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How to build self-esteem

Posted Apr 28 2009 11:12am

I originally wrote this entry about a year ago for a site called Capessa which has since been closed. Someone emailed me recently who liked the entry and couldn't find it anywhere, so I'm posting it. There are some time discrepancies now, but I'll leave it as it is. Just take in mind I wrote it a year ago and I'm going to Europe in May, so wheee!

I was cleaning out my desk a couple months ago when I found a list of goals I'd written six years ago. Usually it is embarrassing to find lists like those because I either haven't accomplished anything on the list or I realize I used to want some pretty lame things. In high school, I had to write a letter to my future self and an inordinately large segment of it was devoted to wondering whether Mulder and Scully would have gotten together on The X-Files by the time I read it five years later. The funny thing? I can't remember if they ever did.

I think I shredded the goal list I found, along with all my credit card statements going back to the 90's, (must declutter!), so I can't type it for you verbatim. However, item number one was (of course) "Lose weight." Cool! Mission accomplished. The next item was something like, "Start a writing project." Score again! I write on this blog all the time. I was really rolling. Third item, "Get a scholarship." Oops. Probably should have done that before I graduated. Too late now. Fourth item, "Get an apartment." Signing a rent check every month is kind of depressing, but if it makes me a success goal-wise, it's worth every penny. Fifth item, "Visit Europe." Still haven't done this, but because of the blog (see goal number 2), I now know several people to crash with if I ever do go.

I was amazed. I'd accomplished almost everything on my list. This was unprecedented. For once, I was someone with accomplishments and not just potential. It made me feel really good about myself, and it made me realize that's a key to building self-esteem - you have to do things for yourself. Everyone wants to love themselves, but it's tricky figuring out how to do that outside of an adult toy shop. Everyone wants to like themselves, but it's not something you can buy. It's not listed on the credit card statements I was shredding. I get e-mails sometimes for people wanting to know how you build that self-respect. Well, you have to make yourself into someone you respect.

When asked, most people will say they are nice. Buy how do you know if someone is nice? The guy who held the elevator for me even though I was halfway down the hallway, he was pretty nice. And my mom sent me a Valentine's Day card even though I'm an ungrateful daughter who couldn't get off her ass to the Hallmark store in time to do the same. That was nice. And someone let me into the right lane of traffic on the snowy ride home this evening, even though he could have been an asshole and blocked me out. That was nice. These people are nice because they did nice things.

So, if you want self-esteem, you need to do things that earn your esteem. Figure out what kind of person you want to be. Then figure out what kind of things that person does. Then start doing them. Eureka! Self-esteem! Okay, it might not be that easy, just like eating less and exercising more isn't all that easy. But the basic philosophy is true. You might want to think of yourself as a nice person, but if you haven't actually done anything nice lately, are you really nice? And you may want high self-esteem, but have you actually done anything lately that you hold in high esteem?

Copyright Jennette Fulda. Read more at PastaQueen

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