Feeling Good About Yourself

Dear Terrence,

What are some of the things about yourself, about your life, about your future that make you feel good about yourself? What are the things in your life that are sources of pride? When you’re down, feeling a little low about yourself, what do you think about to remind yourself that you’re valuable, that you’re worth something? In short, what can you do to give your self-esteem a quick fix?

I have many sources of pride in my life. Most immediately, I’m proud of my family: my wife and my children make me feel like I am truly a valuable person. Other things I take pride in are my job (as a teacher, my job is essentially to help people), my time overseas (an experience that was as challenging as it was rewarding), and the respect and admiration of my colleagues (something I’ve worked hard to develop). When I’m feeling upset about something, I can think about or interact with these elements of my life, and I feel a little better as a result.

Occasionally, one of these very elements of my life leaves me upset. A bad day at school, an argument with my wife, an unsuccessful interaction with my daughter: all of these things can leave me a bit down, feeling a little less valuable, a little less important. Those moments are tricky, because I’m feeling bad about something which usually causes me to feel good.

That is the case today, because today you showed me, in no uncertain terms, that the best way for you to get your fix, the best way for you to feel better about yourself is to make someone else miserable through mocking, teasing, taunting, threatening, and seemingly countless other forms of bullying. It’s depressing to think of what your victim is going through, but it’s almost more tragic to think of what you’re screaming at the top of your lungs with those actions.

  • “I have no self-esteem!”
  • “I look inside myself and I see little of any beauty.”
  • “I feel horrible about myself!”
  • “I hate myself.”
  • “I’m so afraid of what others will see if they look closely at me that I will do everything I can to deflect attention to someone else.”
  • “I am terrible.”
  • “I look inside myself and I see nothing — nothing — of any value.”
  • “I am dumb.”
  • “I am ugly.”

None of these things are true. You’re not dumb, ugly, terrible, or worthless.

You’re not any of these things, and you don’t have to try to make others feel they are just so you can feel equal. Pulling someone down is impossible: you can only pull yourself down. Or up.

You’re not any of these things, and insulting, threatening, and belittling others  does not raise you up in everyone’s eyes. It lowers you.

You’re not any of these things because you’re a human being, full of dignity and deserving respect. Perhaps you’ve not gotten enough dignity and respect yourself from others around you. But does it really help you feel better to pass that pain on to others?

Concerned and in defense of others,
Your teacher

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