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!

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