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The Single Best Way to Build Real Self-Esteem that Lasts Forever

Our nation became obsessed with self-esteem in the 1990s. Teachers in several school systems were told to discontinue using red ink when correcting students' homework because it "hurt their self esteem". Kids received trophies even if they came in last place, so that no one would feel left out. The problem now is that this trophy generation is entering adulthood and isn't prepared for the dog-eat-dog world that doesn't care about their feelings. They're having a very hard time adapting to an environment where they aren't praised just for showing up. True self-esteem cannot be given; it must be earned. It feels good to receive attention from a member of the opposite sex; praise from an authority figure such as a boss, parent, or teacher; or compliments from a colleague or friend, but this feeling is temporary because it only lasts as long as that person is there to give it. We usually end up feeling hungry for more when he or she isn't around. This can create an unhealthy and ultimately destructive habit of relying on other people for validation of ourselves, which makes us weak, needy, and dependent, and leaves us with no self-esteem whatsoever.

So how does one earn self-esteem? A radio talk show host recently gave the best answer I've ever heard '"Impress yourself!" Our character, compassion, conscience, courage, or accomplishments are ways we build true self-esteem. We must work to earn it. Think about the people in your life with the highest and lowest self-esteem. Those who perpetually have the lowest will be the ones who have done the least to earn it and are the most miserable. Those with the highest will always be the ones who worked at it and will be the happiest. If you don't know people at both extremes, just look at who's in the news. Paris Hilton and Anna Nicole Smith have fame, fortune, and beauty, but lack self-esteem because they've done nothing to earn it. At the opposite extreme, Mother Theresa was the humblest person in the world, but she had high self-esteem. The same is true of the brave men and women who unselfishly put their lives in jeopardy to serve our country in the military or protect our communities by working in law enforcement. A dear friend of mine in Texas recently told me about how he is helping the victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. It comes as no surprise that Kent not only has high-self esteem now, but also had it when he lost his job a few years ago and to make some major career decisions.

Self-esteem comes only when you're truly proud of who and what you are. In order to build your self-esteem, name three ways you impress yourself. Be honest because you are the one person you can't lie to. You might fool others but you can never fool your own conscience. If you can honestly name three ways you impress yourself, you'll have high self-esteem no matter what others say or think about you. If you can't, make this the day that you start working on becoming the person you were meant to be.

About the Author
Glenn Shepard is a management consultant based in Nashville, TN. He is the author of three books, and publishes a free weekly newsletter. His website is

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