by May Bleeker, 23 April 2009 (updated 11 January 2013)
No matter what has happened in the past, from this moment onward your self esteem depends on what you do and how you respond to the situations that life brings you.
It has always depended on this, but perhaps you did not know it at the time.
Events from the past will have affected your self esteem, but you cannot go back to change what happened. This moment is the only space in which you can act and make a difference to improving low self esteem. Start right now, with what you have. It is more than enough.
Don't allow guilt or shame about past events to keep your feelings low. We all make mistakes. Do what you can to fix things, but if nothing more can be done - accept this!
If you feel bad about things that have happened in the past, practice telling yourself this:
I was the only me I could be at that time, I now choose to care for me.*
Relying on intuition is hugely underrated, although more and more people are realizing the value of trusting their inner guidance system.
In improving low self esteem you will find your inner guidance system an invaluable help. It was when I started to listen to my intuition, and act on it instead of ignoring it, that my life began to change for the better.
For me this help came in the shape of messages from my body. How my body feels in response to certain situations or decisions is what gives me a clue as to how to proceed.
It took me a while to become aware that these physical feelings were actually signals of what was good and bad for me and not just 'random feelings'.
It took even longer to learn to trust the feelings as valid messages for me to follow.
Knowing when to act is an important aspect of good judgement. Cultivating your judgement is part of learning to trust your intuition. And trusting your intuition has the benefit of improving low self esteem.
When you know your judgement is sound, it is a whole lot easier following your own inner guidance.
I used to just ignore uncomfortable feelings and follow my logic. If my logic said: you need to get a job. I found a job and worked at it, regardless of how I felt about the job itself or the people I worked for.
I saw my need for an income as the most important consideration and my drive was based on survival fears. Of course, this approach led me to take actions out of line with what was good for me. I took jobs where the boss or the environment wasn't good for me. I learnt this the hard way, by living through the consequences of my actions.
I took this same faulty thinking into most of my jobs until it became so unbearable that my feelings eventually forced me to start working for myself. Taking this first step of trusting myself was the hardest.
When there is a lot at stake this can feel like a big risk and is a big risk! But it proved the best career move I'd made to date. I still worked hard and dealt with challenges, but for the first time it felt good to be going about my business, instead of miserable!
And guess what, when I moved overseas for a few years and worked for someone else again, what I learnt about trusting myself stood me in good stead. Helped me make good, self-helpful decisions.
1. Act on your intuition and experience the results for yourself. Each success experience builds self trust.
2. Meditation. I can't tell you exactly how this works, but it works. Over time, with the consistent practice of meditation my view of situations is clearer, my judgement is better. This has had a subtle, but powerful influence on all aspects of my life.
Meditation can help you become more effective in your life by allowing you to see situations more accurately. This can help you make decisions that have a better outcome for all concerned.
Putting your faith in your own guidance system means embracing uncertainty. Where previously you may have relied on an idea of where you are going and what you are doing, trusting your own guidance means sometimes doing things based on how you feel about it. This requires self awareness, another key aspect of improving low self esteem.
Call it gut feel, or a hunch, this can sometimes demand a lot of faith in yourself and the world, especially when there are no outward signs to back up your inner sense of what is right for you.
You have to have enough faith in your own inner judgement to act on what feels right and to trust that it will work out, without necessarilly knowinghow it will work out.
The time lag involved in making the decision, acting on it and waiting for the results can often bring up a lot of anxiety. You have to trust yourself enough to see you through this period of 'nothing to show yet'.
With each situation involving trusting yourself, that resolves itself successfully, your intuition will grow stronger and you will feel more comfortable trusting your own judgement.
This kind of self trust makes a huge contribution towards improving low self esteem.
Living in the illusion of certainty you wake up every morning 'knowing' that you are employed. Until you are retrenched. Or the place burns down. Then you realize that waking up knowing you have a job is not as certain as it once seemed.
In the illusion of certainty you think you know the people around you, how plans will unfold and what the conclusion will be. You act according to what you think you 'know'.
In the world of fluid reality, anything can happen. Living successfully means knowing how to respond to the moment that you face, as and when it happens. Improving low self esteem involves developing your ability to respond in a helpful way.
