I often ask this question to individuals in my counseling office: “On a scale of one to 10, where is your self-esteem?”
The answer tends to be “two,” “three” or “four.”
Low self-esteem might result from reporting the appraisal of our bad side to the neglect of our good side.
This was illustrated by a comment made by a successful businessman in an adult church school class when I was in my 20s. He said, “Without my wife, I’d be a sorry, sorry person.” That open admission brought a good laugh from class members. In other words, his wife helped him keep in check his bad side.
All of us have bad sides, and the art of living is to keep the bad sides disciplined, allowing our good sides to come forward and be what we express — the real us.
In our contemplations, we need to evaluate ourselves by looking at our best rather than our worst.
I’ve found this to be especially true of me. In fact, my personality profile reported when a person of my nature spends a long stretch of time alone, he becomes introspective, is disappointed in himself and gets the blues. I know that’s right. I’ve learned to compensate by controlling alone time.
Often in counseling, I counteract ill feelings by writing at the top of a new page: “What’s right in your life?” And we spend 30 minutes making a word portrait of their good qualities, skills and blessings. Upon completion, I give them my notes, asking them to post the positive findings on their fridges. “This is the real you!” I exclaim to them.
Acting like a light suddenly went on in my head, I asked an adolescent girl, “Do you know who is prettier than you?”
She shot back an answer, “Everybody!”
I said, “Nobody!”
Very pleased, she countered, “Can I bring in my friend, and you say that again in front of her?”
And so it was.
With addicts, I make the list of what’s good about them. Then I place a clear acetate sheet over it and write their chemical of choice. I say, “You see that your good side is paled by your bad side. You’ve become known by your life-dominating problem. You’re called an alcoholic, a druggy, a criminal or whatever.”
Lifting off the acetate, I say, “Let’s get this off you because — look! — all your goodness remains beneath it! Your good side is intact!”
In counseling, I don’t go over and over what has been a problem. I help people build new dreams. I help them see a vision for the future because the Bible says without a vision the people perish. The opposite is this: With a vision, the people prosper.
A motivational speaker says it this way: “If you want to be successful, be with successful people.” In other words: If you want to be successful, be with people who are skilled at keeping their good sides forward.
A positive mental attitude keeps your good side forward.
Quoting Philippians 4:13 builds on your good side: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (King James Version).
I enjoy reading the same verse from the classic edition of the Amplified Bible, “I have strength for all things in Christ who empowers me (I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency).”
I made a loose-leaf notebook for children who visit my office with low self-esteem. Within it are 8-by-10 photos of famous people who have regular physical appearances but achieved celebrity status.
Popeye the Sailor is among them. Kids chuckle when I turn to his page. But seriously readers, have you taken a long look at Popeye? He’s not exactly handsome, although he’s well accepted.
I tell kids, “Appearance doesn’t matter as much as strength of character, kindness, love, courage, courtesy, consideration, enthusiasm, vision and friendliness. Those traits can be developed by someone just like you.”