Do you suffer from low self-esteem? Yeah… so do I.
I’ve had low self-esteem my whole life. As a child I was teased and tormented about my weight, either too fat or too skinny. My body was never good enough. I was never simply “acceptable” … My crooked teeth, my quiet voice that only got quieter with the bullying, and the fact that no matter how good my work was, I was somehow always slower than everyone else. Or, at least it seemed so in my younger years.
Growing up is hard. I’m sorry if that has been your experience, too. I suspect none of us walk away from our childhoods unscathed. For many of us, that is where our low self-esteem began.
One may suppose that the key to healing from low self-esteem is to develop high self-esteem. However, I beg to differ from conventional wisdom. I base my thinking about self-esteem around Svadhyaya, the yogic practice of Self-study.
Svadhyaya is usually associated with studying sacred texts. While this is one way to do Svadhyaya, the practice truly shines when it gives us a way to more deeply understand the truth of who we are. Studying sacred texts may be part of our process, but so may be reflective journaling, psychotherapy, and other healing practices.
High self-esteem glorifies our ego. Now, don’t get me wrong. I do not believe the ego is “bad”. In my opinion, the ego is neither bad nor good. Our ego gives us a sense of identity in the physical world and can be used as a tool to interact with other people. From this perspective, the ego is relatively neutral.
However, our egos are impermanent. They are not the truth of who we are. Putting all of our time and energy into building high self-esteem is like building a house on sand. It will look pretty until the foundation is shaken, the house crumbles, and we have to start the process all over again.
At our deepest, most intrinsic level we are, as Carl Sagan so poignantly said, “Made of Star Stuff.” Indeed, we are divine beings in human bodies. This is not to glorify the spirit and admonish the physical. Both are needed and necessary in their own regards. However, each belongs in its proper context. Therefore, rather than using time and energy boosting our self-esteem, it may be more helpful to cultivate a greater
awareness of Self.
That being said, let us be kind to one another and through our example teach our children to be kind to one another as well…. Because no matter what yogic theory says, it still hurts when we are mean to each other.