The journey to truly loving oneself often begins with assessing one’s level of self-esteem. Like many people who suffer from low self-esteem, mine was previously contingent on doing, performing, being needed — based on achievement. As it was conditional, it lacked genuine self-respect. I thought I had high self-esteem because I was a high achiever. It was, in fact, esteem for the output, not the self. Not that it isn’t useful to list achievements, particularly for those who may be at a loss for things they like about themselves. It’s a place to start, just as a gratitude list is an important element in going from depression to joy.
But true self-esteem exists regardless of competencies or achievements, and irrespective of the approval of others. It’s been an ongoing, and very worthwhile, practice to continue growing in compassion and acceptance of self and come to a more profound sense of worth.
Investing in it brings so many other things automatically into greater balance: boundaries, self-care, strengthened identity, sense of fulfillment, confidence and more. True self-esteem brings with it greater presence and clarity as there isn’t the preoccupation with outcomes and other’s assessments.
I would point anyone wanting to explore this further to research Radical Acceptance and Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT). If you think you may have traits of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) I would definitely recommend the book, Scattered, by Dr. Gabor Mate and any of his content on YouTube. His work is very accessible and comprehensive, covering, among other things, the effects of environmental factors on self-esteem and functioning, as well as implications of being a highly sensitive child and adult.
As I had decades of harsh self-criticism, it’s been a process to heal shame and judgement and adopt more acceptance and loving treatment towards myself. The good news is, that while it was more challenging to be vigilant observing and short-circuiting patterned responses initially, like building a muscle, it’s gotten much easier and progressed faster with practice. Along the way, I’ve discovered great tools to assist and many wonderful things to appreciate and encourage everyone to deepen their self-regard and capacity to love as the most worthwhile pursuit.