Self-esteem is the experience of feeling worthy of love and happiness and feeling capable of handling life’s challenges. We quickly begin to lose the healthy sense of self we are born with as we go through life’s many experiences. If our caregivers lack self-esteem, they will be unable to mirror it back to us nor nurture it within us. Slowly, it gets chipped away by other authority figures, by our peers, and by society at large. Out of their lack of awareness, they may be projecting onto us their own fears or failings. Or they may have us believe we are here to fit a particular mold—which may have so little to do with who we are—that it can literally make us sick if we follow it. In this weakened state, the media can easily sway us into believing we are our makeup, or our body, or our prowess, or our job, or our religion, or our fame, or the money we earn. We then begin to mistake self love with selfishness, or selfishness with self-love. When we lose our esteem, we become codependent on others for approval and a sense of self.
Although we are born with healthy esteem, it slowly dissipates as our sense of self gets buried alive by critical or hurtful parental and societal messages. These messages destroy our belief in our self; they derail us into operating out of logic and practicality without regard to our desires, intuition, or true needs. We then begin to believe we are unworthy of anything good. These critical voices suppress our healthy esteem and sense of knowing. In its place, we develop a shallow view of life and ourselves that is stultifying. When we have self worth, we can stand in the power of love. When we lose the self, we settle for the love of power or no power at all.
It is very difficult to pass on a sense of esteem or self-love when you don’t possess it yourself. You are your parent’s promise. You have come to complete what they cannot and to break the chain of dysfunction in your family lineage. Through therapy, you can set boundaries around all the crippling critical voices and make room for the voice that carries your esteem, the still, small voice you were born with and were meant to reclaim.