Self esteem is a bit of an unreliable way to gauge how we are feeling in life. People talk about good self-esteem, low self-esteem, high self-esteem (and probably loads more too!) but is this where we need to be putting our attention to?
Compassion would tell us no. Cultivating compassion for ourselves helps us develop the skills and qualities to understand why it is that we are feeling up, down or somewhere in between. Cultivating means growing, playing around with, trying out, and having fun. Most of all compassion is the motivation to want to help any pain or discomfort we are in.
Imagine there was a part of you that totally understood why you experience any emotional difficulties that you do. That this part understood being a human was really tricky and involved us suffering from difficult emotions. Imagine this part totally understands why we find things tricky and didn’t judge us because we have a brain that is wired to rapidly detect threat and that the things we find most difficult in life we didn’t choose and aren’t out fault.
Well we do. This inner ally, this friend that’s always on our side is in all of us for the taking. It’s about finding the strength, courage and commitment to face our darkside (cue Starwars music). Because we all have one, we all have thoughts and feelings we don’t want people to know we have. We all experience highs and lows, because we all (typically) have the same brain structure and this structure means we are vulnerable to dangerous and difficult things happening in it.
So let’s cultivate a compassionate response to our changing feelings rather than relying on the judgement that goes with esteem. Esteem doesn’t really give us the skills and qualities to cope with the demands of life. Compassion does.
Here is a link to some great self-compassion cultivating exercises. These are scientifically proven to change our brains and create more helpful responses to difficulties. Powerful stuff. Start with Soothing Rhythm Breathing and take it from there. Have fun.