By Jen Wilson, GoodTherapy
Making a difference is something that always makes me feel good. Whether I am volunteering at my sonís school or letting someone with fewer groceries move ahead of my overstuffed cart in line, I know that the small action that I am taking is improving the life of someone else, if even for a moment. And yet, sometimes I find it difficult to justify taking those simple steps to improve a moment in my own life, just for me. As someone who has battled with depression for most of her life, I am often overcome with feelings of lack. I have been known to occasionally, okay, more than occasionally, compare myself to other people physically, financially, professionally and even emotionally, only to feel as if I am not quite good enough. The end result is a drain on my sometimes drought afflicted reservoir of self-esteem.
Self-esteem is crucial to well-being, mental and even physical health. It improves oneís mood, lowers stress levels and becomes a catalyst for confident, positive living. People with high self-esteem are often magnets in social settings, leaders in business, risk takers and innovators. Having high self-esteem, or a healthy dose of self-esteem, should not, however, be confused with being self-absorbed, conceited or narcissistic. Self-esteem is the result of doing something that is beneficial and causes good feelings for everyone involved. Putting oneself above all others or causing emotional pain or harm to other people in order to make oneself feel better will never improve self-esteem.
So how does someone find the proper balance between putting oneself last and putting oneself first? The answer is within all of us. Each of us is unique and has unique interests, passions and desires that brings us joy. When we are doing something that we are truly passionate about, we feel confident and assured that the quality of our actions is pretty darned good, even if it isnít. When we are absorbed in something that motivates and inspires us, we are so enthusiastic about it that we yearn to share it with those around us. And when we take something that we love, and are halfway decent at, and do it with a zeal that is unparalleled and eagerly share it, we are making an impact that can only result in a good feeling for us and those who are fortunate enough to be a witness to our joy.
We are the only ones who can supply, maintain and replenish our own self-esteem by giving ourselves the opportunity to indulge in those things that truly fill us with a sense of purpose and positivity. When we do this, we can go through life with a feeling of satisfaction, a belly full of gratification that spills over into every other area of our lives. People who have a healthy self-esteem are quicker to compliment others because doing so never threatens their opinion of themselves. Those who feel genuinely good about their professional, personal or civic activities or contributions will barely notice the traits that others may deem unsatisfactory. When self-esteem is intact and abundant, perceptions and opinions of others has no bearing.
So take time to listen to your heart and discover what puts a smile on your face. Donít be discouraged if there are things that you feel less than perfect at, focus only on what you enjoy. Hone in solely on those activities that bring you, and only you, joy. Perhaps it is baking, gardening, or exercising. Whatever it is, do it for you. And do it often. Eventually, you will have developed one area of your life that fills you so completely that your self-esteem will overflow and you will have the confidence to face those things that you once perceived as less than adequate.† Even if you start off small, just start. Take those kayaking lessons that youíve always dreamt about. Volunteer at a soup kitchen and see how you feel about yourself. Or just let me cut in the checkout line in front of you.