Low self-esteem (and what to do about it). ~ Ben Ralston

Via on Jan 18, 2012

“I wish I could show you, when you are in light or in darkness, the astonishing light of your own being” ~ Hafiz


You may suspect that you have low self-esteem,

but you probably have no idea what to do about it!

 

Most articles about self-esteem talk about thinking positively, making affirmations, smiling a lot, etc. These things are just band-aids – they will only serve to suppress the truth about how you feel about yourself for a short time. I am not interested in band-aids. I am interested in prevention and cure…

In this post I’m going to tell you what self-esteem is really all about; how it is negatively affected; why I think it’s hugely important that we do do something about it – and what to do.

 

What is self-esteem?

(other than a term that is much used and little understood)

 

My definition of self-esteem is 5 words:

~ ‘how deeply you love yourself’ ~

So, how deeply do you love yourself?!

(Don’t worry, I’ll help you answer that question quite accurately in just a moment)…

I believe this is perhaps one of the most important questions you will ever ask, and here’s why:  the extent to which you love yourself dictates how successful you are in every area of your life – relationships, work, and health (emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual health).

I have a nice way of answering the above question. It is called The Mirror Exercise*, and there are 3 simple steps:

1. Look yourself in the eye in a mirror.

2. Tell yourself sincerely: “I love you”.

3. See how it feels, and measure the feeling out of 10 (see below).

If your self-esteem is intact (if you do indeed love yourself deeply) then the exercise should be fun!

However, for most people there is at least some difficulty – as they say the words there is a feeling of stress. This is because human beings are hardwired not to lie. So if you have low self-esteem (you don’t love yourself), telling yourself “I love you” feels like a lie – it feels stressful.

Lie detector machines (polygraph machines) work by detecting the biological symptoms of stress. But you don’t need a polygraph machine – you know when you are lying, because you feel the stress. That’s why this exercise is really quite an accurate (although not scientific) indication of how high your self-esteem is.

So the mirror exercise is to do the above 3 steps. The final step, measuring the feeling of stress on a scale of 0 – 10, works like this:

10/10 stress: as you say the words you probably feel quite uncomfortable, and you just don’t believe it at all. This means that you have very low self-esteem.

0/10 stress: no stress, therefore high self esteem.

Go ahead and do it now..

 

~ (I’ll wait right here) ~ 

 

So, if you just did the exercise, you probably felt at least a little discomfort or stress as you said those 3 words. Here’s why:

We should love ourselves completely. Human beings are Loving beings. The essence of the human experience is love itself. Your essence is love.

In Yogic terms this is known as Satchitananda: pure existence, pure consciousness, pure bliss. In a word – love.

But almost all of us suffer the consequences of unresolved trauma – usually much more than we realize.

Childhood trauma…

Birth trauma…

Trauma experienced by our Mother whilst we were ‘in utero’…

Not to mention ancestral trauma: the emerging branch of science called Epigenetics has demonstrated conclusively that trauma from the lives of our ancestors – especially trauma from the time when our egg was created in the ovary of our Mother (when she was a fetus in the uterus of her Mother*) – directly impacts on our life, even our genetic predispositions and biological constitution!

The kind of trauma that affects self-esteem the most is abuse trauma. And if you think that abuse is probably something that happens to a minority of those ‘other’ people, think again! There are perhaps as many as 99 different kinds of abuse, ranging from the more obvious (sexual) to the very subtle (emotional neglect). And abuse (defined here as a violation of one’s boundaries) is entirely subjective…

Some of the consequences of abuse are that we feel guilty, ashamed, and responsible for what happened. Essentially, we feel that there is something wrong with us – and if there is something wrong with us, we have a very good reason to love ourselves less, right?

Our self-esteem suffers.

My theory is that abuse trauma is the cause of most of mankind’s problems. Not long after establishing this theory, something happened that blew my mind. I was sitting at my desk, thinking and writing about this theory when someone sent me a link to a book:

The Origins of War in Child Abuse”
 by Lloyd Demause.