When you learn to respond in this self-trusting way, your timing improves. Suddenly you find you are in the right place at the right time - without really 'trying to make it happen'.
Bad things can happen too, but being present, you are able to respond in the best way possible. You find your way through more easily than someone who is battling with accepting the way things are.
Becoming less attached to what you think you 'know' allows you to be more responsive to the actual reality of the moment. This opens you up to many new opportunities that you would not have seen before. Offering new possibilities for success and for improving low self esteem.
In the illusion of certainty everything seems predictable (this is the illusion) and there is little room for the unexpected, incredible, surprise happening.
But random, unpredictable surprises are the nature of fluid reality. Things are constantly shifting. If we are continually looking away, blinded by our sense of 'knowing what will happen next' - we miss those doorways of opportunities.
Trusting your intuition allows you to float on the unexpected. The surprise meeting, chance happening, coincidental message on your answering machine takes you from one moment to the next moment. Leads you beautifully and easily to what needs to happen next.
When you are in this stream of faith, everything becomes a lot easier. Opportunities arise at the right time, without much effort on your part - you simply have to do what is necessary to follow through. People come by when you need them. A book falls into your lap, or an email or a letter, when you are looking for just that information.
Yes, you have to do your bit and it isn't always easy. Dealing with fear can be a major part of learning to love the unknown and improving low self esteem.
Being able to respond to the moment in an appropriate way means being free of the faulty ideas and anxieties that keep you repeating old patterns instead of responding to the new moment in a fresh way.
Becoming free to respond in this way means letting old ideas about people and the world and yourself go and trusting yourself and the world more. Even when you don't know what will happen next. This is an important aspect of improving low self esteem.
It can take a lot of personal work and growth to get to this point. It takes a lot of courage to trust yourself and others when our early experiences might have taught us that it is not safe to do so. The fear that arises can be very loud and disruptive. I can force you down a path that isn't right, if you allow it to.
Improving low self esteem is all about increasing your self trust and building a sense of safety within yourself that doesn't depend on outside events.
When things start feeling 'tight' and 'closed' then you know you are fighting the natural order of things.
The natural flow of life has an easy quality to it - where you don't have to slog it out. You just follow the cues and get on with the business of living. Even when that business of living involves painful experiences, being in the flow allows you to grieve and mourn appropriately. It allows you to feel the pain that is there to be felt and to let it go.
We all know the alternative, which is to bank it down, blank it off, avoid it and drag it around with us for years afterwards.
Being responsive to the needs of the moment is not an easy way out of life's responsibilities. Its not a guarrantee of flowers and rainbows and happy-ever-after.
It means being 'responsible'. Putting effort in where this is due, working hard where this is required, taking a risk when it is needed. Staying open even when it is difficult and scary, or walking away when you know this is the right thing to do.
Being true to yourself in this way and having the courage to respond to what is put before you are all essential to improving low self esteem. Make no mistake, it is not the easy route, (although, in my experience, life becomes so much easier when you follow it.)
Letting go and trusting yourself is hard only in the beginning, when fear rules. It can become hard again, if fear comes up. But once you begin to trust, it becomes easier. You find less need to fight for things or to battle for success or to cling to old ideas that no longer serve their purpose.
Improving low self esteem requires that you find a way to deal with your fears.
I have found my feelings and body-reactions to be my best guide. I don't always know what the feelings mean, but they are simple to read. Feel good, go forward. Feel bad, caution - act carefully or do not proceed.
By 'feel good' I don't mean an artificial high caused by an external event, person or substance...but an inner sense of something being 'ok' or 'just right'.
When there is fear there is a problem to resolve. A signal to look deeper and discover the ideas and beliefs that might be tying you to the past in a way that doesn't allow you to meet the present in a clean and clear way. Releasing yourself from these old, no-longer-useful beliefs and ideas contribute to improving self esteem.
Trusting my feelings and body-reactions more has led me towards greater happiness and contentment in all areas of my life. Learning to trust myself was fundamental to improving self esteem. Perhaps it can be this way for you too. Try it and see for yourself.
*ref: from the book Trauma Victim by Lee Hyer.
Fear: the best way out is through. - Hellen Keller
(from Bag of Jewels, by Susan Hayward and Malcolm Cohan)
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