Only people who live in accordance to their own ideals, and don’t break the moral code they built for their lives can have self-esteem; if honesty is an essential virtue to a person, while they might become rich if they accept a bribe, their self-esteem will plummet. A person can’t have a good opinion, nor like themselves, if they act against their own principles. Naturally, just as different social groups have different sets of values, so do people.
Our beliefs are mostly based on the environment in which we were raised. In our early years, we absorb and adopt the values that have been taught to us, as this is the path to please the adults we love. Children’s natural need of love and protection is a tool adults use to raise them and pass on their culture’s rules. But, at some point, we all grow up and contest the values we learned; this reevaluation can either be done in typical teenage fashion, insolently and only to be antagonistic, or more maturely, by discovering new points of view, and contrasting them with what we’ve been taught, or putting them to test in the real world. For instance, when people are taught to be uncompromising, they can become too strict and autocratic, which will make enemies and drive friends away, life might teach them flexibility, and that other people have the right and freedom to think as they wish. So, throughout life, our values can change, and when that happens, so should our behavior – we can’t have good self-esteem unless we are true to our principles.
Leading a productive, ever-evolving life is also a necessary ingredient for self-esteem. If, say, a person likes to cook, they’ll know how good they are based on the feedback of those who taste their food. After all, the response of people we care about is undeniably important to all of us. Compliments will reinforce the cook’s belief that they’re going the right way, and criticism will point out the need to correct course. As time goes by, and experience grows, the cook will know how to assess the quality of their food on their own, and will depend less on other people’s opinions; what they think of themselves becomes more important than other people’s opinions, and their self-esteem will remain solid at a higher level, no matter what.
This positive self-image doesn’t come out of nowhere. Just looking at the mirror every day and telling yourself “I’m a good person, I deserve good things and I love myself” doesn’t work; you can’t fool yourself with fake inspirational speeches. Good self-esteem comes from acting in a way consistent with our values, leading a productive life, and self-improvement. The specific activity we choose is irrelevant and depends on us; but we must do something, interact with our environment and receive positive feedback regarding our progress and ourselves. Disengaged people can’t possibly have good self-esteem – since they are not doing anything to try to figure out their own worth, they are forever in the dark about themselves, and doubt knocks down their opinion of themselves. It’s useless to put on a mask and go about proclaiming self-love; nobody else is buying it!
Tradução: Amanda Morris