Stress and Self-Esteem
by Jill R.
Is your stress level affected by your self-esteem? Maybe you think you have low self-esteem and this causes you stress... or maybe you have high self-esteem and your battle to keep it high increases your stress and anxiety?
Self-esteem at its most basic level means "how we feel about ourselves". The battle inside to feel good about ourselves often causes a lot of stress and anxiety (and sometimes even depression).
So how can you win that battle?
Stop fighting. That's right, stop worrying or even thinking about whether or not you feel good or bad about yourself. Is that crazy or even possible?
About a year and a half ago I met a man who challenged much of what I believed about myself and about what was necessary to be happy. One of the biggest lessons he taught me was that self-esteem is not necessary. The more you try to get it, or keep it, or worry about not having it... the more stressed and anxious you will be. There is no winning.
Even those with very high self-esteem are constantly fighting inside and out to prove to themselves and others that they have reasons to feel good about themselves. It's a never ending battle.
So how can you break the cycle? And is it even realistic to stop feeling good or bad about yourself?
I've experimented with this theory for the past year. And with conscious effort and determination, yes, it is very realistic to stop worrying about or trying to feel good or bad about yourself. However, we're human and we're taught from a very young age that we should be evaluating ourselves at all times and working on our self-esteem. So changing that is a slow process.Self-Acceptance vs. Self-Esteem
Learn to accept yourself unconditionally instead of accepting yourself only when you measure up to your (most likely) high expectations, or the expectations of others. Realize that each of us is human. We do the right things sometimes and we do the wrong things sometimes, and that's what makes us human. We're not good or bad... we're different. Not better or worse. Unique.
Now, what you should be measuring and evaluating instead of yourself are your actions and behaviors. If you've done something that you would label as bad, that doesn't mean you should tear down your self-esteem and rate your entire self as bad. It means that your actions or behaviors need to be changed or adjusted. That's all.
You can change your actions and behaviors without wasting time feeling horrible about yourself. It's completely unnecessary and definitely detrimental. You can be successful, happy, unhappy, or unsuccessful whether or not you take the time to worry about feeling good or bad about yourself.
So I want you to take on this experiment. Give yourself a one month pass to forget about self-esteem. Use this month to consciously evaluate your actions and behaviors without making any evaluations on whether or not this makes you a good or bad person. Practice unconditional self-acceptance.
At the end of the month, I'll bet you'll be surprised at how much more efficient you have become, and at how much less stress and anxiety you feel when you no longer worry about measuring yourself and your self-esteem.
And here's the best part... if you like the results, you can keep going, because self-esteem only exists if you create it. And nobody (no matter what anyone says) needs self-esteem to survive, be happy, or successful. If anything, we need to forget about it altogether. I threw out my self-esteem a year ago and I'm much happier and I'm surviving just fine.
Many self-esteem experts believe that self-esteem is the same as self-acceptance. However, I disagree.
Why? Because by definition "esteem" is putting a value on something; rating something (yourself) based on a set criteria. We each set our own criteria that we esteem ourselves by. For example, we say that we'd feel good about ourselves if we were thinner, richer, prettier, taller, smarter, more successful, etc.
If we feel that we meet or exceed this criteria, then we give ourselves permission to feel good about ourselves. However, if we don't meet the criteria, we feel bad.
Feeling good or bad about ourselves based on whether or not we measure up to certain expectations is conditional acceptance.
We agree to fully accept and feel good about ourselves only if we meet the conditions we set. However, true self-acceptance is unconditional.
Self-esteem experts will tell you that true self-esteem has nothing to do with measuring yourself, although, they fail to accept or admit that the average person does equate their self-esteem with the measurements of their own personal set criteria. I believe that self-esteem experts mean well and truly want you to unconditionally accept yourself.
They just don't know that as long as they use the term "esteem" instead of "acceptance", we'll be trying to feel good about ourselves based on our evaluations of how we measure up... because after all, even the Merriam Webster dictionary defines esteem as worth, value, judgment, and opinion.
Regardless of how you define it, I challenge you to stop measuring yourself. Instead, practice unconditional self-acceptance and only measure your actions and behaviors.
Good Luck! Please use the comment form below to share your thoughts on this topic.