November 3, 2011 @ 7:07 AM

What are the other two elements of self esteem?

While compassionate self-parenting is the essential foundation of self-esteem, there are a couple of other elements as well.  One is repeatedly challenging ourselves to do something hard, but do-able, and nailing it.  This doesn’t have to be winning the nobel prize--in fact with a few rare exceptions, shouldn’t be winning the nobel prize.  It should be what is do-able, but a stretch for you.  I count giving birth as one of these things for me.  Even though bazillions of other women have done it, I felt like if I could do that, I could do almost anything.  When I was 19, I crossed the country by myself in a car, after having been agoraphobic when I was younger.  I’ve just done lots of things that were hard and/or scary for me, and learned and thrived and felt a sense of mastery, and each time I did, it added to my belief in my own value.

And there is one more element that is important to self-esteem, and that is acting within our own value system.  Not the law, or religion, but your own.  For example, I really value being kind to people, so whenever I am kind to people, I strengthen my sense of value.  In fact, I remember a huge turning point in my own self-esteem development when one day I thought about how I’d been with a friend, and I thought to myself, I’m a good friend, and I thought about how I’d been with strangers I’d interacted with that day, and I thought, I’m a kind person.  After that, times I doubted if I was ok, I would remember and practice, “I’m a good friend; I’m a kind person,” and that felt core to me.  It made the mistake I’d made, or the failure I faced seem much less important.

On the other hand, when we violate our own value system, we weaken our sense of value.  To build your sense of value, it’s important to act, as much as you can, within your own value system.

So the three keys to self esteem are:

  1. Developing the ability to parent ourselves with compassionate responsiveness to our own needs and feelings,
  2. Challenging ourselves to master whatever is realistically do-able for us, but a stretch, and
  3. Acting within our own values as much as possible.