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Below are the articles in the Self-Esteem category. Each article title is followed by a brief summary introduction to the content. Click "Read Excerpt" for a more comprehensive review. Click "Add to Package" to buy or redeem the article.


Are You Worth It? You Decide

Overcoming unworthiness is a process that takes time and effort; the payoff is nothing short of life-changing.

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Simply put, “worthiness” is a person’s judgment of their own value, merit, or usefulness. It stems from our deep human need to be known and seen for who we really are and what we have to give. In healthy amounts, it’s the sentiment most clearly expressed in the words of author and poet Maya Angelou: “I’m not perfect, but I’m pretty good.”

In contrast, unworthiness is often a self-fulfilling downward spiral, where a person believes she isn’t helpful, useful, or good. Someone who believes that he’s worthless may also set out to prove his worthlessness through a series of poor choices.

How to Recognize Unworthiness

Many people who have issues with unworthiness tend to internalize and overly-personalize situations. If something goes wrong, they’re at fault. Of course he yelled at me, the thinking goes, I burned the chili. Or, I’ll never get that pay raise, so why would I bother even asking?

Enough Not Being Enough!

Not smart enough, not pretty enough, not strong enough, not talented enough, not loving enough, not disciplined enough, not brave enough…. Ugh! Enough already.

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If you’re caught in the “not enough” trap, nothing about you ever seems quite good enough. Standards by which you measure yourself become inhumane. Successes are rarely enjoyed, for you always feel as if you must do better. Perceived failures are magnified. Life becomes a quest for utter perfection—like the carrot dangling in front of a horse, it is chased but never truly experienced.

“If I’m 98% perfect in anything I do, it’s the 2% I’ve messed up I’ll remember when I’m through,” begins a little ditty. The problem begins when we allow others—family members, our spouse, friends, a boss, popular culture—to define who we are or are not. Unfortunately, these roots of self-image often stretch far back into childhood, when negative messages we received from parents and others imprinted us with a feeling of being stupid, fat, lazy, weak or otherwise inadequate.

But as adults, we can choose to truly accept ourselves—with all our strivings, quirks, faults and shortcomings—as being enough right now. The more we do that, the less vulnerable we are to the opinions of others.

Giving an A: Possibility, Not Measurement

What are the inner qualities that remain constant among all types of effective leaders? Leadership is a way of life, an expression of our fullest and best nature and it starts on the inside.

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Michaelangelo said that in sculpting his masterpiece “David” that he was merely chipping away from the marble everything that was not David. In other words, one needs only remove the excess stone to reveal the work of art within.

When we apply this notion to human beings, we discover that we are all works of art in all our varied manifestations. Life’s true journey may be the process of uncovering and removing what’s in the way of our shining through with beauty and brilliance.

In support of helping us find the best in ourselves and others, consider the practice called "giving an A" that comes from the book The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life, by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander. This practice asks us to choose the perspective of seeing everyone (even ourselves!) as holding great potential. You can give an A to anyone—your spouse, children, employer, co-workers—even strangers.

Taking the familiar classroom example first, notice that when students think of themselves as C students, they may not bother trying very hard. If the teacher expects them to do poorly, the students are likely to fulfill that expectation. What would happen if the expectation were that the students were A students?

In other words, leadership is a way of life, an expression of our fullest and best nature, our unique gifts. And it starts on the inside.

How Healthy Is Your Self-Esteem?

Of all the judgments we pass in life, none is as important as the one we pass on ourselves.

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Self-esteem is more than self-confidence; it is the belief in ourselves that says we have the right to be successful and happy. It is a feeling of being worthy and deserving of having our needs and wants fulfilled. Self-esteem is not a gift bestowed by those outside ourselves or something that can be taken from us by others. It’s an inside job.

Take our quiz to find out how healthy your self-esteem is. You won’t be scored at the end, but answer true or false to the following questions, and elaborate a bit on those that feel especially relevant.

T / F 1. I have a right to honor my needs and wants, to treat them as important.

T / F 2. Nobody has the power to determine how I will think and feel about myself.

T / F 3. I am competent to cope with the basic challenges of life.

T / F 4. When I suffer some defeat or setback, I am able to rise again.

How Well Do You Handle Your Inner Critic?

A quiz that helps you discover how much power the voice of your inner critic has over your life.

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Most of us have an Inner Critic, an internal “voice” that judges our actions or inaction, tells us what’s wrong with us and how we should or should not be. This constant judgment can lead to debilitating feelings of guilt, shame and anxiety. While it’s difficult to silence the critic completely, there are ways to cope with it. Answer these true/false questions to discover how well you handle your Inner Critic.

1. I can’t seem to do anything right. I feel depressed and incapacitated by the constant nagging, judging voice inside me.

2. I don’t necessarily realize I’m at the effect of my Inner Critic, but I often compare myself to others and never quite measure up. I feel inadequate.

