Confident woman happy at work

Self-love is not selfish!

  • Struggling with feelings of worthlessness? Like you just don’t matter to anybody, including yourself?
  • Noticing that you have been more negative about how you experience others?
  • Feeling less empowered? Almost as if there isn’t enough of ‘you’ to go around?
  • Are you feeling depressed and/or anxious?

Along with optimism, self-esteem can be practiced and improved. Moving towards what we do want, instead of only away from what we don’t, we can see how the brain wants us to go forward, moving towards our goals.

Self-esteem is a trait that describes how people feel about themselves.  With healthy self-esteem, people tend to be more resilient (able to bounce back from challenges), and happier. On the other hand, when people don’t like themselves, and/or believe that others do not like them, they tend to have difficulty overcoming difficulty; even their immune system may suffer. Low self-esteem can be both a symptom of other conditions like Depression and Anxiety or the cause of those conditions.

Fortunately, we can practice self-esteem and learn to feel better. It is normal to feel overwhelmed with this idea in the beginning. This is why we focus on the here-and-now and work with what is attainable in the short-term. As time goes on, and as you continue to work on it, self-esteem can improve to the point that you feel like a new person.

Learning self-esteem

Beginning with simply being genuine about your feelings of self-worth, begin to realize that these feelings are real and should be dealt with; however, they are not permanent and not necessarily accurate, given your other strengths (example, you took the step to read this page–this is already an action towards improving your situation, thus you do in fact have more power than you may realize at the moment). Genuineness often means that you meditate on the genuine strengths you also possess rather than only being genuinely aware of the areas for growth. A balance between the two is crucial–awareness of what you do in fact need to work on, and awareness of the strengths and skills you possess to work on them with.

Using your genuine assessment of strengths and areas for growth, you can move on to increase your awareness of opportunities to practice and build your foundation of self-esteem. In any given moment, strive to be aware of what you bring to the moment. . . if you find that it does not feel helpful, then gently notice the feeling, then actively do something that you believe may help–even if only a little bit, for just a little while. Remember, once you notice a pattern, you can do something to change it. This is one of the most important steps in building self-esteem, as, without self-awareness, we cannot possibly begin to take thoughtful action to change. Once you begin to make the changes you choose, maintain awareness of the results–again, no matter how small. If the action helps, then do it again and build on it. If it does not, or if things become worse, then rather than beating yourself up for that, strive to see this as useful information in that you know what not to do next time.

As always, trust your ability to act. This is much easier said than done when dealing with issues of self-esteem, depression, or anxiety. Developing your awareness through silent meditation will help (see exercises on meditation). Remember that you are already closer than when you began your journey. It is not only the results of action that carries weight–it is the intention behind the action that makes any result useful. When you are aware that you trust yourself to act in a way that is helpful, the act itself becomes secondary (obviously, this does not mean to choose unhealthy actions to further your development!). The intention of your action is what will operate at deeper levels of awareness that you may, or may not yet be completely aware of.

Have a little compassion for yourself! You certainly deserve the same courtesy that you no doubt offer to others! I often find that those who struggle with self-esteem are often some of the most understanding, compassionate people around as they are hyper-aware of what it is like to feel bad. When you begin to allow yourself to care for yourself, a new door opens that may have been previously unnoticed. The struggle for self-compassion is that most people with self-esteem issues believe that it is selfish to focus on healing the self. In fact, the best thing you can do for others is to care for yourself. Self-compassion is a concept that allows you to become more fully present at any given moment with another as you are not as distracted
by the constant barrage of internal dialogue and questioning of your abilities. Again, when you give to yourself, there is more of you to go around to others.

Which brings us to having compassion for others. When you begin to realize that many people struggle with some form of self-questioning, you can model for them through your actions how to remedy their own situations. Remember for a moment the last time you helped another person . . . how did it feel?

You will be more likely to be in a place to offer this help if you honestly address your own issues in a way that enhances your own life first. Self-Love is not selfish.

Learn more about Mindfulness-based Counseling in Austin.

Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s has worked in the helping profession since he started college in 1990. After completing his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas, Austin in 1994, he attended the highly-regarded University of Minnesota to earn his Master’s degree in 1997. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is recognized as a Board Approved Supervisor by the State of Texas Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors. Jonathan has completed Level-2 of the Gottman Method of Couples Counseling, and in 1998 received training by the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation in Advanced Critical Incident Stress Management & Debriefing. To learn more about Jonathan’s practice, click here: Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s.

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