What is self-esteem?

Someone asked me recently about self-esteem and I admit I fudged it.

My answer was along the lines of self-efficacy…which is more about recognising that I’m good at certain things.

So what’s self-esteem then?

I’ve been thinking it over and I’ve read plenty about it before, but self-esteem has to be more than just words.

Self-esteem isn’t about your skills, talents, or other qualities, but your intrinsic value. Specifically, it’s feeling good about yourself for no f***ing reason whatsoever other than…you’re you, and it feels better this way, and it makes everything easier and more enjoyable.

Baseless, irrational, and subjective…in a good way!

That’s what really threw me about self-esteem. I grew up thinking we were supposed to value objectivity and truth and give reasons for what we believe and reasons for how we feel.

But if you apply those criteria to how you feel about yourself…you’re pretty much screwed because there’s no objective basis for feeling good about yourself. You either already feel good, in which case you’re merely gilding the lily with fresh excuses to proclaim your wondrous existence; or you already feel crap, and there is nothing on earth that will overcome your crappy feelings and convince you to be otherwise.

Self-esteem is not objective. And yet it is vital and life changing, because if you can find a way to feel good without reason then that good feeling goes before you like a holy aura and changes everything around you.

If you can find a way to feel good without reason, then everything feels good the moment it comes into your presence.

Find a way to feel good without reason? More like remember the good feelings you’ve already had, feelings you probably crushed or put away because they seemed unreasonable at the time, as if you were going to be graded on the realism of your good mood.

That’s what self-esteem means to me. It’s not about holding myself in high regard, that’s just how people try to explain why they let themselves feel good for no reason. I prefer to see it as acknowledging that there’s no reason to feel this good, so there’s no reason not to. Life isn’t waiting on me to accomplish something that justifies these good feelings. If anything it’s the other way around.

How to do it

I don’t know if a “how to” will work, but for me my good feelings were all tied up with the fantasy novels and superhero movies and anime and manga that inspired me so much. Feelings of freedom and empowerment and adventure and excitement, love and authenticity and, yeah, worth, and the sheer joy of the characters at the height of their powers.

These are the things that speak to me. Why the hell shouldn’t I use them? Why shouldn’t I take those good feelings and carry them with me? Because I’m old enough now to know that none of the people with “strong” self-esteem I’ve met in the past had any real justification for how they felt. There was not an iota of considered, objective thought behind those people’s bias in favour of their own value. They just felt good because they’d felt good more often than not in their young lives and knew nothing else.

What I’m getting at is that we may not have had that foundation, but we did have inspiration and we still do. Knowing that we create our reality, how we feel is far more important than we ever knew, and it now makes complete sense that every time we put aside those good feelings we delayed their fruition into something more.

No, we had no reason to feel that good, but if we do it anyway, indulge in those wonderful feelings of freedom and empowerment, everything must give way to that.