Community//

Self-esteem is an illusion

More appropriately, perhaps, it is a delusion.

If you’re like most humans, you will have questioned and doubted yourself. You might have considered that you have low self-esteem.

Self-esteem can be described as one’s confidence in their abilities. It is the image you hold of yourself with regards to your place in the world.

This can be positive or negative.

It is by no means a stable thing because as I’m sure you’ve experienced, your opinion of yourself, and the behaviours that this leads to, vary considerably depending on the context.

For example, I once considered myself to have low confidence in a group conversation setting, such as in a class. As my turn approached to introduce myself, my heart would pound maniacally, and the only thing I could think of was whether the group would catch me out — that there was something wrong with me — that I was scared. That I had low self-esteem.

But when at my desk, pen in hand, writing and doodling and sketching — ideas pouring onto paper — I felt very confident in myself.

How can either low or high self-esteem possibly define who I was?

The mere fact that our perception of ourselves can vary so dramatically, and so subtly, depending on our environment, tells us that it simply does not exist.

It is a delusion.

It is a delusion that makes us believe in one very harmful falsehood:

Our environment determines our worth.

It does not.

How can it?

What others say or think about us determine our worth.

It does not.

How can it?

I’ve spent much of my life thinking that critical words from school mates, parents and teachers decreased my self-esteem.

I always saw that other people determined my worth, and thus how good I felt in life.

That’s also how a victim thinks, and it’s a trap.

When I realised that harsh words couldn’t possibly affect my self-esteem, I returned to feeling like — and being — an owner.

Responsible and robust and in control.

If there is one thing that decades of fear and over-thinking and healing and consideration have taught me, it’s this:

I am me, neither good or bad.

I am me, and I can do amazing things if I choose to.

The only thing that makes me think I lack confidence are my thoughts. That’s it. Ideas in my mind that I create.

We are only as ‘worthy’ as the thoughts we hold in our head — the lies — the stories — we entertain as truths.

Moment by moment.

You may think to yourself that you have had low self-esteem for a long time or a lifetime.

What you’re saying is that you habitually believe unpleasant thoughts about yourself.

It’s that simple.

It is the habit of engaging these thoughts that creates the illusion of personality — an illusion created by a web of repeated, unhelpful thinking.

To be free of a bad habit, replace it with a good one.

A better habit is to let go of unhelpful thoughts when they come up because you know they aren’t real.

Allow creative and encouraging insight to come up without effort, in the gaps created by the absence of painful thoughts.

It takes practice.

You are only one thought away from seeing the real truth, which is that you are you. Label-free and capable of tremendous things.

Things that do not define your worth. Things that reflect only actions repeatedly done.

Your environment does not affect your self-worth.

Circumstances have no bearing on your self-esteem.

People cannot influence your self-worth.

Because self-worth; self-esteem, does not exist.

You are you.

And the thoughts you choose to entertain.

When you can understand this; reflect deeply on it; internalise it:

You will be free.

If this stirred up something in you, please write a comment. Alex will read it.

Alex Mathers is a coach, writer and illustrator who helps ambitious people reach their full potential.

Subscribe to his newsletter for bonus content, or subscribe to his YouTube here for videos on self-development and building your business.

    The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Learn more or join us as a community member!
    Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

    Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

    Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

    Thrive Global
    People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

    - MARCUS AURELIUS

    We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.