How's your self-esteem?
Give yourself the mirror test.
How do you feel when you look at yourself in the mirror? Is it a pleasure, or a pain, or a bit of both? Is it mostly pain? Would you rather look away?
Your reaction to your image in the mirror is an instant and accurate indicator of your current level of self-esteem.
What is self-esteem?
What is self-esteem?
It's your opinion of yourself.
Basically it's a measure of how you feel about yourself and how you are going. It's high if you are going well, and low if you're not pleased with yourself and how you are performing in your life.
As a presenter of programs on personal wellbeing, I found that most people's opinion of themselves was not very high. Often they set much higher standards for themselves to perform to in their daily lives than for others. They could be quite abusive and hard on themselves, and of course, this typically resulted in low self-esteem. They just couldn't live up to their own demands. They felt like failures.
Perhaps you know exactly what I'm referring to here. You take a long and hard look at yourself. You review recent performance. You find it stressful, of course, to be under review. No-one likes to be judged.
The results are not good. Next comes a promise to yourself to smarten up and perform better and this pressure, of course, causes more stress. It's hard to relax, isn't it, when you are under surveillance all the time and likely to get another bad report?
Life as a Performance Appraisal
I refer to the common lifestyle of constant self-checking as 'life as a performance appraisal'.
In a session on wellbeing I would often ask: 'If you lived with someone else who treated you the way you treat yourself, who was critical of you and called you things like dumb and stupid and hopeless, would you want to keep living with that person? Isn't it likely you'd want to leave?' I used to notice a lot of embarrassed nods and awkward smiles in the audience as they thought on this.
We can't leave ourselves. I believe that our relationship with self is the most significant relationship in our lives because we live with ourselves twenty-four hours a day.
Ideally this lifelong relationship will be harmonious and encouraging. For most people though, it isn't. When they check themselves out, they find themselves lacking. Self-esteem gets lower, the self gets depressed.
Next pressure in this stressful lifestyle will be a push to lift your game and get self-esteem back up again.
Typically then, self-esteem yo-yo's and there's a swing between good days and bad days. On a bad day you find you just can't get anything right with yourself. This is certainly a 'non-human friendly' way to live. You wouldn't wish it on your best buddy.
Things will start to get better when you consciously choose to ease up on yourself and become a bit more relaxed about your self-evaluation. Can you allow yourself a bit of slack? Are you willing to be as understanding with yourself as you usually are with other people you value in your life? Can you be a little self-forgiving? That would be a great start to a more peaceful inner life.
The True Way to Improve Your Life
Ironically it's when you treat yourself with respect and encouragement that your life will improve, not when you keep pushing yourself to smarten up. Pushing yourself is exhausting. You get worn out and your performance drops so you have to push yourself to smarten up again!
When you first push yourself your performance does improve but then you get tired and it slackens off again. That's when your self-esteem starts to drop again. Not good enough! you tell yourself harshly and then of course, you feel bad and hurt inside like someone who's just been spoken to harshly. Make sense?
Do you recognise this vicious cycle? And it really can be quite vicious. It could help you understand why you often feel stressed and sometimes feel depressed.
If you habitually push yourself around, believing that this is the only way you're going to see some self-improvement, it can take a lot of courage to decide to ease up and be kinder to yourself.
You may worry that if you don't keep a watchful eye on your own performance you may slacken off and get nothing done. This concern is understandable. After all, your good opinion of yourself depends on your achievements in your daily life.
When you take the quantum leap to treat yourself kindly and with new respect you will begin to enjoy your own company. Just imagine how good it will feel to live all day everyday with someone who actually likes you and has a good opinion of you as well!
Actually, if you are habitually down on yourself you will find it hard to imagine just how different this will feel. You'd been hard on yourself and your relationship with you has been cold, excluding and rather lifeless. You'll now feel a new warmth inside and a welcome sense of inclusion. A new love for life begins to grow. And it's likely to show.
See the Difference in Your Life
When you live with a warm friendly self, and not a cold hard inner critic, you'll probably be more pleasant for others to live with as well. Other people will feel naturally drawn to your company.
When you look in the mirror you will actually greet yourself as a friend. More and more you will enjoy being you. Going is that awful dread of more failure. You will start to feel excited and self-motivated about achieving more in your life. Your performance will improve and your self-confidence will increase. Your self-esteem will automatically soar.
You'll look in the mirror and see a person who feels happy and more satisfied within. You may well find yourself smiling.