Develop Self Esteem


Develop Self Esteem


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Dealing with Low Self Esteem

by Arye Ackerman

A substantial majority of emotional or behavior problems are due to one common underlying factor, an unjustified and unwarranted feeling of low self-esteem. Low self-esteem is likely to interfere with family relationships, social relationships, occupation, spiritual growth and every aspect of ones life.

Dr. Abraham Twerski, M.D. the founder and medical director of the Gateway Rehabilitation Center in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, writes: "Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We feel as though we are worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value. The worth of our lives comes not in what we do or whom we know, but by WHO WE ARE. You are special - Don't EVER forget it."

He defines the meaning of low self-esteem as a feeling of inadequate, inferior, dull, socially inept, unattractive, unlikable and "alone against the world". You have nothing to offer or contribute. You don't think you are worthy of respect and love. You have no feeling of self-value and respect.

People who have negative self-images are extraordinary sensitive. Their egos are so fragile that they anticipate that their imaginary defects will be noticed. The most profound feelings of low self-esteem paradoxically occur most often in those people and children who in reality are most gifted.

Evaluating events in a negative way make you feel, sad, depressed, miserable, angry and anxious. Believing you are inferior, untalented, unimportant, influences your actual ability to achieve those traits. If you view yourself as unable to and not capable of achieving a goal, you actually wont be able to achieve it, even if you have sufficient and adequate qualifications to achieve that goal.

Early experiences can impact greatly on the beliefs we have about ourselves. Certainly parents, teachers, and other adults can do a great deal to make the road to self-esteem easier or harder. What you believe about yourself and your abilities serves as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Your self-image is not an objective reality. It is based on who you think you are and what you are like. It is based on messages you received from your parents, brothers, sisters, friends, classmates, teachers, neighbors, and everyone else you met in your life.

While we cannot change the world or our past, we can change how we relate to them. There is nothing you can do to change the way you were treated in your childhood but you can change the way you think and feel in the present. Evaluating something in a positive way will always make you feel happy.

Self-esteem is comprised of two principle ingredients, feelings of competence and feelings of value. A person with a healthy self esteem loves, appreciates himself and thanks G-d for what He has given him. You have a positive outlook on life and look at each new day as an opportunity to learn, to experience the world and to achieve your goals.

Your feelings of self-respect are independent of others. You do not allow others to control you, but you do not feel the need to control others. You look at life and it's difficulties as challenges and opportunities for personal growth. You are commanded by G-d to strive, not necessarily to succeed. A person should recognize that that he has intrinsic value and worth and is a competent and capable individual.

Your emotions exist in order to motivate you to take an action. Guilt signals one to change. Pain signals one to care for oneself, and boredom, depression or anxiety, signals oneself to bring about change.

Many people experiencing emotional or behavioral difficulties, who seek psychiatric treatment for depression, have been depressed for most of their life as a result of their negative self-image. Anti-depressant medications will usually not help these people. Instead of the therapist trying to figure out what is wrong with his client, he may try to point out to his client, what is right with him.

Cheshbon Hanefesh, which is self-criticism, can be beneficial for you when you think of ways to improve. The Torah gives intrinsic meaning to all life regardless what he can or has achieved. The Torah commands each person to try, and try again, but not to believe that success is totally contingent on his particular behavior and effort. When this belief is in place, a person will not experience anger or depression even if he fails. Nowhere is a Jew commanded to succeed, but rather to act according to the commandments of the Torah. The person acts and G-d decides which path history will take.

Having weaknesses does not make you incompetent or a failure. The real purpose of life is to become the best person you can become and to utilize your abilities for good.

Self-esteem and happiness are interdependent. It is difficult or impossible to have a healthy self-esteem without being happy. In a home with true Torah and Simcha (happiness), where parents suspend their judgment of G-d and accept G-d's ways, it is likely that young children will absorb this. If parents only verbalize their faith but in practice do not have true acceptance of G-d's ways, their children are apt to follow suit.

Hope is to joy what despair is to depression. A Torah person, even in the depths of problems should find hope in his faith that G-d will never abandon him. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov said there is no such thing in reality as hopelessness. Despair does not exist. Despair is a distortion of reality and a hallucination.

Self-esteem does not solve all the problems of life. Struggle is intrinsic to life. Sooner or later everyone experiences anxiety and pain. While self-esteem can make one less vulnerable, it cannot make one ignorant of his feelings.

Think of self-esteem as the immune system of consciousness. If you have a healthy immune system, you might become ill, but you are less likely to; if you do become ill, you will likely recover faster, your resilience is greater. Similarly, if you have high self-esteem, you might still know times of emotional suffering, but less often and with a faster recovery. Its presence does not guarantee fulfillment, but its absence guarantees anxiety, frustration and despair.

Our sages mentioned the subject of self-esteem and ways to correct this flaw in character, in many of the Holy Books. The one solution helpful to everybody is, support and encouragement. King Solomon said, " When you have worry in your heart, speak to somebody". Rabbi Elemelech from L'znsk says in the "zetel katan", a person should find a friend who he can trust and speak about his faults and get support from him. A proven method to achieving a positive self-image is to acknowledge and share your anxious feelings with others.

Self-esteem support groups, provides support and encouragement. A group will help you recognize your potential, skills, talents and abilities and help you realize that you're not the only one with this problem.

The purpose of working the 12 steps of self-esteem is much the same as that of working the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous; namely, to free ourselves of a pathologic dependency and to get support.

It takes participants on a journey toward self-discovery by enhancing self-awareness, identity formation, self theory and goal setting. You will walk away inspired and motivated to reach for new levels of accomplishment and personal growth.

If you would like to join a 12 step self-esteem support group, or invite Arye Ackerman to deliver a lecture to your organization, school, religious group or in your home, please contact Rabbi Arye Ackerman (in Jerusalem) at 053-468346 972-2-5868295, (212-5615920 Israel time) or write,

For more information please visit visit the 12 Steps to Self Esteem website:

Rabbi Arye Ackerman lives in Ramot, Jerusalem. He is a qualified psychotherapist and has received the blessings and guidance of Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski and Rabbi Roll, Director of 12 Steps to Self Esteem to facilitate self-esteem support groups.


from the February 2004 Edition of the Jewish Magazine




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