Self-esteem’s impact on a person’s life can be felt in every corner of their existence. Rabbi Nachman often refers to Azamra as it appears in Psalms, which is taken to mean “I will sing with what I have!”. Nothing in this world is perfect, not people, situations, events, nothing. All things are in need of repair, and it is our purpose in life to do the work on ourselves and those things we encounter on our journey. How do we deal with all the failures and breakages we experience in life? One key tool required is the proper mindset through which to view life.
I hear people today talk about their concerns regarding identity thieves, but they are totally unaware they have given away their spiritual identity! No one wants to do the work required to grow in their spirituality these days: introspection and self-improvement. You can see the impact this has had on society today as we see more and more broken relationships and less and less marriages.
So what exactly is self-esteem? Simply put, it is the intrinsic value we feel we have as a person on this earth. When we have low self-esteem, we lose our sense of self and become more motivated by fears. We avoid putting forth effort out of fear of failure while refusing to make sacrifices for our desires. Self-esteem and effort are inextricably linked. Eighty percent of Jews remained in Egypt because they lacked the self-esteem required to get out. This fact really hammers home the meaning behind the old adage “If you think the price for failure is high, you have no idea how high the cost of regret is”.
Let’s look at all the different ways self-esteem has an effect on our lives. First, a person with a healthy level of self-esteem will find it much easier to practice discipline. Low self-esteem individuals crave instant gratification, and unfortunately today’s society encourages a desire for immediate rather than delayed gratification. You should discipline yourself to focus on your desire - remember, starve your distractions and feed your focus! Keep your mind on “I will” rather than worrying about your IQ. There are so many brilliant people in the world today who lack both desire and discipline, and this stands in the way of their success time and time again.
Next up, a person with high self-esteem is less likely to give away their power to others. When you say to yourself “so-and-so made me angry when they did x, y, or z” you are giving away your power by assigning them responsibility for your reaction. You only have a finite amount of power each day, and wasting it in this manner will do nothing to improve your life and get you to your desires. How do you avoid giving away your power? Don’t take things personally! Allowing your feelings to get hurt and throwing yourself a pity party gets you nothing but a sob story. Stop dwelling on past events which hurt you, make peace with them and move forward.
Third, people with high self-esteem have a much broader perspective on the world around them, opening their minds so they can see more opportunities for success than those with lower self-esteem. High self-esteem opens you up to more of life’s possibilities and leaves you better prepared to capitalize on them.
Another important connection exists between self-esteem and spirituality. A person with low self-esteem invites doubt into the relationship between themselves and their creator, as they feel they are not worthy of their creator’s attention and care. Remember those Jews who were blackened with sin still believed themselves to be beautiful and presented themselves as such to their creator without shame or fear. Judging yourself favorably leads to more mercy from heaven, so improve your self-esteem and your relationship with your creator will improve as well!
High self-esteem individuals are comfortable with the fact they are not going to make everyone happy. They do not fall into the behavior pattern of people-pleasing, which is common among those with low self-esteem. If you have healthy self-esteem you are able to be honest with others, saying no when you do not want to do something. This is because you do not need validation from others, you have all the validation you need from within yourself.
Another difference between those with self-esteem and those without is a fear of risk taking. High self-esteem people do not fear risks, as they recognize the fact that everything in their life comes from their creator. Therefore, if something does not work it it is simply because their creator does not wish it for them. They don’t worry about what other people are going to think of their failures, they simply put forth the effort required of them and if things don’t work out they adjust, change, and move on!
Similarly, a person with high self-esteem does not resent the success of others. Their value is not dependent on that of those around them, and they do not compare their own success to that which others have achieved. High self-esteem allows a person to stay in their own lane and focus on their desires rather than be distracted and discouraged by feelings of inadequacy brought on by unnecessary comparison.
Your ability to take on responsibility is directly linked to your self-esteem as well. This is so important, because it is only after you begin accepting responsibility (marriage, guys!) and taking action accordingly that Hashem blesses you. Those with low self-esteem who avoid responsibility out of fear are without a vessel, unable to receive blessings. Guys, why are so many of you shirking your responsibility and avoiding marriage?! You need to step up to the plate if you ever want to achieve success in life!
Self-esteem also allows a person to be comfortable by themselves. It is important to have time alone in order to get to know yourself better, but those with low self-esteem are incapable of sitting by themselves peacefully. If you are struggling with low self-esteem, taking time to be alone is a great way to start to build it up. It will be uncomfortable at first, but remember: nothing worthwhile in life comes easy!
Along these same lines, low self-esteem often leads to codependency as a result of your inability to be by yourself. Those who lack self worth become dependent on others for validation rather than relying on Hashem. This is in direct opposition to what your creator wants for you! Hashem wants for you to become a giver, not a taker. Those with high self-esteem allow Hashem to bless them so they can give unto others.
People with high self-esteem do not have an expectation of immediate results in life. They are willing to put forth effort even if the rewards from their labors are not seen for months, whereas low self-esteem individuals quickly fall off in terms of effort if they do not quickly receive a reward for their work. Whatever efforts you are putting forth in life, you should treat them as the farmer does the seed: plant it and walk away! Don’t keep glancing at the scoreboard in life, just put in the effort. Learn to love the process, not the prize!
High self-esteem leads you to treat others with more kindness and respect than you would otherwise. Low self-esteem causes people to want to dump all their emotional garbage onto those around them in order to lessen the burden on themselves, but spreading negativity around is no way to conduct yourself in your relationships! Be mindful of how you are treating others in your life, as this is a reflection of your thoughts and feelings about yourself.
Similarly, self-esteem is a big factor in determining your mood. The greater levels of self-esteem you are working with, the better and more unshakable your positive mood will be. The opposite holds true as well: the lower your self-esteem, the more you will struggle to achieve and maintain a positive mood in your daily life. Another opportunity exists to improve your self-esteem here - create a morning routine which sets a positive tone for the day and boosts your mood, which will in turn raise your self-esteem.
Our self-esteem governs many aspects of our lives, from our mentality to our relationships with both our creator and other people. Low self-esteem is so limiting in every way, blocking us from capitalizing on opportunities, stifling our growth in life, and poisoning our relationships with those around us. You should do whatever it takes to improve your sense of self worth so that you are better equipped to handle the challenges your creator has placed before you, ready to learn, grow, and achieve all the blessings Hashem has prepared for you!