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Do you know the difference between high self-esteem and low self-esteem?
One allows you to face your fears with confidence, and the other forces you to shrink backwards, cowering in the dark.
High self-esteem and low-esteem are not two separate topics. They go hand in hand.
Because, in reality, they are two sides of the same coin. They are interconnected.
But if you want to cash in on the benefits of high self-esteem, you need to know how to tell the difference between the two.
What is Self-Esteem?
What actually is self-esteem? It's one of those words that gets thrown around so much that it can quickly become meaningless.
So let's define it. Let's find a simple definition that relates to mental health.
To me, self-esteem is the ability to face your fears. It's having confidence in a variety of situations. It's trusting yourself and the ability you have to tackle whatever the world tosses your way.
You can think of self-esteem in terms of high self-esteem and low self-esteem. Many people do. It's not entirely accurate. Many people also think of mental health as good mental health and bad mental health. But that's also not really true.
Both self-esteem and mental health exist on a continuum. We are always somewhere on that continuum. Many things exist in this continuum state. I would say pretty much all emotions do--fear, joy, sadness. It's rare that we are all one thing or another. We are a blend of feeling states. And so it is for self-esteem.
Still, it can be helpful to break down high self-esteem and low self-esteem into two entities so that we can better understand them.
Let's do that now.
Low self-esteem is a pit of despair. It's a feeling that you are not good enough, that you don't have what it takes. It's seeing the possibilities but not being able to act on them.
When you have low self-esteem, you have little belief in yourself and your abilities. This can have a devastating impact on your mental health. To have strength to pursue the outer reaches of your abilities, you need to have an inner confidence that things will eventually go your way.
I'm not saying that things have to go your way, or that they will always go your way, but that you have to have the confidence to move in a positive direction.
And so self-esteem is more a feeling state than anything. It's a belief and inner knowing of the power of your own being. A lack of this feeling state is low self-esteem.
Fortunately, this feeling state can be enhanced.
Building High Self-Esteem
When you have high self-esteem, you just know it.
You start to take more action. You don't care as much about the negative things that could happen in your life. You begin to realize that bad things do happen--but that they don't define you as a person. You take risks more often--good kinds of risks-and you learn from your mistakes. This is being on the upper end of the self-esteem continuum. This is high self-esteem.
You might be wondering at this point: So what? What does that mean for me?
I'm glad you thought-whispered that to me.
Like I mentioned earlier, self-esteem has to come from within. It has to emanate from the core of your being. And before you worry that I'm getting even further off track, let's break it all down.
If self-esteem is a feeling state, you have to learn about good feeling states and bad feeling states--another continuum in its own right.
Good feeling states can be generated by taking positive actions. Sitting around ruminating will not lead to a good feeling state. But sitting around meditating on positive thoughts just might. Dreaming up ways you can tackle a big problem is productive. Getting out there and actually trying some of those actions out is even more productive.
It's a bouncing back and forth between contemplating and taking action. The more you can do this, and the more you speed up the contemplation-action feedback loop, the quicker you can build your self-esteem.
So try this self-esteem approach today.
Consider what makes you feel bad. Consider what makes you lose confidence in yourself. Don't dwell on this. Don't ruminate. Instead, start taking quick action. Write it down if it helps. Say it out loud if that's more your style. Whatever you try, do it quickly.
Once you have a better idea of what produces bad feeling states, you must take opposing steps to integrate better feeling states into your life. You must grab hold of those opposing ideas and make them reality. An idea not acted upon is a lost opportunity. But an idea that becomes alive through action is a tangible part of your life. It becomes part of you.
And this is the embodiment of self-esteem. That's becoming fully alive on the continuum from low self-esteem to high self-esteem.
It doesn't take a degree in rocket science. It's not even necessary to have a high school diploma. Self-esteem is something that just is. It's available to everyone. It's available to you right now.
Think about it for a bit. Acknowledge the bad and then dream up the good. And then seize it.
So where are you on this continuum?
Can you move yourself more to the positive, high self-esteem part of the continuum?
I think you can.
But you are the one that will have to do the work.