How Not to Lack Self-Esteem

Dear friend,

Unfortunately — I’ve met a lot of people who lack self-esteem.

Many of us lack self-esteem because of our upbringing. Some of us had our dreams crushed when we were kids. Some of us had abusive parents. Some of us were teased, bullied, or beaten up as kids. Some of us have been mentally, physically, or perhaps even sexually abused in our lives.

Why Do We Lack Self-Esteem?

As a sociologist, I believe that our lack of self-esteem stems much from our upbringing.

When we come into the world, we are like empty vessels. We are raised by our families, societies, and culture. We are filled with concepts, ideas, and morales from those who raise us.

I know that in Asia, the saying goes: “The nail that sticks out the most needs to be hammered in the hardest.” Compare this with the American saying: “Follow your passion.”

I think that all children are born confident, curious, and excited. Yet our societies and cultures tend to beat the self-confidence out of us.

Yet no matter what our upbringing was, the exciting and empowering thing is that we can re-program ourselves. We can re-program our brains. A lot of contemporary neuroscience proves that the brain is more plastic or malleable, or changeable, than we once believed.

The saying: “Old dogs can’t learn new tricks” isn’t true. It is just harder for older dogs to learn new tricks.

Even old trees can be re-planted. It isn’t always successful, but with enough hard work and a little bit of luck, it is possible.

You can change your destiny

I believe that we have (some) control over our destiny. We can certainly make certain life choices, and make certain decisions. How our decisions will manifest in the future isn’t within our control.

I also believe that like a computer program, we can re-program our brains. We can refresh, reboot, or re-install the operating system of our mind. We can upgrade our RAM, our memory, our computer processing speed, we can uninstall malware, spyware, and superfluous programs which slow us down.

Let’s say you currently have low self-esteem. It is like you are running Windows 95 on your brain. What you need to do is a fresh reboot, or a fresh re-install. You want to have the newest, operating system.

I know for me personally, the only way I’ve been able to kill lack of self-esteem is to kill my past. To delete all of my negative memories, and mental baggage from the past. It was like a Zen process of trying to purge my past, and be reborn.

I did this by letting go of all my regrets in the past, my wrong decisions in the past, and also negative people from the past. I committed to myself to start a brand new start, and I could re-build myself, bottom-up.

You are a rational human being

“No animal has low self esteem.” – Seneca

Isn’t it true— no animal lacks self-esteem. But us human beings, far more advanced than any other animal out there — why is it that we lack self-esteem?

Don’t you possess reasoning, rationality, and intellectual power?

How not to lack self-esteem

If you feel you lack self-esteem, here are some exercises you can do to build up more self-esteem:

  1. Take 1 small risk every day: Each day, do something that slightly frightens you. Ask a stranger to take their portrait. Ask a friend or family member for a somewhat unreasonable favor. The practice isn’t whether people say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ — it is becoming accustomed to having people reject you. This will help build up some of your self-esteem and personal confidence.
  2. Erase your past: This is a bit more drastic, but if you own anything that reminds you of your negative past, throw it away. Burn it with fire. You can also do this with memories. Imagine like you’re taking all of your negative memories, putting it into the trash can of your computer hard drive, and permanently deleting it. Or imagine like you’re re-installing the operating system of your mind.
  3. Read empowering literature: One of the best ways I’ve been able to build my self-confidence is to read literature that empowers me. That gives me confidence and courage. For me, this is mostly Stoic philosophy. Or listen to empowering music, watch empowering films (I like the movie 300), or build up your body physically (lift weights at the gym, do bodyweight exercises, do Yoga, whatever works for you).

And treat each day as a new day. Don’t be discouraged. If you fall off the horse, dust yourself off, and get back on the horse. If you’re a boxer, and you get knocked down, push yourself up with all your might, and get back on your two feet.

You are stronger than you think.

Be strong,

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