06/04/2010 03:36 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Returning To Self-Love

I've always wanted to do important things. I don't know where that came from, but since I was a little girl I felt the pull for something "big".

As I grew up, that inner feeling turned into inner drive and some of my desire to do "big" things started to be associated with career success. All of that would have been fine if along the way I didn't lose -- or maybe I never had -- the ability to appreciate qualities and accomplishments of mine that I didn't judge by the same standards I considered material success. That was my loss and the result; a steady decline in self-esteem.

We live in a world, especially in the US, where others -- but most importantly ourselves -- judge worth by accomplishments. Character, integrity, kindness are moral successes that don't get much recognition. Yes, we all say "he is nice" or "she is nice" to describe character, but how much do we truly value that?

How many films depict the good kids as unpopular while the mean kids are popular? Of course, at the end of the film the good kids get to show they have more value than the mean kids because they value people over status.

In real life, we are often influenced by TV shows, magazines and newspapers to admire or watch the lives of those who behave badly but do it all with plenty of glamor. This keeps us coming back for more.

I don't have children, but if I did, I would be very concerned about the values my kids would be adopting as their own if they tried to be as cool as whoever the "now" singer/actor is today. In reality, the lives of celebrities are often a complete mess, and not model to follow.

Bottom line is: having our sense of self worth tied to things outside ourselves is a lose-lose situation, as there will always be someone else more successful in terms of career and/or money. In the meantime what is profound -- a sum of our choices, interpretations, and experiences -- which make up our characters, ends up giving us no self-satisfaction.

It is only by slowing our pace down, reflecting on what truly brings us contentment, and living a life with focus that we get to reassign our value system to something that is actually more satisfying. We can continue to strive for success, but we don't have to obliterate who we are in the process. Only we know our truth, our needs. And when we turn inwards for respect and strength how others see or judge us, no longer matters because we know.

Our life energy comes from within. And if what lies within is not valued, life becomes a chore. So I for one am hard at work at looking at my life based on the person that I am.

To free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves - there lies the great, singular power of self-respect. ~Joan Didion