So I realized that other people were also coming to the very same conclusions as I was. And I don’t believe in ‘co-incidence’.

The purpose of this post is not to explain the mechanism of trauma and abuse in detail. If you’re interested to know more about that check back later, because I’ll be posting articles about it soon. Right now though I want to stay focused on self-esteem. And what I want to communicate is this:

1. Most people don’t love themselves nearly enough.

2. This low self-esteem causes many, many problems, both on the personal level, and globally (think war, corruption, and environmental destruction).

3. It’s not so hard to fix the problem on the personal level (thus directly and powerfully influencing the global).

When is your self-esteem determined?

“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance” ~ Oscar Wilde

If you go through a painful divorce after 20 years of marriage, can that affect your self-esteem? I don’t think so: I think that the experience will simply expose your underlying low self-esteem (that was always there even while you were married). I believe that our self-esteem is set in childhood, perhaps up until the age of around 21 years old. Early trauma (at birth and pre-school) is probably the most impactful on how much we love ourselves.

However, another theory (which does not necessarily negate the childhood theory, but may just be another perspective on it) is that we inherit our self-esteem. After all, the trauma that we experience in our lifetime is usually  an echo of similar trauma that our ancestors experienced. So it could be that we inherit poor self-esteem, and then attract experiences that reinforce it (such as divorce), and perpetuate the pattern.

Either way, it does not really matter. Two things are important in this – being able to recognize the effect of the trauma (as opposed to the actual trauma itself, which is far less relevant), and being able to heal those consequences.

With modern healing techniques like Reference Point Therapy, which are simple, fast, and highly effective, we are able to pinpoint the exact consequence of the trauma (which is usually a subconscious association between one of our survival instincts, and safety), and heal it (release the subconscious association).

The effect of this kind of healing is a subtle change in all aspects of one’s life. Relationships, feelings, emotional reactions, and even the physical structure of the body (posture, lung capacity, etc) are transformed.

And the beautiful thing is that the change is not a particular change, but a wave of change – it is an ongoing process, namely, of us coming back to our true selves: love.

The analogy I use is this: if you have walked for a long time with a stone in your shoe, it will eventually affect every area of your life – your posture, your emotions, your deeper feelings, your sense of self-identity (ego), even the expression on your face!

But when you remove the stone, all of these changes do not instantly disappear – it takes time for each aspect of you to settle back to normal, and even the expression on your face will gradually, over time, relax.

Similarly, when releasing subconscious blockages, the effects may be felt instantly, but are always ongoing…

 

How do you raise your self-esteem?

“You can’t build joy on a feeling of self-loathing.” ~ Ram Dass

 

As with anything else, you solve a problem permanently only by changing what caused the problem.

In this case, low self-esteem is caused by the consequences of unresolved trauma. When you heal the trauma, you instantly begin to love yourself more.

I wish I could tell you in a short blog post how to heal trauma yourself, but it’s not quite as simple as that – it takes a number of days of intensive training to be able to safely find the blockages, identify their roots, and heal them. It’s quite simple really – you don’t need a degree, but you do need proper training.

I hope though that this post sheds some light on something that I believe to be the key to a more sustainable, compassionate, and peaceful human society: how much we love ourselves as individuals.

 

Participate in a simple social experiment?

“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” ~ Joseph Campbell

 

I would like to propose what could be a useful social experiment: when you do the mirror exercise post the ‘score’ (out of 10) as a comment below (along with the feelings that came up too, if you like). It only takes a moment to do this, and may be done anonymously, and if this article gets 1000 reads, and 5% of people participate that’s 50 people – a reasonable number of results to compare and analyze . The results will either support or undermine my theory that most of us suffer from low self-esteem, and either way, it’ll be interesting! If you also write a little about what feelings came up as you did the exercise, I will do my best to answer your comment in a helpful way.

And share it up folks – spread the love, as always. Thank you!

