41. Managing Erratic Self-Esteem

Good morning and welcome to your forty-first meditation. Do you experience noticeable vacillations in self-worth? In how talented you think you are? In how likeable you view yourself to be? Do you feel on certain days like you’ve assembled the pieces of your life into a pretty solid structure, while on other days all those pieces seem to be just lying on the floor in disarray? If your answer to these questions is “no”, you can count yourself as a rare exception. For the rest of us, know that changes in your levels of self-esteem are as natural as the rising and lowering of the tides, and sometimes can occur as frequently. This can be disorienting. It’s already hard enough to try to figure out who we are and what kind of pursuits and occupations suit us best in life; but when our self-image is constantly shifting, sometimes to extreme degrees, this task of self-discovery and -realization can seem impossible.

So how do we manage it? How do we keep ourselves strapped in on such a rollercoaster ride? Well, first thing’s first: acknowledge that this is how self-esteem operates. Erratic is its MO. This is truer for some than it is for others, and that’s fine. If you think you might be on the more sensitive side, and have noticed you are subject to more extreme swings in self-esteem, mark that about yourself. This way, when you feel that you’re in a slump of self-esteem, you can remind yourself that it is a feeling that will likely pass just as quickly and easily as it made its unwelcome entrance. Acknowledging this might not instantly free you from the slump, but it will help you to avoid blowing the feeling out of proportion. You may feel like a failure from time to time, and that’s ok, but let’s try to avoid despairing thoughts like “I’ve always been a failure, and I’ll always be a failure”. That’s simply not true.

Second, it’s a common tendency for someone who is in a moment of low self-esteem to view everything they do as a failure. Maybe you misplace your keys and think “I can’t even keep track of my own keys!”. Or maybe you drop your bag of groceries and think “I can’t even do groceries properly!” These are absurd thoughts and should be treated as such. In moments like these it helps to have a sense of humour about how silly we are for thinking that way. Not that you should punish yourself for doing so. It’s perfectly natural to think those thoughts. But if you have to suffer such self-castigation for such small things, at least do yourself the favour of deriving a little entertainment from the whole predicament. As though you are watching yourself as a character in a sit-com. You have empathy for the character, but also you can appreciate the humour of the situation from your seat on the couch.

Lastly, as forced or disingenuous as it may feel, don’t forget to remind yourself of your winning qualities when you are struggling with low self-esteem. And no matter how inadequate you may feel in your career at a given moment, no matter how talentless, or charmless you may perceive yourself to be, you always have the power to be kind, to be generous, and to care about others. And those are qualities worth celebrating. Keep it up. You’re doing great. Have a wonderful day.

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