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How Asking The Right Questions Transformed My Self-Esteem

It’s there, the elephant in the room that you have to face eventually. You have to stand up and acknowledge that your self-esteem is low and find ways to improve it in a sustainable and beneficial manner.

Looking back, I realize that for me the solution was a matter of asking the right questions; finding the courage to face my fears, I gave voice to those questions that have long been haunting me.

I’ve found that in order to let yourself grow and allow your self-confidence to increase, you need to become your own best friend; to encourage growth and motivate yourself, to help generate new ideas, and support yourself in your own journey of achieving a healthy, increased self-esteem.

Responsibility

One of the questions I found hardest to verbalize and answer was this:

Why am I letting my low self-esteem control my life?

You see, when we don’t believe we have worth or power, it’s easy to brush off any personal responsibility and ignore – or avoid – thinking about we are capable of doing to change it. We refuse to assume responsibility over our lives, making up excuses, saying that “this is how things are” for us. We say to ourselves we don’t have the talent or skill to take that promotion, or don’t deserve better pay. We self-impose a limited control over what we can do in life, condemning ourselves to a mediocre, unfulfilling life.

This question helped me understand that limited self-responsibility is very convenient; you live in a no-risk, bulletproof reality where you absolve yourself from all responsibility and refuse any type of change, growth and challenge.

I realized this wasn’t sustainable, and that my so-called limited self-responsibility was an artifact I created to hide behind so that I wouldn’t have to face facts.

To turn this around, I looked for situations where I would normally, out of habit, not participate. In the past, I would generally exempt myself from putting myself forward, whether that was giving a presentation at a meeting, or speaking up against an injustice. Once I really looked at the reasons why I’d avoided those situations in the past, I started seeing things differently.

Once I started looking at things from a perspective of responsibility, those things would immediately become personal. By making things personal, by bringing in the moral factor, and by connecting my life to the event, I was capable of overcoming my need to hide away.

So for instance, when I was feeling unsure about speaking to my supervisor about my work not being duly appreciated, I would stop and say to myself that it’s my responsibility to do so. My self-esteem might be telling me I don’t deserve this acknowledgment, but self-responsibility was telling me that it was my right to have my efforts appreciated. Gradually I adopted a mindset of assertiveness and increased self-respect.

Comparisons and Self-worth

Once I became aware of how my low self-esteem was a trick to get me out of situations that made me uneasy, or preventing me from going after things I needed in my life (asking for a raise, being more confident of my skills), then the next question became clear:

How should I measure my self-worth?

The answer was simple. I had to see others as a source for inspiration and motivation, rather than using them only in ruthless, self-destructive comparison to myself.

Previously I was only comparing myself to others to remind me of how much better, prettier, richer (and on and on) I saw those others to be. It needs time and mindful effort to consciously believe you’re as capable, worthy and strong as those you’re comparing yourself to.

The secret to achieving this was realizing that people with self-worth had something I was refusing to take: risk. The assertive, confident risk-taking approach to life that I’d started exploring when answering my first question.

I realized that the people I admired had a healthy sense of self-love and self-esteem because they believed they were worthy of it. People with high self-esteem believe they deserve to have opportunities in life and so they aggressively seek them out. In my case, I had the habit of thinking that I didn’t deserve much of anything. My lack of self-worth told me I shouldn’t be allowed the same opportunities that those people with real value and skill were given. I wasn’t seeing opportunities at all.

Again, this was a self-imposed illusion that I created to make it easier for me to accept my current situation as an unchangeable fact.

When I focused on change, I choose to surround myself with people who would support and acknowledge my worth. Even more important, I decided to completely avoid anyone that I knew – whether that was a co-worker, a friend, or even a family member – who seemed to have the habit of trying to make themselves feel better by belittling me. I also made a conscious effort to accept that, without even changing a thing, I was worthy of that support, worthy of love, worthy of success. I forbade myself to compare my achievements and skills to those of other people. I only let myself be inspired by them, not intimidated.

Gradually this nurturing environment has helped me gain little bits of self-worth that gradually became stronger and more assertive. The journey to building a strong self-esteem is open-ended, there will always be more room for growth and change for the better, and I am ready to answer any other questions that come my way in a positive and life-affirming manner.

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