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by Maureen Cromey
An Acupuncturist and Chinese Medicine Expert
“Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself one doesn’t need others approval. Because one accepts oneself the whole world accepts him or her.”
- Lao Tzu
Self-esteem is a belief and confidence in your own ability. Self-esteem is important because our sense of worth and self-value affects the way we are and the way we act in the world. It also affects how we relate to everybody else. Nothing in the way we think, feel, decide or act escapes the influence of self-esteem. The consequences of inadequate sense of self-esteem are life changing. We make choices on careers, we seize opportunities and we manage relationships according to our feelings of self-worth.
People with a healthy level of self-esteem are able to act according to what they think to be the best choice, not feeling guilty when others do not like their choice. They do not lose time worrying excessively about what has happened in the past nor what could happen in the future. They learn from the past and plan for the future, but live happily in the present. They can ask others for help if they need it, they trust their judgement and consider themselves equal in dignity to others whilst accepting differences. They can accept criticism and they can effectively manage their inner critic which is the negative internal voice which we all have.
Low self-esteem results in heavy self-criticism and dissatisfaction, hypersensitivity to criticism and chronic indecision for fear of mistakes. It affects relationships where a lack of self-worth means that a person will tolerate very poor or abusive treatment rather than take action. They do not feel that they deserve love or happiness and in fact often practice self-sabotage.
Self-esteem levels vary with time of life and situation and can improve or indeed diminish with experiences and life situations. Traditional Chinese Medicine sees the mind, emotions, psyche and physical body as being the whole person and each person belongs to and is part of the Tao, or the Universe.
Self-esteem, the love and respect and contentment you have for yourself is all about acceptance and love within Taoism. A healthy self-esteem is simply an acceptance of who you are, and the situation you are in.
It is not a helpless inert acceptance but a dynamic act where we work within the frame of the Tao, or what is happening at that moment. This means that we accept a situation, adapt to it and go with the flow.
So if you have low self-esteem and you meet people who are critical of you in some way you may try to please them by assuming that they are right and that you may well be at fault. You will be ignoring your inner voice and doubting your own wisdom or intuition. The action taken as a consequence of this experience will not often be right for you; it will have gone against your nature and path and will inevitably lead to a feeling of emptiness or disappointment. You will not like yourself for making this choice and may start to feel angry or frustrated. Trying to compensate for poor choices often compounds the mistakes and very quickly a person with low self-esteem can end up emotionally bereft, lonely, depressed or simply feeling 'not right'. Not knowing what is missing and unable to reconnect with their true nature, feelings of depression, addictive behaviour, self-sabotage and anger can easily flow from this situation.
To correct poor self-esteem is to learn to listen to and love and respect your True Nature. To accept that you are as important and as worthy of love as anyone else in the whole universe.
This can be attained through counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy, spiritual practice or meditation. It can be fostered by nurturing, gentle supportive relationships and active encouragement and genuine praise from teachers, employers, friends and family.
Years of low self-esteem, and associated problems lead to terrible energy imbalances within the body and organ systems. Nagging recurring thoughts, poor appetite, depression, anxiety, insomnia and self-loathing all respond to acupuncture treatment. It works because it redresses these imbalances and once your energy is better and you feel better, the way is clear to feel greater contentment and acceptance of self. This sort of transformation does not occur over night but by gradual subtle shifting. It is like the dawn break, first there is a gentle breeze, a small light and nuance of bird song and gradually as the sun rises, energy and strength flow into the world and we see light and feel a fresh thrill. The yang energy of the earth rises and the Tao rolls on transforming yin of the night into the hope of a new day.
For a person who has suffered from low self-esteem to finally feel self-love and inner confidence and contentment is like being given a new life. The Acceptance and inner calm of healthy self-esteem leads the way to correct and nurturing decisions and protects from self-doubt and loathing.
As Mark Twain said “The worst loneliness is not to be comfortable with yourself”