Circumstance, Meaning, Virtue

Listening to Low Self-Esteem

“We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.”

Jane Austen, 1814, Mansfield Park


Feelings of low self-esteem are not feelings we are encouraged to pay heed to.

We are told to dismiss them, they’re false and not to be trusted. Feeling bad about who you are, where you are or what you’re doing? Well, don’t. Just feel good! Feel good about yourself, who you are, how you act, the life you live, and everything will be better. We should feel good about ourselves regardless of whether we have cause to or not.

When we lack self-esteem and have a low sense of self-worth, it is a mistake to dismiss that feeling.

To cast it aside, or to suppress it is to believe that it has no value. But it just might. We are all worthwhile because in conjunction with our present, we also live with potential. We have the capacity to improve, meaning that despite our current circumstances there is always the chance that we can be and do better. This potential is what makes us worthy even at our lowest.

“Every blessing ignored becomes a curse.”

Paulo Coelho, 1988, The Alchemist

Insisting that no one feels bad about themselves and their situation, is like denying them their invitation.

Because that’s what those feelings are; they are an invitation, a beckoning to change. They are an opportunity to make real progress. When we feel worthless and lack any self pride, see it as an outstretched hand, willing us to take hold and do something to improve. Once we realise that these feelings are inviting us to improve, we must act. For most of us, the anecdote to low self-esteem is to do something we can actually be proud of. To focus on simply feeling worthy is pointless if we do not give ourselves any reason to. We are not slaves to our will, we cannot just flip a switch and feel something if we know the truth to be otherwise.

Instead of believing that feelings of low self-esteem must be cast away immediately, first hear what they have to say.

Some people can be overly self-critical and may need to make an effort to quieten these voices because they do not reflect reality. But more often than that, they are highlighting significant parts of us, and our lives, that need repair and attention. They are a means by which we can turn things around. Allow them to guide us to the areas in question, and then we act; giving ourselves something to be proud of.

William Merritt Chase, c.1887, Young Woman Before a Mirror
William Merritt Chase, c.1887, Young Woman Before a Mirror
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