Self-Esteem Is at Your Fingertips

Do you use your own inner tools or do you hand over that power to others?

Posted Feb 23, 2021

Kalen Emsley/Unsplash
Hiking in the moment
Source: Kalen Emsley/Unsplash

Years ago, I went on a reportedly gorgeous guided hike that was filled with killer views and exciting twists and turns. I set out with a great attitude. But for me (not a natural athlete by any means and scared of heights to boot) those twists and turns became far from exciting. They were terrifying.

I forced myself to breathe, as I channeled my inner mountain goat up and down the narrow, dusty trail, praying I wouldn't fall to my death before sundown. I took no pictures — no smiling selfies with the mountains in the distance. I glanced up twice and briefly caught magnificence, but quickly directed my eyes back to that rocky path. Afterward, when questioned about the awesomeness of the experience, I could only laugh and mutter, "Literally, all I saw were my boots."  

I'll never forget the experience of that day.  It didn't build my ego or act as an esteem booster. But I learned to ask a few more questions about the difficulty of my next trek. 

Self-esteem is built on so many things; breadth of knowledge and seeing your place in the world as meaningful, challenging yourself and living out what you value, experiencing one’s self as making a difference, liking who you are, enjoying connection with others who are supportive and loving — and there are more.

Yet where is your sense of esteem or worth actually coming from? 

Selfies might seem at first to indicate comfort with yourself. Taking selfies of what you ate, what you did, who you saw, where you were, what was funny or what was sad — they could easily appear as if you're quite comfortable with yourself, enjoying the moment, and cataloging each one precisely. 

But that's not the way it often works. Multiple poses are sifted through until you get the “best” pic or video; filters and all kinds of add-ons are used to make it stand out. You've got to make it perfect. And then sadly, self-esteem doesn't grow because you tried something, or you risked, or you challenged yourself. No... the source of your esteem can change from the experience itself to how much social media attention the post about the experience receives. 

So, do you find your worth in the challenge of climbing the mountain or in savoring that others “like” the picture of you climbing the mountain? The first you have control over. The second — you don't. With the first, you can be absorbed in the present. The second? Not only do you not have control over others' reactions, but your heart and mind are focusing more on what may happen in the future — what others will have to say — rather than in the doing of it.  

You may be willingly (but perhaps not intentionally) handing the tools you have to build your self-esteem over to others. 

And that will backfire. 

What's the point?

Living in the present, for the present, and valuing what you're creating builds true self-esteem. 

Often, after someone's divorced or a relationship has ended and they're struggling with loneliness, I'll ask them to watch a sunset. By themselves. Often, they'll say, "Why would I want to do that?" 

"Because it's in the moment, when you're seeing the colors, noting how relatively slowly or quickly the sun can seem to disappear, hearing how nature is responding to the end of daylight — all of that is your experience. And yours alone. And it's through those unique experiences — that awareness that's unique to you — that you build self-esteem.

"I watched a sunset. I thought it was beautiful. I enjoyed the time I spent doing that, by myself."

All the "I's" reflect feeling yourself very much in the present. Your present. Your hour and day. 

Take a picture if you like. Post it wherever. No problem.

But don't forget to notice you. And the importance of the moment because you lived it.