Do you value yourself unconditionally?

How do you know to value yourself? 

Is your worth dependent upon the acknowledgment and appreciation of others?
Do you have unconditional self-esteem?

  • Imagine someone at work gives you some negative feedback, do you take it personally or think of it as an opportunity to learn something?
  • If your partner isn’t happy, do you take it upon yourself to do things you imagine will make them happier?
  • Do you go out of your way to make sure others, think, feel and act positively to you, like you, love you… just be your friend?

If any of these questions are resonating for you, it’s possible you have made your self-esteem conditional.

What does that mean?  Conditional self-esteem is when we value and esteem ourselves based on the approval of others, or anything outside of ourselves.  Things like our job, our house, how much money we make and more importantly our relationships, especially when experiencing a separation or betrayal.

The esteem we hold ourselves in is ‘conditional’ upon our ability to measure up to the values and expectations of others.  Unfortunately this model of thinking, sets us up for all sorts of limited thinking and destructive behaviour patterns.

Whenever our self-esteem is in question or we feel it is being threatened, we can spend a lot of mental energy defending, protecting and resisting these imaginary threats.  Our behaviour and thinking shifts into defending our existential identity.  In this state, our energy and vitality is sapped creating all sorts of problems for us.

What’s really interesting is that when we were toddlers, we didn’t understand the concept of self-esteem, it simply didn’t exist.  Have you ever noticed how toddlers will literally do anything without any shame?  They talk to anyone, do anything, make mistakes, fall over, wee themselves… without any concept that this behaviour is going to make them bad or good.

When did you learn to judge yourself?

At some point in your life, you also had a sense of being yourself without any judgement – there was no up or down self-esteem, based on the approval or disapproval of others.  This understanding really came to the forefront for me, when I separated from a long term relationship. I had based my identity and value on being in that relationship, being a ‘good’ partner and doing what I judged to be ‘right’.  My conditional self-esteem, reached an all time low as a result of discovering a traumatic betrayal – I walk in on them in bed together… I couldn’t help but see the betrayal as something that I had done wrong, there must have been something wrong with me, why else would he have rejected me so painfully? I spent a very painful length of time wondering what could I have done to change things or make it better…?

It was like a living in a mental hell that I couldn’t find the answers for. It deeply affected how I saw myself and that trickled through to my working relationships, friendships and my behaviours.  But I was blind to it, too busy defending these imaginary threats instead of taking pragmatic action.

When I learnt how to develop unconditional self-esteem, everything changed. It was like a switch went off.  Being able to stop placing my value in transient things changed the inner game for me. My worth and how I saw myself was no longer being held to ransom by things outside of my control…

So what is Conditional & Unconditional Self-esteem?

Conditional self-esteem; some of you are going to think you are valuable when your relationships are really good and people love you.  We tend to love ourselves when people love us, right?  Or perhaps its when you have lots of money, have the most amazing job or when your behaviours are really perfect etc… whatever your ‘conditions’ are.   But these are transient things.  It means that everything out in the world, that you have no control over, are constantly changing and throughout your entire life these things will change.

Your relationships right now will not be the relationships you have 10 years from now. Even if the same people are in those relationships the relationship itself will be different. The quality of the relationship will have changed.

Your behaviours change throughout any given day and your emotions can change minute by minute – they are never the same, constantly changing.  So all of these things outside of you are constantly changing, right?

It should make sense then, if you are placing your value (and self worth) on any of these things, you are placing your worth on a house of cards, on shifting sands.   It is always going to be a rollercoaster ride.

One day your job is secure, the next it’s not. One day you make lots of money, the next you spend it.  You’re relationships can be fragile; even if you do something beautiful and loving – someone can interpret it in the wrong way and now you’re in conflict.  These things are ALWAYS changing.

What hasn’t changed is YOU.  Your thoughts might have been different ten years ago, but it was still you having them, right? You’re body might have changed over the years, but it is still you experiencing that body, right? The sound of your voice and accent might have changed slightly from when you were a baby, but it is still you saying the things you say, right? You exist regardless of external conditions.  You exist unconditionally, right?

You have two options

You can choose to place your value on one of these things that is constantly changing or many of these things, if you wish.  But your value is always going to be up or down and you are going to have to live the rest of your life managing/manipulating your relationships, with family, friends, partners and work colleagues… not just for the practical reasons of managing them healthily but also because they are now constant threats to your sense of identity and how you value yourself.  OR

You can go back to how you used to be, once upon a time! And abandon this whole notion of up and down self-esteem.  You can choose to place your value on who you are as a person.  On your identity, on the inner most part of you.  Your Soul, Your Being, Your Spirit, whatever word make sense for you.   But YOU as the experiencer of these things.  That is the other option that’s available for you.

The choice is yours

As a coach, its not my job to tell you what to do and I’m definitely not telling you that you SHOULD place your value on who you are as a person. That’s totally up to you.  But here are the pros and cons:-

Most of us experience and know the pros and cons of conditional self-esteem.  Pros being, sometimes you get to feel good and the cons are a lot of the time you get to feel bad.  Even when you feel good, you constantly have to keep certain things in check just to make yourself feel valuable as a person.

The pros and cons of valuing yourself unconditionally; you never have to deal with up and down self-esteem ever again. You can stop chasing trying to be someone and already BE someone. You can express yourself from the love of expressing to give, to express, to be fully self-expressed rather than to get, to fill a hole, to fill a need, a need to be valuable.

What is the functional value of artificially making your self esteem go up and down?

There is no function to that.
In fact what happens when you make your self-esteem go up and down is that the results are ONLY negative.  You stop dealing directly with reality, with challenges at hand and now you create extra challenges for yourself.  Now you are trying to do an amazing speech (or project whatever that is) AND trying to protect your sense of self from this threat that is only coming from within.

If you’ve been following so far… This is going to beg the question; “ok how do I make my self esteem unconditional?” And here is the funny thing about self esteem – only you can esteem yourself.

It’s called SELF esteem, not OTHER PERSON esteem or EVERYONE’S APPROVAL esteem. It’s self esteem – what does the word esteem mean?  It means to value and to appraise.  So it’s an appraisal that you are making in your mind.  Its no different from if I were to ask you what’s your favourite colour?  No one can change that for you.  All you need to do is make the decision, for yourself.  This is what I choose, this is MY favourite.

What I’m highlighting here is that you don’t need to wait for anything, you don’t need permission.  There is nothing to wait for, it is simply a declaration.  If you have a healthy sense of self.  This is where you start:  You decide, you declare, first to you, that you are worthy that you are somebody, that you are born a human being.

Of course you may say this to yourself, but not feel it and that’s ok, because it’s pretty normal. Especially in the beginning if you’ve been telling yourself for a long time that your value depends on things (external to self) then your feelings are going to be connected to those THINGS.

The more you think something the stronger the pathway will become and the more you will feel it. So in the beginning you might say to yourself, from this point forward; I decide I declare that “I am worthy, I am a human being and I am as worthy as anyone else”.

We are all worthy.

We are pieces of stars themselves, we are children of the universe, and if religiously minded, you are a child of God – what could be more valuable?

Put your declaration in a place where you can see and read it daily. Practice developing unconditional self-esteem and watch the miracles happen around you.

Let me know in the comments what ways you experience unconditional self-esteem and how has bringing awareness to it changed things for you…