SALT LAKE CITY — As a master life coach, I talk to many people who say they beat themselves on a daily basis and feel they have very low self-esteem.
We all have faults, flaws, bad habits or features we don't like, and these make us feel we have less value than other people. We might put ourselves down, use self-deprecating humor, or often comment about how overweight, stupid or unsuccessful we are.
Many of us learned as children that we might not be good enough, and this belief has stuck with us. Even if we become successful, fit or more attractive, we always battle this same deep subconscious belief that we aren't quite enough. I believe every person on the planet battles this belief to some degree every day, but some people experience negative thoughts about themselves to the extreme and even suffer from self-hate.
After 20-plus years as a master life coach working with people to improve self-worth, I have found three things you can do that will make a significant difference in your ability to love yourself. They are:
- Change the system you use to determine the value of all humans
- Choose to see life as a classroom, not a test
- Commit to a forgiveness practice
Change how you determine human value
Many people have a subconscious belief that human value can change. Think about this. Do you believe if you could look better, perform better, or make more money, your personal value would go up? Do you also believe that if you make mistakes, gain weight, or lose money, your personal value goes down? If so, this is why your self-esteem changes from day to day: you subconsciously believe human value must be earned and therefore can change.
But this is not true.
Many of us subconsciously accepted this belief as a child because the world promotes it. Still, it's not a fact — and it's often what is making us feel like we aren't good enough all the time. If you find yourself in this belief system, the good news is you have the power to change this belief any time you want.
Instead, you can choose a belief that all human beings have the same infinite, absolute, intrinsic value that cannot change. No matter what we do or how we look, we still have the same value as every other human because that's how this system works. Of course, this is also a belief, not a fact — but it's a belief that will improve your life, so I recommend choosing it.
To internalize this belief, you must do two things
- First, every time you have a negative thought about yourself, you must remind yourself that whatever your issue is it doesn't change your value and you still have the same value as every other human being.
- Second, you have to give up judging others and allow every other person — even the ones you dislike — to have infinite value and be good enough, too. This doesn't mean you have to hang out with them or trust them, but that you understand their value isn't tied to what they do.
There are still consequences to actions and lessons we all get to learn, but our intrinsic value is never in question and cannot change. All human souls have the same value. The more you work at this, the better your self-esteem will become.
Choose to see life as a classroom
Because of a subconscious belief that human value can change, many of us have also, subconsciously, seen life as a test or place where you can fail. But again, this is just a belief. It's not a fact.
You have the option to choose a new belief here, too. You could choose to believe that life is a classroom. The difference is that in a test your mistakes diminish your value (or your grade). In a classroom, the focus is on learning not earning a good grade. If you choose to view your life as a classroom, you get to see every experience as a learning opportunity that allows you to experience something and learn from it without affecting your value.
You can start doing this today. Choose to trust the universe that it knows what it's doing and that your classroom journey is serving you. The more you trust the universe that it's on your side and conspiring to grow you, the less stress you'll experience and safer you will feel. This will greatly impact your feelings of self-worth and take failure off the table.
Commit to a forgiveness practice
Make a few lists
The trick to using forgiveness to increase your self-worth lies in forgiving three different groups of people.
- First, make a list of the things that have happened in your life that make you angry at God or the universe. You will need to forgive God and life for these disappointments.
- Second, make a list of your own mistakes, flaws, faults and features you don't like. You will need to process all of these and forgive yourself for them.
- Third, make a list of all the people who have hurt or offended you, but add to it the names of every person you criticize, judge, or dislike for any reason.
This group of people who you criticize and judge are the most important because they can show you the system you use to determine the value of human beings.
They show you there are faults or dark parts that you believe make people unworthy; and as long as you see other people's faults as making them unworthy, you will also see your own faults as making you unworthy.
The way you judge others is always tied to the way you judge yourself. You must shift your mindset, which is what forgiveness really is – a change of perspective that eliminates pain and hurt — if you want to love yourself more. You must work on loving and forgiving others, seeing their life as a classroom and their value as infinite. The more you do this, the more you accept these truths for yourself, too.
Process your lists
Take some time every day to process through one of the people, faults or experiences on your lists. You can process them by writing about their darkness and why you have felt justified to dislike this person or this part of yourself. Then, write about your other options and how you could choose to see and feel about them. Write about how it would feel if you chose to see their value as unchanging and infinite, and your life and theirs as a perfect classroom. How could you choose to see them or yourself with love and compassion?
Again, this doesn't mean you are going to hang out with or trust this person, it just means you are going to change your feelings to eliminate pain, hate, guilt, shame or anger. Instead, you'll choose to live in trust, love, compassion, peace, and acceptance.
The more you choose compassion and give infinite value to others, the more compassionate you will become toward yourself. Take all the time you need and just keep working on one person, fault or experience each day. Turn them over to God and allow him to handle the justice. Remember, nothing exists God or the universe did not create for the purpose of our growth.
I believe that forgiveness makes a bigger, faster difference in a person's self-esteem than any other practice. But, it might take some time and consistent effort. There are also books, journals, resources, coaches and counselors that can help you in this process. Just make it your goal to become more compassionate, forgiving, and trusting toward yourself and others. Try to avoid judgment, criticism and speaking ill of them. This will pay off in a greater capacity to love and accept yourself.
You can do this.