 

* Biology lesson: a woman’s eggs are all produced long before she is born. They are formed in the ovaries at around the time of 3 months gestation in the womb of her own mother.

 

Bonus: click here for a fascinating and entertaining documentary about epigenetics.

 

I believe I first discovered The Mirror Exercise in a book, but I have no recollection of which book. So please, if you have ever come across this technique before, let me know so that I can properly give credit to it’s creator? Thank you!

 

 

About Ben Ralston

Ben Ralston almost joined the army when he was 18. When he was 32 he almost became a Swami. *** Now he is a healer, Reference Point Therapy teacher, and advanced Yoga instructor in the Sivananda tradition . His work as a healer acknowledges trauma as the underlying cause of almost all human problems, and resolves trauma at the causal level: gut-based survival instincts. The intention behind all his work is to empower others. *** Ben splits his time between his busy international practice, training therapists, and writing. As an experienced Yoga and Meditation teacher he also runs retreats, usually on the beautiful Croatian coast. *** Connect with Ben on Facebook. Read more of his writing on his new website with integrated blog! Yes, he's excited about that :)

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113 Responses to “Low self-esteem (and what to do about it). ~ Ben Ralston”

  1. kerri bean says:

    Surprisingly enjoyed the exercise.. I’d say my stress was about a 6… which is great progress for me :) thank you.. I really enjoy reading your articles. I guess my question would be how to resolve trauma if you’re not exactly sure where it originates ?

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      Hi Kerri, thank you for reading and commenting!
      6 is better than 10, but you should decide (right now please) that you are going to get it to 0. When you get it to 0 you will find that life becomes effortlessly joyful :)
      Good question – how to resolve trauma that you don't even know exists?! Well, that's what I'm here for! I would probably use a technique that heals Key Developmental Events (events from the development of your biology). So we'd work most likely on conception and fertilization, and heal any trauma that we find there. I'd also of course talk to you a bit about your life – especially childhood, and using my experience and intuition I'd probably be able to notice trauma that you are not aware of.
      It's surprisingly easy, and fun, and whatever trauma is there that needs to be healed comes up to the surface. So you don't need to be consciously aware of all the trauma (thank God – because most of us have no idea, especially when it comes to ancestral trauma).

  2. Bobby says:

    This was tricky for me. When I looked at myself in the mirror and told myself I love you, after a moment, I smiled at myself. There wasn't much stress. BUT, and it's a big but (hence the capitals). When I next thought about seeing male friends that I knew prior to having a baby (and subsequent pnd) it caused me a huge amount of stress. I have made decisions not to see wonderful wonderful friends when they came back to Australia because of how I had changed physically. Any comments / suggestions?

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      Bobby, thank you for commenting.
      if I understand you correctly, you're saying that you have a problem with your body image since giving birth. I'm guessing that this undermines your confidence with male friends now.
      I would also guess then that your confidence with men in general depends on how attractive you feel. Is that right?

  3. Ashley says:

    Yeah, if I keep eye contact, it's not difficult or stressful to say, but if I look down and at my body, then I know that I'm lying to myself. I guess that says a lot about my self esteem

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      Thanks for commenting Ashley.
      It says that you don't love your body, yes. And to be honest this is a common one – and especially with women, and we all know that it's got a lot to do with the media.
      Probably you value yourself on an emotional and mental level (I'd say that you're actually quite proud – in a good way, rightly so – of your achievements and where you've come to) but physically you don't love yourself. Right?

  4. Bobby says:

    PS. My initial score was 3 or 4. When I thought of having to see old friends it increased to 7/8. I realise vanity is in play here, but assume self-esteem issues are also present..

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      Ok, I answered you above before I saw this PS.
      Vanity is normal and natural – one of our purposes as a species is procreation, and our reproductive function depends to a large extent on how attractive we are (or feel). So it's not vanity in a negative sense – it's just that you don't feel good about your body, and that's very stressful. Because it makes you feel (on a deeply subconscious level) very unworthy.

