with whatever you are right now, in this moment. It is a humble position; you may be a work in progress, but the ongoing commitment to authenticity and radical acceptance creates a more sustainable self-esteem, a rock-solid foundation that allows you to feel peace within yourself, even when the world pushes against you.
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