Once, a little girl asked her grandfather, “What is self esteem?”
He replied “Self esteem is like a pyramid. It’s something that takes a long time to build, but will stand up to just about anything if you build it right.”
“What do you build it out of?” she asked him.
“That depends on how strong you want it to be. If you want it to last a long time, and to be there when you need it, you’ll build it out of something solid and long lasting. You’ll build it out of self respect born from loyalty to your values, from the choices to act with integrity, kindness, patience, and generosity. You’ll build it out of countless experiences where you helped someone who you didn’t have to help. You’ll build it out of a clear and honest understanding of your own flaws and weaknesses. You’ll build it out of your place in your family and community. You’ll build it out of each and every meaningful relationship you have. You’ll build it out of an intrinsic sense of your own value. You’ll build it out of a knowledge of who you are and what you stand for.
If you build it from these things, your pyramid will last a long time, and it will stand up to the most difficult parts of life.”
“That sounds like a lot of work.” The little girl said.
“It certainly is. It is the work of a lifetime. And not everybody chooses to build their pyramid this way.”
“What do they do instead?” she asked, curious.
“They use things that are fleeting. They compare themselves to others and deem themselves superior and therefore worthwhile. They glorify their professional accomplishments and their ascendence up the ladder. The vainly obsess over their physical appearance, and ridicule those who do not. They accumulate and hoard possessions and wealth to prove their value. They create a detailed and lengthy list of spectacular experiences with which to impress. They cite their relationships to people they perceive as important. They identify with group cultures to feel included. They betray their values in pursuit of approval.
This type of pyramid is not a bad pyramid. But it will not last long, and it will not stand up to much.”
“I think I want to build the first one.” the girl said quietly.
“I think you should.” he replied, smiling.
“Where do I start?” she asked.
“Do you like yourself?”
“Then you’ve already begun.”