Friday, 15 January 2016

Low self-esteem

People are often bothered by what others think. If other people approve of you, you're happy; if they don't, you're not. Others' (perceived) perception is the barometer of your value.

More specifically, the most recent (perceived) perception is taken as the barometer, not a robust selection of (perceived) perceptions spread over time and across a wide range of people.

This is insane, as evidenced by the instability of the self-image that arises. If you have a value, it will not change because Jennifer or Serge has just slighted you. If you feel your value is affected, you're wrong: it is not.

So, what's the solution?

Firstly, recognising that you are of infinite value as a human being merely because you exist. The debate is now over. Any other viewpoint is invalid. There is a question of integrity, and whether or not you are living with it, but that's a discussion for another day and is separate from the question of your human worth.

Now, you won't necessarily feel that to be true. The marvellous thing about the truth is that it does not matter whether you feel it to be true; it's true anyway. It is the height of (alcoholic) hubris to believe that one's feelings about this matter are of any significance at all. They are not.

How do you get to feel that this is true, however?

Here are some tips:

(1) Minimise your exposure to people and environments where you are explicitly or implicitly told you are of no or limited worth.

(2) Minimise your exposure to people and environments where you are explicitly or implicitly told you are of conditional worth (i.e. of worth if you comply with certain criteria); such environments are enticing because when you do perform you feel great; nevertheless, this is simply placing the noose around your neck for when you fail (as you invariably will at some point), and the trap-door opens.

(3) If you must expose yourself to such people and environments ((1) and (2)), erect an Al-Anon defence shield: recognise that other people's beliefs, attitudes, thoughts, emotions, actions, and internal worlds are their own, not yours; just because a baby is screaming does not mean the adults present also start to scream; there is no more reason for you to feel you are worthless because someone thinks you are worthless (permanently or temporarily) than there is for you to believe anything else they say: do you automatically agree with the person you are talking to on politics, regardless of what you thought last week or last month? Of course not.

(4) Maximise your exposure to people and environments where you are explicitly or implicitly told you are of infinite, unconditional, inalienable worth.

(5) Engage in activities and domains that stress that. Exposure to the arts, religion (if it's the right sort: be careful here), and nature helps.

(6) Watch your mental hygiene: you do not have to get on every train that comes into the station, and you do not have to follow every train of thought that tempts you. If you want to avoid negative feeling, you'll have to avoid negative thinking, which must be cut off promptly and without doubt or remorse. You are likely prone to all sorts of logical fallacies and cognitive distortions underpinning your negative thinking. Familiarise yourself with those and learn to spot when your thinking is structurally wrong.

(7) Watch your spiritual hygiene: if you mentally treat others as being of infinite worth (including all of your enemies and the people you have historically held in various degrees of contempt), this will rebound on you and reinforce the truth. If your practice backs this up, with a life built on service to God through service to others, your problem will be solved.

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