When I say self-esteem, what do you think of? Self-worth? Self-respect? Perhaps your thought of how great you are crossed your mind? According to the dictionary, self-esteem is defined as, “Pride in oneself.” But I like this definition the best (from The Happiness Project): healthy self-esteem [comes] from behaving in ways that you find estimable.
I am fortunate to have healthy self-esteem today. But it wasn’t always like that. I remember suffering from low self-esteem when I was in high school. Back then, I suffered from an identity crisis from being one of only a handful of Asians in an all White school. As a result, I lost touch of who I was and had problems finding ways to connect with those around me. Looking back, I think my self-esteem problem wasn’t so much I was ashamed of my ethnicity and background (I was, but that wasn’t the sole cause of my self-esteem problem); Rather, my low self-esteem had more to do with my inability to relate to anybody.
You see, when I wasn’t able to relate to others, I wasn’t able to make myself useful to others. When I wasn’t able to make myself useful to others, I felt useless. When I felt useless, my self-esteem came crashing down. What good was I when I couldn’t be a productive part of the world around me?
Today, I look at things in my world very differently. It helps that I have found myself again, but it helps even more now that I always strive to help others around me. At first, I started to help those around me because of the joy I felt immediately after I’ve lent a hand. I became addicted to that joyous feeling, so I would do more of it and more often. What was unbeknownst to me at the time was my actions began to lift my self-esteem. It wasn’t until I read the post by Gretchen that I realized my self-esteem really had been redefined largely by how much I’ve helped others.
Of course, other aspects of my life also contributed to my healthy self-esteem. For example, I actively seek out challenges and opportunities to learn new things. But I find myself going back to helping others when I feel I need a boost in my self-esteem. I think the reason is this is the ONE THING of which I am in complete control. When I sought after challenges, I am not guaranteed to overcome the challenges. Sometimes the defeat can be a bit hard to swallow. Yet when I sought to help others, I am in completely control of how I provide my assistance, and the recipients are almost always appreciative of my help. As a result, I always get that boost of self-esteem from reaching out and lending a hand.
You may want to give helping others a try the next time you want a lift in how you feel about yourself!