SELF-ESTEEM: THE ENDLESS TRIAL

It is often said that a dog is man's best friend...and that man is his own worst enemy! One of the main factors differentiating man from other animals is his awareness of "self." That is, the ability to form an identity and then assign it value. This capacity to define who you are and then decide if you like it or not is frequently referred to as "self-esteem."
<?xml:namespace prefix = o /> The ability to make these judgments is tied to our ongoing experiences from which we develop understandings or "models" of the world. These models or maps of reality are comprised of generalizations, deletions and distortions. Our ability to transfer information from a previous experience like driving away in a new car without having to take lessons again is an example of expanding our models through generalization. At times it is important to pay attention to a lecture, book, play, and filter-out or delete extraneous inputs. And then there are times when we distort or make shifts in our sensory experience in order to daydream about how we could be, plan the future, paint, or write fiction. While these aspects enable us to expand our models of the world, they can also become limitations. When we over- generalize, delete or distort our experiences in negative, self-deprecating, judgmental ways our self-esteem suffers. Our on-going experiences then include many painful occasions where we judge and reject ourselves. This leads to a further constriction of our models of the world, as we avoid those situations which could aggravate the pain of self- rejection.
"A marriage should last forever. Mine failed because I'm unlovable."
 "A real man supports his family. I was laid off, I'm a loser."
 "Nobody ever invites me anywhere."
 Negative self-evaluations can limit someone from meeting people, interviewing for a job, or striving to accomplish something that could possibly end in failure. It can restrict open communication with others, sexual expression, and the ability to ask for help, solve problems and accept constructive criticism. Thus, if you exhibit low self-esteem, you are constantly on trial. The jury is anything but sympathetic, and the stern, unforgiving judge knows not the meaning of compassion. You are sentenced to a lifetime of pain. Fortunately, there is an appeal process! To improve self-esteem it is useful to dissociate the negative experiences from the healthier, positive ones.  Perhaps some of you would care to try an exercise. Make yourselves comfortable, breathe slowly and relax...
 Begin by considering just one experience in your personal history where you were able to accomplish something of value from which you gained a feeling of comfort or satisfaction. Take all the time you need, and be sure you can picture it clearly (and be in that picture), and hear any sounds, as those feelings of comfort and strength emerge once more. Allow this experience to grow in intensity until it is all- consuming. This is now a resource you can take with you to the "appeals process."
 For those few individuals who may be thinking, "But I don't have any resource experiences in my personal history", pretend you do... and pay attention to whatever happens. While maintaining this experience, imagine seeing a glass barrier in front of your chair, with another "you" sitting on the other side. Watch that "you" seeing and listening to, still, another "you" making negative self-statements. You know, over generalizing from one instance of behavior; changing an on-going situation into an event by using distorted, pejorative labels ("I'm stupid"); deleting the positive aspects of an experience and commenting only on the bad; assuming everything has something to do with you and blaming yourself for those things. Now sitting in judgment of this process, with your resources, evaluate how specifically the "you" across the glass could experience yourself more positively. Be "his" healthy coach: The person of experience who is committed to helping you win! Taking your feelings of comfort and strength, explain to that "you" how he could rebut the other "you" by challenging those negative generalizations, deletions and distortions! When are those negative experiences not true? Allow the "you" across the glass to begin to experience the third "you" more positively. Pull them both back inside of you...case dismissed.