Do You Have High Self-esteem? Can You Tell Me How to Get It?
Is This a House of God?
For nearly two years, between 1989 and 1991, our family volunteered to be a “host home” for a drug rehab that our son Jonathan was in. At the time, I was 36, my husband was 39, and we had nine children ranging in age from 6 months to 16 years old. Like most of the other families in the program, we were encouraged to be a “host home” for the clients—even though we lived in Londonderry, New Hampshire, which was one and one-half hours away from the rehab in Massachusetts—and we agreed to participate. This was a real challenge and huge sacrifice for our family, but I was willing to do anything I could because I believed it was going to be the best way to help Jonathan, get him off drugs, and save his life.
We had many wonderful experiences with the numerous teenagers from the drug rehab who came to live with us. During that time, over 100 teenagers, ranging from thirteen to eighteen, stayed with our family. Some just stayed for one night, some for a few weeks, and others for a few months. One memorable night a beautiful, sensitive, 13-year-old girl walked in our front door. The first question she asked me was, “Is this a house of God?”
As I tried to figure out what she meant, I struggled for an answer. I thought to myself that we were a religious family, and we had tried to teach our children to believe in God, so perhaps our efforts would qualify our home for being a house of God. So I said, “Yes.”
She quietly said, “It feels like one.”
When I walked with her upstairs and showed her to her bedroom she asked me another thought-provoking question, “Do you have high self-esteem?”
Her yearning question caught me off-guard. I stammered out an answer as I said, “Well, um, I…I think I do.”
Then with great pleading in her voice and tears in her eyes she asked me, “Can you tell me how to get it?”
A Personal Quest
Questions began racing through my mind as I thought about my own personal quest to discover high self-esteem. Should I tell her of how I have had to struggle my whole life to conquer my own feelings of low self-esteem? Should I share with her my religious faith—that, most importantly, I knew I was a child of God?
Should I tell her that faith in God alone would not heal the pain of her personal insecurities? Should I tell her it’s going to take a lot of continual effort to change how she really feels about herself?
As I reflected on my past, I recalled some vague memories of feeling high self-esteem at one time. I was very sure of myself, I felt secure within my family, and I felt I could accomplish anything that I wanted to in my life. However, I was only five years old. By the time I was six, my confidence and feelings of high self-esteem began to diminish. Instead of feeling good about myself, I just pretended I did. I tried to figure out what happened to the positive feelings I had felt about myself as a child, but I couldn’t.
By the time I was married and had children of my own, I realized I had a serious problem. My biggest concern was how I could teach my children to have high self-esteem if I didn’t have it myself. As a young mother, I had begun a personal quest to change the way I felt about myself. I desperately needed to find the real path to high self-esteem. It was a long, slow journey.
It was true I had now made much progress in my life regarding my feelings of self-esteem, but I wasn’t exactly sure how I had arrived at this point. I hesitatingly told her a few things that I could think of about gaining high self-esteem including the importance of learning how to love and appreciate herself, and then I told her good night.
Change Happens Gradually
When I finally went to my own room to get ready for bed late that night, I continued to ponder her questions. I thought about what I had learned throughout my life that I could share with her, the other teenagers in this rehabilitation program, and my own children about discovering high self-esteem. I sat down and tried to organize my thoughts and put these ideas in a format that they could begin using immediately. That night was the beginning of my efforts to develop a simple, easy-to implement self-esteem program.
I initially came up with five choices that everyone has the power to make each day. I typed up these five choices, drew a little self-esteem chart, and shared this information with this sweet girl, Jonathan, and some of the teenagers in the program. They all told me that focusing on these choices every day helped them a lot!
When I developed this self-esteem program, I called each self-esteem principle a “choice.” I used the word “choice” because the teenagers who were living with us from the drug rehab seemed to be helplessly drifting through life not knowing how they could change. I wanted them to understand that the choices they made each day determined how they felt about themselves and what they could accomplish in life.
First, I wanted them to know which choices in life were ones that they could really make themselves. Second, I wanted them to learn how to make wise choices. Third, I wanted them to understand that if they made wise choices then they could then be more in control of their lives regardless of what was happening around them.
