Many of our clients struggle with low self-esteem which leads to troubled relationships, career problems, depression and high levels of stress. They usually come to us complaining of one or more of these symptoms but it is soon discovered that at the root of their problem is an unhealthy belief about their value, significance, and worth. The usual cause is that they have based their value, significance, and worth on someone else's standards. These standards are external to them and are contingent on the approval of others, their looks, performance and/or social status. In short, they have been working so hard to meet these standards they have lost their own true identity.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe it is healthy to set high standards for oneself. This is a necessary component of a successful and productive life. The problem occurs when these standards become the basis for our worth. When this happens our worth rises and falls with the tide of our performance. So let me give you three foundational principles that lead to a healthy self-image and helps us achieve our highest performance and satisfaction.
The first and most important principle is that we ground our identity on a foundation of intrinsic worth. Our value cannot be contingent upon anything external to ourselves. This is fundamental to a good self-image because it gives us a platform for taking risks and overcoming life’s obstacles. It also makes us resilient when we do fail - because everyone fails!
So how do we hold on to this belief when seemingly everything and everyone places human value on something external to ourselves? The only logical way is to appeal to an authority that transcends our own limited judgments. We need to appeal to our Creator. The framers of our government knew this and that is why they made the fact that we were created by God a basis for all our human rights.
If we lose this understanding of the absolute worth of man then we are susceptible to choosing one standard over another and creating a hierarchy of value based upon; race, economic condition, attractiveness, intelligence, religion or a myriad of other factors. That doesn’t work for nations (consider Nazi Germany) and it doesn’t work for individuals.
Secondly, we need to accept the fact that we are not perfect. You may say, “I certainly know I’m not perfect”, but how do you deal with your imperfections? If you recoil from them and put up defenses everytime they are exposed then that is evidence that you are still basing your value, worth and significance on your ability to keep an external set of standards.
Please hear me on this, I am not saying you should somehow feel good about your failures. What I am saying is if your value, worth, and significance is given to you by your Creator then your identity is not diminished by your failures and you are free to make adjustments, grow and learn from them.
Lastly, you now have the ability to revel in your strengths and accomplish great things with your abilities without comparisons, pride or judgments. You can do this because you know that they don’t make you better or worse than anyone else it is just a part of who you are.
Those that struggle with low self-esteem usually also struggle with feeling they can be free to be who they truly are. This self-imposed limitation is often learned at a very early age and reinforced by countless interaction over the years. For many, just to speak up for themselves is a traumatic experience.
That is why I have written the Assertive Persons Declaration of Rights. The best way to use this is to review these rights every day (especially the ones that are most difficult to declare) Gradually your brain will adjust to this new way of thinking about yourself through a process called cognitive dissonance. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see results right away. Remember you have probably held these false beliefs about yourself for decades so give yourself time to rewire your brain.
12 Declaration of Rights For the Assertive Person
- I have the right to be wrong without experiencing shame, criticism or rejection.
- I have the right to my ideas, values, and dreams without criticism or judgment.
- I have the right to ask questions without being shamed.
- I have a right to say no without giving a reason that makes sense to other people.
- I have a right to my own feelings and not explain them to someone else’s satisfaction.
- I have a right to make decisions on my own time schedule.
- I have a right to feel good about my accomplishments.
- I have a right to make mistakes and not have these mistakes devalue me.
- I have a right not to be in a relationship if I believe it is wrong for me.
- I have a right to always be treated with respect.
- I have a right to respectfully disagree.
- I have a right to like what I like and not give a reason for it.
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