Learning to Live With (and Love) Yourself

Mary thinks she’d be happy if she could just change her weight, her looks and her job. Sean believes that he’s an okay person except for his anxiety, impatience and quick temper. But would “self-improvement” really make them happier?

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Who among us doesn’t believe that with a little tweaking, we could be just right—self-realized, self-actualized and self-helped to just short of perfection? But, the problem for many is that all the books, self-improvement tips and positive affirmations don’t seem to make us any happier. Worst of all, the minute we “fix” one ugly piece of ourselves, another nasty monster rears it head and starts screaming for attention.

When does self-help become self-hell? What would happen if we simply started by realizing how wonderful we already are?

As the pioneering psychologist Carl Rogers once wrote, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

“Believing that something is wrong with us is a deep and tenacious suffering,” writes Tara Brach, in her book, Radical Acceptance. “The more we anxiously tell ourselves stories about how we might fail or what is wrong with us or with others, the more we deepen the grooves—the neural pathways—that generate feelings of deficiency.”

Loving Yourself Unconditionally—If Not Now, When?

Many of us were taught some version of the Golden Rule such as “Love Your Neighbor as Yourself.” The question is... how well do we love ourselves?

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As children, we all seek the love and approval of our parents. Unfortunately, all too often the love and approval we receive comes with strings attached. We are admonished not to be too loud and rambunctious, punished for not getting better grades, and compared to our siblings. Parents are often ill-trained in child-rearing and make the error of telling us “you’re a bad boy,” criticizing who we are rather than the action itself.

Over time, we internalize the critical voices we heard while growing up, often becoming a much harsher critics of ourselves than of anyone else. Think about it... how often do you tell yourself something to the effect of: “That was so stupid of me!” or “You’re not good enough—who do you think you are?” Many of the things we say to ourselves we would never dare say to another person! And yet we dialog with ourselves day and night in these harmful ways.

When self-love is conditional, it is often attached to some kind of achievement. For instance: “When I’m successful in my business, then I’ll feel good about myself.” “When I’m thinner, then I’ll really love myself.” “If so-and-so loves me, then I must really be a worthwhile person.” We wait for these outer signs of success only to come up with new criteria once we’ve achieved one of those goals.

“Normal” Is a Very Big Playing Field

Susan talks to her grandmother’s ghost. Jamie has 60 potted plants around her house—all in purple pots. Are they normal?

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Most of us live with an internal struggle. Each of us yearns to be different, special, an individual. At the same time, we don’t want to lean too far out of the tree—we also want to fit in, be accepted…be normal.

But what does it mean to be normal? Even experts struggle with the word; medical textbooks use words such as “usual” and “not ill” and “conforming to a cultural norm.” However, what is usual to one group of people—tattooing, to give one example—may be completely weird and repulsive to another group. Does that make it normal or abnormal?

The real danger comes in labels—the ones we put on each other and the ones we call ourselves. People who don’t fit in are often labeled as abnormal or different, and that stigma can eat into their feelings of self-worth and belonging. Our culture, with its narrow definitions and media depictions of the “right” way to be, doesn’t help.

We harm ourselves when we agonize that something we feel, believe in, dream about or just wear on our bodies is not normal, or when we feel shame and hide things. Normal is a very big playing field and most of us fit somewhere on that field.

Self-Acceptance is an Action

Self-acceptance means being for oneself, not against. It’s about accepting shortcomings as well as strengths. And it’s vital for growth and change.

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Self-acceptance is something we do, not just something we feel. To say “I value myself” is an act of self-affirmation that provides a base from which self-esteem develops.

When we practice self-acceptance we don’t have to condone or even like everything about ourselves. In fact, it’s almost certain that we won’t. What it does mean is that we recognize and accept our thoughts, our actions, our emotions, our bodies, our dreams — everything about us — as our own.

“But I don’t want to be insecure (or afraid or judgmental or angry or fat or old or alcoholic or any of a dozen other things),” someone might say. “If I accept that about myself, it means I don’t want to change. Or I won’t change.”

Here’s the paradox: without acceptance of what is, it is impossible to change.

Stopping Verbal Abuse in Its Tracks

Sarah’s husband yells at her for muting a commercial then greets her apology with more yelling and bizarre accusations. What’s going on there?

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Like many people in verbally abusive relationships, Sarah thinks that if only she changed, she communicated more clearly, she explained things better, her husband wouldn’t get so mad at her.

But as Patricia Evans, author of The Verbally Abusive Relationship, explains, abuse victims don’t realize that the problem isn’t theirs: it’s in the abuser’s need to dominate and control. When Sarah’s husband yells at her for no reason, she thinks he’s misunderstood her. She doesn’t realize that he’s not looking for understanding, he’s establishing his power over her.

Sarah’s story exhibits several of the hallmarks of verbal abuse:

• It’s hostile.

• It’s unpredictable and even bizarre; the attack comes out of the blue.