Over the next several years, while trying to help other people with their self-esteem, I was frustrated with my own behavior. So, I analyzed my life and kept adding to the list of the choices I was making each day. I began to see which choices helped me feel better about myself and which choices caused me to feel worse. My list gradually grew from five choices to thirteen choices, which I needed to focus on in my life. I printed a copy of these thirteen choices, taped it to my bathroom mirror, and read it every morning and night as I brushed my teeth.
As I read these choices, they became a part of my subconscious mind. Simply by reading them every day, I became more productive. The most surprising discovery was that I didn’t have to be perfect in any of these areas to gain high self-esteem. All I needed to do was desire to make these choices a part of my life and then do the best I could. My feelings about myself improved dramatically. Finally, I got it. Change happens gradually. Focus on correct principles, and let it happen.
My difficulty was that when I stopped reading these choices every day, I gradually reverted back to my old patterns of behavior. This caused me a great deal of emotional distress, but I finally understood the problem—and found out the solution.
The problem of returning to bad habits can be called relapsing or backsliding, and it is described in the scriptures with vivid imagery: But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire (2 Peter 2:22). But God promised relief: I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely (Hosea 14:4).
I realized that the solution to my problem was the need to be reminded of my self-esteem choices every day to feel consistently good about myself. The scriptures teach: Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways (Isaiah 58:2).
After many more years of living life and gaining valuable experiences while working on these self-esteem choices, I still did not feel quite right about the wording of the choices. At one point, I knew I had made them too complicated when this thought came into my mind, “Make them so simple that a child can understand them.”
I revised them and revised them so many times that I was completely frustrated. Finally, I knelt down by my bed one day and said this prayer: “Heavenly Father, I have been working on this project for years. If you want me to ever get it finished, you will need to tell me the right words to say.”
I stayed on my knees for a long time meditating and waiting for some new inspiration to come to me, but nothing happened. Feeling dejected, I finally took my whole project and put it away in the bottom drawer of my dresser. I refused to work on it any more. It sat there untouched for six months.
Then early one morning, when I was not expecting it at all, I woke up with some words flowing into my mind. I grabbed a pencil and a piece of paper and started writing down all the words that were quickly coming to me. I realized that the Lord was finally answering the fervent prayer I had offered six months earlier. He was finally giving me the words I needed for my self-esteem choices. Amazing.
I now had the answers to those two questions that beautiful, sensitive, 13-year-old girl from the drug rehab asked me so many years ago:
Do you have high self-esteem? Yes.
Can you tell me how to get it? Yes.
The answers are found in the 13 Choices for Happiness and High Self-Esteem.
13 Choices for Happiness & High Self-esteem
I choose to worship my Father in Heaven every day and live a Christ-centered life.
I choose to keep my body healthy and clean and avoid addictive substances at all times.
I choose to use my mind to create, explore the universe, and find my place in it.
I choose to share my feelings kindly and honestly with others and strive to be peaceful.
I choose to look at all people as equals and never judge or compare others to myself.
I choose to accept full responsibility for all of my choices and never blame others.
I choose to educate myself on a daily basis so I’ll be useful to the betterment of society.
I choose to work within the time frame I’m given without being stressed or rushed.
I choose to keep my surroundings clean and beautiful and live in a house of order.
I choose to enjoy my work, live frugally, and use my means to help other people.
I choose to only see and listen to those things that uplift and inspire the human mind.
I choose to be the transitional figure in my family to free future generations from abuse.
I choose to obey all of God’s commandments and love and honor each of His children.
Finding True Happiness
When I first started writing this self-help program, I called these thirteen choices simply, The 13 Choices for High Self-esteem. When I was trying to teach one of my daughters about my program she said to me, “I don’t like you always talking to me about high self-esteem because you make me feel like I have low self-esteem, and I don’t.”
I said, “Okay, I understand. I can fix that problem.”
I went to my computer and changed “13 Choices for High Self-esteem” to read, “13 Choices for a Happy Life” and gave it back to her. She glanced at the title and said, “Very funny.”
As I continued to ponder about what my daughter had said to me, I realized that a lot of people might not think they need help with their self-esteem, but everyone is looking for happiness. I suddenly realized that these choices really do work just as well for finding happiness as they do for discovering high self-esteem. I then permanently changed my title to 13 Choices for Happiness and High Self-esteem.
It is my hope and prayer that when you read the 13 Choices each day and focus on improving one CHOICE each week that you will discover the true happiness and high self-esteem that is within you.