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Building Your Self Esteem From Scratch

  • Dr. Neil Clark Warren
  • 2003 17 Mar
Building Your Self Esteem From Scratch

People whose self-esteem is low have emotional health that is likely to be poor. If you don't think very highly of yourself, you become a sitting duck for any neurosis.  A neurosis is a way of relating to life. When we come under the threat of anxiety, in an effort to manage the anxiety in our lives, we use defense mechanisms that, in themselves, become ongoing problems for us.

For instance, the Wall Street Journal says that we have an epidemic of depression in the United States. Depression is the result of our having used a defense mechanism, usually repression, to try to get rid of our anxiety. In getting rid of our anxiety we get rid of all our feelings, and so we find ourselves sitting on the side of a bed with one shoe off, but we just don't have the energy to remove the other shoe.

Now, why are we in that condition? We're in that condition because we feel so inadequate at the center of ourselves.  Life is posing challenges and problems that we don't know how to handle, so in our effort to try to get rid of those challenges and problems we use repression. In using the repression we get rid of all of our feelings. When we get rid of our feelings, we end up with little energy and without an ability to function properly in the world.

It all begins with an inadequate self-conception. It all starts with low self esteem. Without a foundation of unshakable self value you'll never be able to confront life's frustrations and challenges without turning on yourself. If you have low self-esteem, it's vital that you go to work to get it raised.

Positive self-esteem needs to be deep-rooted before you engage in any serious dating relationship. The same is true for anyone you date. When I talk to two people who are becoming serious about each other, one of the first things I look for in both of them is whether they feel good about themselves. Your self-esteem needs to be at a good level before you begin a relationship that has the possibility of lasting for a lifetime.

Two things you can do to improve your self-esteem

Let's assume that your self-esteem or that of your partner is just not what it needs to be right now. There are two core activities that begin to establish better self-esteem. The first thing I want to suggest to you is the importance of your getting yourself in the way of a positive faith experience.

A faith experience is characterized by a deep and pervasive appreciation of who you are. My personal faith center is a Christian man who is all involved with some good news that has to do with my worth as an individual. I believe that the God I worship loves me deeply, created me magnificently, cares enormously about me, has tremendous dreams and hopes for my life, has made it possible for me to become a person who actualizes himself at a level that allows me to enjoy my life and other people to enjoy having me around. It is so crucial to my self-esteem to believe that I am a part of a total picture like this.  The first thing I would encourage you to do is get yourself in a faith context in which you get cared for that way.

The second thing I want you to do is to become a chooser and a decider. I know no one who has adequate self-esteem who isn't what I call a chooser and a decider. I want you to allow yourself to be the captain of your own ship.

I believe that at the center of your brain there is something like a control booth. It reminds me of the NBC booth at the Republican National Convention. It's round and in my head it has glass all around it. At the center of this booth are a lot of telephones and computers. Your task is to get yourself at the center of your own control booth, and, once you are there, you need to do two things.

The first is to get all the information into your booth you can about whatever it is you're trying to make a decision on. Get data from all your thoughts and feelings.  Then find out what the people important to you recommend and what the common wisdom is about this choice.

Then the second thing that you do is to stand in the middle of all that information and YOU make the decision. You decide for yourself.  You don't let other people tell you who you will be in a given moment or what you will decide. When you do that, you become a choosing, deciding person. No individual can be a real person unless they are a chooser and decider. If you give up control over your booth to someone else, like a mother or a father, someone you're dating, or a peer group, you give up your personhood.  When you give up your personhood, I promise you, you won't feel very good about yourself.

But when you take your control booth back and you take over again being a chooser and a decider, you will feel really good about yourself and take an important step in the direction of self determination. It is the basis of the self esteem a successful life requires.

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