"...although the subject of self-esteem has generated a fair amount of controversy over the past few decades, it's clear that we don't get healthy self-esteem from constantly telling ourselves how great we are, or even from other people telling us how great we are. We get healthy self-esteem from behaving in ways that we find worthy of our own respect -- such as helping other people." Gretchen Rubin, Happier at Home
I read a lot, but I am not an annotator. It is a rare passage that inspires me to underline, highlight, or mark in any way, the page of a precious book. But this passage resonated deeply with me; possibly because a healthy self-esteem is an elusive creature for me, or possibly because I cannot seem to help saying "yes" to almost any project that might do some good, no matter how much time I have to devote to said project. I underlined and highlighted this passage, and bent the page over. It is the most definitive explanation of how to attain a healthy self-image I have found.
I am a negative self-talker. People laud the self-effacing humor, thinking it unassuming and humble, I suppose. I think, and this may be assuming the worst, but I really think that people love put-down humor, and putting yourself down is a way to participate in put-down humor while maintaining the image of being "nice." That's neither here nor there; I have a bad habit of starting statements with things like, "I'm not a particularly brilliant person, but..." or "I have literally no artistic talent, but..." It drives my therapist crazy; she is constantly trying to get me to reframe the way I speak, "I enjoy doing art" without the qualifying "no talent" bit.
There is one part of my life where I never put myself down, and that is when I am doing work for Relay. We've put on some good events these past few years, and while I am in no way responsible for the outcome, I certainly had a hand in it. I am proud of our Relays, of the work we put into our Relays. I'm not uncomfortable when I speak in front of the participants, or talk to patients, or any other aspect of my work with the American Cancer Society. Why not? I think of myself as rather uneducated and undisciplined, but I respect a giving personality, and so, when I am doing that work, I respect myself.
The trick is to apply that self-respect to the rest of my life.