• The victim feels confused and surprised.

The Danger of Comparisons

Tips to help you stop comparing yourself and your loved ones to others and live with more freedom as a result.

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Comparing ourselves and our loved ones to others seems to be ingrained into us. We notice similarities and differences. It’s one way we learn to navigate our world.

The trouble comes when we notice differences and then use that information to feel “less than.” For instance, rather than noticing someone’s success and letting that inspire us to take the risk we’ve been wanting to take, instead we may despair, believing that we could never have that kind of success ourselves.

The Effect of Family Roles on Life’s Choices

The common roles that children play in a family, and the role’s impact on adult life.

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Roles are especially harmful in families where abuse and/or addiction occurs. They become a vain attempt to control a situation that is chaotic and frightening. Also, as John Bradshaw explains in On the Family, roles function to project the image of the happy family, preserving denial that anything is wrong.

Based on the work of Virginia Satir, Claudia Black and Sharon Wegscheider, below are the common roles that children play in the family, as well as that role’s impact on adult life.

The Hero

The hero is the responsible one. She gets good grades in school, is goal oriented and self-disciplined. From the outside, she appears on top of her game. Internally, however, she bears the burden of making the family look good. She also believes that if she is perfect enough, the family problems will go away.

The Powerful Act of Asking for What You Want

Asking for what one wants is more effective when four important elements are in place.

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Asking for what you want is a powerful, empowering act that can send strong ripples through your life. While it may seem simple enough, four things need to be in place first:

1. You know what you want.

2. You fully believe you deserve it.

3. You are prepared to accept the answer “No.”

4. You have the communication skills needed for an effective request.

What Do You Want?

Wants emerge from needs you are experiencing, for example: the need to be heard, the need for respect, expedience, beauty, intimacy. Knowing the need helps you be clear about what you are requesting. It’s helpful to distinguish between needs that move us towards well-being and those that never really bring happiness, such as the desire for approval or to be right.

Top 10 Things to Say to Yourself

People say things to themselves they wouldn't even think of saying to another person. What if, instead, people treated themselves as they would treat a best friend, someone they loved dearly?

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1. What do you feel?Asking ourselves what we feel can help put names to, and identify emotions. Listening for the response and being honest with ourselves is like taking our emotional temperature.

2. What do you need? A need is different from a want. Whereas a want states a desire, a need is usually a statement about nurturing. Pay attention to your needs, they're about caring for yourself.

3. Good jobCongratulate yourself on a job well done whether it's mowing the lawn, writing a poem or cleaning the bathroom. Give yourself a verbal pat on the back.

Top 10 Ways to Practice Acceptance

Ways to practice self-acceptance and deepen your understanding of yourself

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Self-acceptance is an action; it is something we do, not just something we feel. Try these 10 ways to practice acceptance.

1. Your body. Stand naked before a full-length mirror and notice your feelings. If you never would do something like that, notice and accept that, too.

2. Difficult emotions. When anger, fear or jealousy arises, focus on it. Breathe into it and notice how the feelings begin to subside.

Top 10 Ways to Raise Your Self-Esteem

Self-esteem is an inside job anyone can do. Here are ten ways to begin.

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Self-esteem is not a gift bestowed by those outside of us or something that can be taken from us by others. It’s an inside job. Rather than wait passively for good self-esteem to happen, we need to take action. Daily or weekly is best.

1. Make a list. What’s good about you? What’s wonderful? Hang your list near your bed so that you see it when you awaken and when you go to sleep.

2. Forgive yourself. Acknowledge a mistake, but let go of self-recrimination. Recognize that you, too, are human and “allowed” to fail.

3. Do one thing you’ve been putting off. It’s amazing how clearing clutter (literal or figurative) can clear a space for better self-esteem.

What’s (Self) Love Got to Do With It?

The legend of Narcissus has it wrong. It’s the lack of self-love that brings harm.

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The legend of Narcissus tells of a young boy who, upon seeing his reflection in a clear fountain with water like silver, fell hopelessly in love with himself. Unable to tear his gaze away from his reflection, he could not eat, could not sleep, until finally, he pined away and died.

Unfortunately, the myth of Narcissus is too often our concept of self-love. We believe that if we love ourselves, we are selfish and self-centered, that falling in love with self means conceit and self-absorption. In fact, the opposite is true. Self-love is an honoring of the self that requires a high degree of independence and courage. The love we give others will be enhanced by the love we give ourselves.

A lack of self-love is a sign of low self-esteem or self-worth and shows its face in many ways: a refusal to enjoy life, workaholism, perfectionism, ¬procrastination, guilt, and shame. Those who lack self-love avoid ¬commitments, stay in destructive relationships, and fail to experience true intimacy with anyone. They practice negative self-talk, compare themselves with others, compete with others, caretake others and fail to take care of ¬themselves. Unlike Narcissus, when they look in a mirror, they turn away.

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