Intellectual well-being does not rely only on education. Self-esteem is an important part of this particular core asset. What is self-esteem? Simply put, it is how you perceive yourself when you look in the mirror. Do you feel good about the person you see there? Do you feel angry or ashamed? How you feel about yourself directly or indirectly affects your mood, attitudes, thoughts, decision making, and relationships, and your overall ROI on intellectual and mental health.
Good self-esteem doesn't mean having a big ego. In reality, it is quite the opposite. People with healthy self-esteem have an innate sense of security, which actually allows them to see and accept their own imperfections. However, people with low self-esteem tend to have distorted views of themselves. Whether someone comes off as an overstuffed peacock or a shrinking violet, a distorted self-perception because of low self-esteem usually has little to do with what others actually think of that person. Whether positive or negative, the attitudes associated with self-esteem usually are the products of a lifetime, and they imprint on the fabric of the mind.
With the mind's ability to weave such unpleasant webs, how does anyone begin to get over the distorted realities generated by low self-esteem? If you have been suffering in any of these ways, the first thing to do is recognize the problem. It may be easier said than done; that is true of many things in life. But starting somewhere is the key. You have the ability to shift your perceptions. Don't avoid it -- own up to it and get to work.
It could take some time, especially if the blame game has been at work. But eventually you may be able to begin asking, "Why do I really feel this way?" Unraveling the sources of insecurity through self-examination is a move in the direction of healing. Employing one or more of the techniques for stress relief may be helpful. Your chance for insight may emerge when you slow down the spinning wheels in your mind.
Once you begin to ask questions, you can move to the next phase: getting to know yourself. Explore who you are inside -- your likes, your dislikes, and the values that drive your actions in the world. Most of all, get to know your foibles and even what you may see as your shortcomings. Get comfortable in your own skin. You don't have to be the person you think your mother wanted you to be or the person you want the public to believe you are. Recognize your own uniqueness, and you will discover unlimited potential.
As you wind your way through greater self-awareness, you will get to the place of realizing that no one is perfect. The perfectionist is the only one in need of constant approval. The ways in which you diverge from the norm in some way are the very traits people tend to appreciate and admire in others. If you deal with your perceived imperfections in a healthy way, that experience builds character and makes you stronger mentally.
When low self-esteem has you trying to hide your imperfections and shortcomings, life becomes stressful. The energy expended to keep secrets and hold back thoughts and feelings makes daily living exhausting. It is no wonder that when people share their imperfections, they feel like a big weight has been lifted from their shoulders.
Ultimately only you can help yourself reap the highest possible ROI on self-esteem. Many methods are out there to transition negative feelings to positive ones. Here is one I recommend: Take a leap of faith and share an honest moment with someone. Try telling someone about a trait of yours that you think is an imperfection. Sharing is a sign of strength, not weakness. It shows humbleness, earns respect, and makes friends. It is an act of high self-esteem and self-confidence. This simple moment of humility will help you get stronger in the all-important ability to respect and love yourself no matter the circumstance.
Sanjay Jain is a US-trained Board Certified physician, with over 15 years of clinical experience. He is the author of the new book, OPTIMAL LIVING 360: Smart Decision Making for a Balanced Life (Greenleaf, February 2014). Sanjay represents a new wave of thought leadership and expertise developed not only from his medical and financial education, but also his life experiences. Follow Sanjay on Twitter at @sanjayjainmd and visit his website at SanjayJainMD.com.