Low self-esteem is definitely connected to a lack of practice in making choices. “Go along to get along” has to be a choice, unique to a situation, instead of a life style. If it becomes a life style, you will lose track of who you are.

Many people arrive in therapyidea and describe themselves as feeling lost. They’ll go on to describe themselves as not really knowing who they are because they’ve catered too often to someone else in their life. It might happen when catering to an elderly parent, to a spouse or letting their children’s needs, be too high a priority. Being a parent, partner or caretaker does not mean losing yourself in the process. If you feel invisible you’ve had a part in allowing yourself to be erased.

Learning to have more self-esteem involves learning to speak up for yourself. Someone will tell me, they don’t know what they want and then go on to describe how unfair things are. That small beginning of irritation at the unfairness of the situation is a clue to what you want. Think of how things could be more fair if  you speak up, or take action or (fill in the blank).

Staying hidden to be the nice guy only helps you to finish last, silent with a pile of unspoken resentments. Resentments bury unacknowledged wants. Growing up with this pattern does not mean it has to continue in adulthood.

Self-esteem requires the risk of defining yourself and letting people know. It can be very confusing to be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t speak up for themselves. A relationship where both people have self-esteem does mean having a relationship where there will be more struggles because there are often two different opinions instead of one that is dominant and the other that isn’t heard. The struggle is worth it because things are more interesting and better decisions are likely to come out of the struggle.

Self-esteem means saying “No” and being able to manage not being liked or getting rejected. If you are bad at this it only means you need more practice. Imagine if President Clinton had been more honest about having sex with Monica. There might be more respect for him even now.

So many apologies by Tiger Woods and other celebrities fall flat because they lack genuineness. Sincerity can only grow from honestly taking responsibility and coping with failure. The humility of acknowledging mistakes is part of building self-esteem that has real resonance.

Rocking the boat, saying no, coping with rejection, practicing choices and acknowledging the wants underneath rejection and wrestling with failure are all part of the path to authentic self-esteem.

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About the Rhoda Mills Sommer

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