By Harvey Wasserman, BSc, MD, psychotherapist
Self-esteem is the foundation of personality and is not to be confused with arrogance or perfection. It is simply liking and respecting yourself as you are, aware of your assets and weaknesses.
With good self-esteem you acknowledge your weaknesses without self-condemnation, and are in a favourable position to heal your weaknesses. With good self-esteem your strengths, your assets, are free to become the engine to produce a happy and successful life.
Self-esteem is basically laid down in the first five or six years of life. Unconditional love with consistently and compassionately reinforced social limits is essential for producing healthy self-esteem.
Every child is born feeling entitled to everything it wants. At first they want unconditional love, food, air, water, and nappy change. Children as they grow still feel they are instantly entitled to everything they want. As their wishes grow, they need to be civilised. If these limits are imposed gently, strongly, and persistently, the child begins to know what its limits are in the everyday world.
The classic Irish way of civilising the child had been to angrily and physically set powerful limits. This was often overdone, suppressing the child’s creativity, self-esteem, and passion for life.
Children can be taxing, making constructive re-education of them one of the hardest parts of life. It is a task well worth undertaking, producing constructive and creative children with a passion for life and a knowledge of love.
Here is an exercise to improve self-esteem.
Sitting comfortably on a chair, speak out loud and say, “I love myself”. Give it a truthful number rating from one to 10, 10 being absolutely true and one the total opposite. If you feel courageous, make eye contact with yourself in a mirror and say to your image, “I love myself”. Again, rate it 1 to 10.
Turn your head and eyes strongly up and to the left and imagine how you would look with perfect self-esteem. Hold this for 30 seconds.
Head and eyes turned strongly up and to the right. A video company learning of your improvement is filming a documentary about all the changes in you, walking, standing, talking, and people interaction. Visualise this for 30 seconds. Your eyes sparkle. There is a lilt to your voice, a spring to your step. Everyone responds to your positive vitality.
Head and eyes turned down and to the right. You are watching an edited version of the video made by the video company on a screen. Watch this for 10 seconds. Then, holding your eyes and head in the same position, imagine walking up to the screen and stepping into the screen and becoming the person in the screen for 30 seconds. Return to normal and say again, “I love myself.” Rate yourself 1 – 10. Sense any improvement.
If your score improved at least one-half to one point, do this exercise twice daily for six weeks. Enjoy the way you now feel in your mind and body.
Continue the exercise once a day to increase and reinforce your joy in who you are.