Most of my life I've struggled with finding self-esteem and although my life is still a work-in-progress, I believe I've finally discovered the simple secret to self-esteem. I could write a book on it, but I think the shorter the book the more powerful it would be and I can cover the whole deal in one short article. As a bonus, I'm even going to throw in the cure for loneliness. So here goes:
Self-esteem is really about self-acceptance. This needs to come from within us, because when our self-acceptance is based on external reinforcement we are always at the mercy of circumstances outside our control such as other people's opinions and random events in our life.
Our deepest, most powerful internal experience of ourselves comes from how we feel. While we aren't our feelings, they are a true reflection of our core experience in any moment.
We also have a fundamental need as humans to connect with other people, so our ability to connect in general has a huge impact on the way we see ourselves. While we don't want our self-esteem to be dependent on what other people think or feel about us, connecting with other people fulfills this basic need and gives us a powerful emotional reinforcement. This connection is the cure for loneliness, the powerful feeling related to the loss of connection.
The most powerful connections we can have with others are based on emotions. Our brains are wired with special circuitry called mirror neurons which facilitate empathic connections at a very deep level. Connections based on thoughts or common interests are still valuable, but can never reach anything like the same depth as connections based on emotions because of the way our brains are wired for empathy.
With these two things in mind, here is the simple two-step secret to self-esteem:
Identify how you feel in any moment. This will always boil down to one of these basic emotions:
Happy (Joyful, Loving, Grateful, etc)
Sad (Upset, Hurt, etc)
Angry (Furious, Cranky, Rebellious, etc)
Fearful (Scared, Afraid, Terrified, etc)
Disgusted (Repulsed, etc)
Surprised (Shocked, Astonished, etc)
Contemptuous (Hateful, etc)
Ashamed (Shameful, Embarrassed, Blushing, etc)
Learn to express it constructively: “I feel … ”.
Psychologist Paul Eckman discovered that the seven basic emotions are written all over our face, yet we often try to hide them when we are ashamed of ourselves. I've added shame to his list because it can undermine our self-esteem so powerfully when we don't acknowledge it.
When we express how we truly feel, other people see us as more genuine and less creepy because what we say and how we act becomes congruent with the emotions displayed on our face.
Refusing to be honest with ourselves about how we feel is the core problem behind a lack of self-acceptance, and keeping it hidden from others keeps us feeling lonely and isolated. Expressing how we feel constructively is the key to both self-esteem and genuine deep connections with others.
It really is that simple.
Learning to identify and express our true emotions can take time when we've had years of practice being in our head and out of touch with our heart. Apply this secret universally in all the relationships in your life, and you'll experience true freedom without ever having to read another self-help book again. Of course it won't feel natural at first since you're probably used to holding back at lot, but keep at it and you'll get there.
If emotional mastery isn't currently your strength and you really want yet-another book to tell you how to apply this, you can get more guidance from Section 2: Mastering Your Emotions in Confident Man.