The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.– Mark Twain
The simple truth is this:
If you aspire to accomplish your dreams, to have the freedom to be yourself, to spiritually evolve, to walk your own path …
… you will never be able to live a fulfilling life unless you rid yourself of low self-esteem and acquire the courage of self-confidence.
On my journey of self-discovery, self-awareness, and self-love, these are some of the secrets that I’ve learned:
Table of contents
Why We Struggle With Low Self-Esteem
Perfection is not when there is nothing to add, but when there is nothing more to take away.~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
We are born with an innate sense of wanting to belong.
As we grow up society helps us form the notion of perfection, or what is “good enough”.
Basically, we need to create an idea to live up to, so that we can feel accepted by everybody.
Our parents tell us what they expect from us, so do our siblings, our teachers and our religions.
Society uses the media to constantly expose us to perfection, from advertisements informing us how outdated our belongings are compared to their new products, to beautiful models selling creams, diets or protein bars.
Comparison is one of the biggest obstacles in finding self-esteem. We use it to find another standard of “perfection” for acceptance.
Through social media sites like Facebook, we constantly use our friends, family and colleagues to measured up to their financial success, or how happy our lives are compared to theirs, or at least what they choose to share.
But the truth is, we only see the surface of other people’s lives, and we know all the imperfection of ours, yet we use this false surface perception as a guideline of how “well” we are doing.
By trying to be good enough and by trying to be accepted, we create an unreal image of perfection that we don’t manage to live up to.
Realizing our imperfection, we reject ourselves.
The Roots of Low Self-Esteem
How low your self-esteem is depends on how much desire you had to belong in the first place, and how willing you were to give up your self-love, and your dignity, in order to feel accepted.
When we make a mistake, we quickly try to cover it up, and then when we’re alone, we feel guilty in becoming aware of how stupid and inept we are.
Deep down, being imperfect is unforgivable to the person who rejects themselves. This person feels false and frustrated that they aren’t living up to their image of perfection, so they commit self-abuse.
Self-abuse can come in many shapes and forms, think: negative thinking, drugs, over-eating, physical self-harm and unconsciously entering abusive relationships are some examples. Low self-esteem is a self-perpetuating cycle.
We feel like we don’t live up to our idea of “perfect” so it gives us a reason to justify our passiveness to change anything bad in our lives.
Inevitably, this leads to us indulging in more self-abuse, resulting in an ever further distance from our image of perfection (e.g., fat, unemployed, drug-addicted, lonely, mentally ill).
Essentially, our desire for perfection paralyses our ability to change, and it deprives us from the pleasures and joys of what the imperfect life offers.
Perfection = Death
Perfection is death.
Literally, it’s death.
If you think about the definition of perfection, it’s when something has reached its final state.
Perfection is when something cannot be improved upon.
But life is a constant fluctuation, and everything that’s alive is constantly growing and changing.
Throughout our lives, we are constantly learning, even to our very last breaths.
Think: at what point can we truly say we are ‘complete’, that there’s nothing we can improve upon? Only when we’re being put into a coffin!
Never think of life in terms of: “Be Perfect!“, but instead approach life as “Get Better!“
Why You’re Terrified of Failure
Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes.~ Steven Winterburn
The desire for perfection has many side effects, fear of failure being the main one.
Fear of failure paralyses our ability pursue our dreams and passions.
Once, whenever I failed at something, I would always interpret it as a consequence of who I was.
I assumed that my success was a direct reflection of my innate qualities, e.g. intelligence, intellect, social aptitude, and had nothing to do with the circumstances.
When something went wrong, it wasn’t that I had done something that didn’t work very well, it was a personal ineptitude, it was that I was lacking some innate trait of perfection.
If I asked a girl out and got rejected, it was because I was inadequate, and not because, for instance, she didn’t hear what she wanted to hear from me, or she already had an interest in someone else – or she had a really bad day at work.
What you do, and the outcome of what you do, shapes the image of who you think you are, or in other words: your self-worth.
But the great news is, regardless of who you think you are, what you do is something you have control of, that you can change and improve with practice. And if you can change it, it will change who you think you are.
I thought I’d never be able to write for an audience. English, for example, is my second language and I didn’t have the patience.
But regardless of who I thought I was, I designed this website and began writing articles, and I became someone who writes for thousands of readers.
How to Gain More Self-Confidence
People measure their esteem of each other by what each has, and not by what each is… Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.~ Ralpho Waldo Emerson (Essential Emerson)
The word ‘Courage’ comes from the Latin ‘Cor‘ meaning heart.
These days we use the word to describe heroic actions, but in its purest origin, it meant “to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart,” or in other words, to make yourself emotionally vulnerable.
Self-acceptance is an instrument of Self-Love, which is to be forgiving of your imperfections, to accept that you’re not a perfect person and that you don’t have to be, and that you’ll never live up to that image of perfection you’ve unconsciously created.
Low self-esteem originates from self-abuse, from an unconscious and inherited lack of self-acceptance of who you are, of who you really are. The opposite of self-abuse is self-love.
The more self-love we have, the more we forgive and accept who we are, mistakes and blemishes included, and the less we will judge ourselves so harshly.
We judge others according to our image of perfection as well, and naturally, they fall short of our expectations.
If we want to fully experience love and belonging, we must believe that we are worthy of love and belonging.
If you can’t love yourself, which is where your love is coming from, how can you truly love someone else?
And the only way you can experience self-love is to be your genuine self – to respect and accept whoever that is.
Most of us are all too willing to sell our integrity, the pride we have in ourselves, to be someone more acceptable to others by gossiping, embracing silly cultural trends of fashion, drugs, gangs, and negative mentalities.
To gain more self-confidence, start with self-love. Here are some resources that may help you:
- How to love yourself (article)
- Self-Love Journal (guided step-by-step prompts)
- How to practice self-care (this goes hand-in-hand with self-confidence)
- Learn how to increase your self-worth
What is your experience with low self-esteem? What has helped to empower and uplift you?
Thank you for this article Mateo Sol, what a great name you have. This is quite fascinating: I was reflecting on an attachment of making myself feel good (completely unconsciously), as I realized I was just witnessing someone getting upset about something that one person, I interacted with, had deemed very importante: I showed up as someone who was taking care of the others, and therefore better than her: but that is not the true self, as the true self is ran by the tenants of this universe: Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance, and I was just trying to make myself feel good about who I am in comparison to her, instead of going into compassion and seeing her struggle through the process of a group decision she had not been able to be part of, showing up completely selfish; she made me feel like I had the upper hand, I was better than her. It was after I look within, as we are taught in our Spiritual practice, called Falun Dafa, that I discovered all that, and then, stumble upon your article, in relationship to low self-esteem. Thank you: it helped me see so many more of my attachments that I needed to… Read more »
I’m so impressed by this article, your ability to communicate these truths is amazing. I loved the part of how english is your 2nd language and still you are able to articulate in writing so well. I have always wanted to draw but perfectionism & fear of failing hold me back and I’m still drawing stick people (of course not very well ). Your example has given me courage, maybe I can draw …. it might lead to more possibilities in my life….