I pondered on this question for a while, “do I need a reason to appreciate myself or can I just appreciate myself unconditionally?”
Appreciating yourself is a byproduct of a healthy self-esteem.
I couldn’t believe those who claim that we can appreciate ourselves just like that. Without any reason. You can’t sit there and appreciate your lazy ass without doing anything with your life!
I know people like that and they, trust me, don’t appreciate themselves.
At the same time, I’m not convinced by the claims that money, jobs, relationships, or any other social standard can actually make you appreciate yourself.
I know people who have all that and yet they are not anywhere near self-appreciation. And I know people who have almost none of that and yet have a strong sense of self.
So, what’s the catch?
Do we need a reason (or reasons) to have a healthy self-esteem and to appreciate ourselves?
Do we need reasons in order to feel confident?
It would be beautiful if we just could have a healthy self-esteem by doing nothing. But it’s not practical or possible.
After some thinking, I came to the realization that, unfortunately, yes we do need a reason (or reasons).
However, it’s not what you think. The reasons that you need to appreciate yourself are not what you think.
There are right reasons and wrong reasons.
Let’s explain how.
Values control everything in your life
Before we understand what kind of reasons we need to feel good about ourselves, we need to understand what values are.
When you value something, it means that you find it extremely important.
So, your values are the things that you consider extremely important in your life. And based on the order of these values (the important stuff), you’ll spend your time in ways that help you move towards those values.
And at any point in your life, your values are the metrics by which you measure your progress in life. Self-esteem included.
Someone who values health will spend a considerable amount of his time and energy working out and eating healthy. If he couldn’t sustain his health, he would feel very bad.
Someone who values success and accomplishments will spend a lot of time building businesses and building his resume. He’ll feel hopeless if he fails to reach the level of success that he wants.
Those people are measuring their fulfillment and probably happiness against their values. Whenever their direction in life is aligned with what they value, they’ll be in the seventh cloud.
And most probably they got these values because of major life events. A major health issue may force someone to take care of himself more. Financial issues may make some people ambitious.
One important thing to note is that some values are good while other values are bad.
There are some things that you can allow to be the most important things in your life. And there are other things that should never be the most important things in your life. Unless you want to suffer.
With that in mind, let’s see how all this can help us answer the question of this article, “Do I need a reason to appreciate myself?”
The right reasons are connected to the right values
Let me first give you examples of bad values. Values that will turn you into a miserable, sad arrogant:
- Approval seeking and fitting in (yep, that can be a value. Someone who doesn’t want to upset anyone).
- Superiority and impressing people.
- Anything materialist…
…to mention only a few.
They are all about the outside world and the other people around you. Impressing them or having the upper hand.
But on the other side, we have good values. Here are a few examples:
- Growth and development.
- Giving and contribution.
- Connection and empathy.
…to mention only a few.
They are all about the inner world and yourself as an individual.
Having the bad values at the top of your value’s list is bad. We all can have some degrees of them, but to have them as core values is dangerous.
Now, how all this applies to the self-esteem?
Look at my job, it’s so damn cool!!
If someone derives his self-worth from, for example, his job, he is in for troubles. And he’ll never truly experience real, lasting self-confidence.
And the same goes for deriving self-worth from relationships, the number of friends, money, cars, status, fame, power, looks, and even intelligence.
Simply because these things that we use as reasons to feel good about ourselves and to feel worthy are all about the wrong, bad values.
They, deep inside, are about impressing other people. Getting other people’s attention. Making other people feel small because of you. Or even hurting other people (emotionally at least).
And when driven by bad values, one can never, ever, totally appreciate himself or what he is doing.
After all, those bad values, as mentioned above, are aimed at pleasing or impressing or intimidating other people. (That indicates fear as we’re going to see)
They might make other people appreciate you. But they will never make you appreciate yourself. And because you can’t appreciate yourself, those people will eventually see that and stop appreciating you.
But when someone derives his self-worth from reasons that are linked to good values, it’s a different game.
If he has a nice job, it’ll not be where his self-worth comes from. His self-worth will come from the fact that he is growing and developing. His self-worth may even come from the fact that he’s helping other people.
He may have nice relationships. And his romantic relationship rocks. But that is not where his actual self-worth comes from; his self-esteem comes from connection and empathy.
The reasons for his self-appreciation are about his values. And his values are about fulfilling himself. They are not about impressing other people.
Shift your values to shift your self-esteem
Since it’s all about the right reasons and, ultimately, the right values, it makes sense to examine your values honestly and openly.
First, you need to figure out your values. You can do that by asking questions.
What is the most important thing to you?
Why do you do what you do?
What kind of reward, if any, do you wait for when you do something?
If the answers include anything about impressing other people or getting approval and applause, you have got some work to do.
You need to have values that are about fulfilling your needs and impressing yourself and developing yourself.
Two people can be doing the same behavior. One is doing it to impress people. One is doing it to grow, satisfy his needs, and for the sheer joy of doing it.
The first one will always struggle with self-esteem. He’s doing probably the right things but for the wrong reasons (and the wrong values).
The other one will get to experience real self-confidence and a solid sense of self that is reflected in the way he presents himself to the world.
He’s about the right values. The values that include growth and development and not impressing or pleasing.
But be careful. Sometimes you need to practice brutal honesty with yourself. You may tell yourself that you’re doing what you’re doing because you want to help other people while in fact, you want to impress them. Yep, self-deception!
You need to be honest with yourself. In my book The Art of Change, I said that a certain amount of self-awareness is the first step to any personal breakthrough. And without honesty, one can’t get become somehow self-aware. And without courage, one can’t be honest with him/herself.
So you need some courage. It’s hard but very necessary. Sorry! There’s no easier way, at least not one that I know of.
In my experience, growth (self-growth) is one of the best values that can help you have a healthy self-esteem.
The feeling that you’re growing and becoming more and knowing more and doing more is amazing.
Contribution and giving are also great. Giving and sharing not to get something in return, but to really help people and watch them become better. That’s priceless.
But what makes bad values bad?
The last thing I want to discuss with you is the reason that makes bad values bad and that makes good values good.
It’ll help you put everything into its place.
Bad values suck for one reason. They suggest that you are afraid of other people’s opinions and reactions.
If one of your priorities is to impress people and get them to like you, what does that say about you?
If you want people to like you or respect you, and you use for that your resources from money or looks to impress them, what does that say about you?
If you want to look perfect all the time and make no ridicules mistakes, is it because you are a sane person?
It’s because you care a lot about their opinions, even more than you care about your own opinions.
And because you care that much, you deprive your self-respect from them.
But guess what, most people don’t have much respect for such people. Do you like those who try to impress you all the time and look superior while deep down you feel that they just pretend to be strong and powerful? Neither do I.
The real motives and the real reasons (and the real values) will eventually show up.
On the other hand, good values rock because they are about fulfilling your needs and impressing yourself. They suggest that you do care about yourself; that you respect yourself enough to work on it.
That’s why you do all the things that you do. And that’s why you find a reason to appreciate yourself in everything that you do, regardless of what people think.
We admire such people. They don’t care that much about our admiration; they care more about their own values and what they believe in.
Hardly will you see them trying to impress others or trying to fit in.
They show appreciation and respect to themselves by the actions that they do. They’re doing them to themselves.
Be one of them. Not to get liked and admired, but to live your life driven by values that promote courage, honesty, and contribution.
And counter-intuitively, some people will really get impressed by you and like you. But here you will not experience superiority or receive credit for being amazing. Here you will experience deep connection, one of the best gifts life has to offer.