  5. Ash says:

    hey thanks for the article.
    I recently made a choice to embrace self love and happiness- I have been looking myself in eyes when I catch my reflection in a mirror, and express self love- it feels really good!
    I have some issues with self esteem / anxiety in my being.
    expressing self love at every opportunity has been incredible for me.
    thanks again!

  6. Karen A says:

    Will be sharing with my group page Ennufff. Thank you that is amazing..

  7. JMN says:

    3? It sounded weird. Saying it to someone else seemed easier I thought. Will do it more often now. Thanks for your article!

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      Hey JMN, thanks for commenting!
      3/10 is pretty good, but I would guess that maybe you have an issue with receiving / accepting, and find it easier to give. This is quite common, and sometimes translates into family history of heart problems – perhaps low blood pressure?

  8. JB1 says:

    Peoples perception of me when" i have love for myself" is that i am selfish, what distinguishes a loving behaviour from one that is self centred, egocentric and selfish, any thoughts.

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      Yes, I certainly do have some thoughts about this question.
      Selfishness and egocentricity is born out of fear – literally not knowing oneself.
      Selflessness is born out of love – and is absolutely natural and effortless when one knows oneself. When you know yourself, you only want to be of service, because you feel a deep connection to others.
      When you don't know yourself you feel separate from others, and there arises greed, insecurity, jealousy, etc.

      What prevents us from knowing ourself is trauma. It is literally like a veil over our eyes, which covers up our true nature – or a blockage – what is 'blocked' is the flow of consciousness, awareness of truth, perception of reality.

      People's perceptions are quite another issue – but I suspect that you are "having love for yourself" in a way which attracts this criticism. Perhaps the "I have love for myself" is forced?

      • JB1 says:

        Thanks Ben
        Whats the most effective cause of action for Trauma, i notice you cited some therapies in this article? What does this reference point therapy involve, would it allow me to face myself in the mirror every day, love myself and bring me closer to other people? what would such a session cost please ben.
        thanks

        • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

          Yes, I cite Reference Point Therapy because it's what I do, and I know how simple and effective it is. There may be others that are equally good, but I don't know them. RPT involves talking, finding the deepest feelings and instincts that were 'activated' by the trauma, and releasing them (all just by talking). It allows me and 95% of my clients to face the mirror with deeper self-love, confidence, inner peace. So I am pretty sure it would you also.
          I charge €125 (euros) for the first session (2 hours), and €95 for subsequent (90 minute) sessions – but this therapy is fast (you don't need to have sessions week in, week out, for years – there is always a noticeable change after every session).
          If that's too much for you have a look at the RPT website, and you'll find other therapists listed – but I don't think there's anyone much cheaper than me (could be wrong on that).

  9. JoAnne says:

    10. Not comfortable at all, and couldn't say it without grimacing. Just can't get the hang of liking myself.

  10. Vanessa says:

    I can say it all day long but truly feeling it is another thing…
    I know the root of the problem, have spent years & lots of dollars on therapy… but this exercise is still very hard.
    I'd love a new perspective

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      Usually when someone has spent much money and time on solving this problem (or any problem), and it's not solved, then there are two possibilities:
      1 – all the therapists you saw were crap (I never rule this out!)
      2 – Secondary Gain is pulling you back into the trauma.
      I've written about secondary gain, you can google it here on EJ or on my blog.
      I heal secondary gain easily – it's a piece of cake. So if you're really ready to finally nail it, let me know ;)

  11. Pam says:

    Thank you for this article Ben. I have always struggled with low self esteem and now I know a bit about why. My score was 5. Here's what came up after. I am the last born of 6 children. I was a definite "oops" child, yet deeply loved by my mother. I was born with a rare form of kidney cancer (go figure)…which I was fortunate enough to survive. Most of my life I was a quiet by-stander in the family. Grew up with a deep longing for parental attention that I never received. When you say that low self-esteem stems from early trauma this really hits home for me. Now I long to know how to release this and live a full and happy life.

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      Hi Pam,
      This longing for parental attention is probably the most common way in which recent generations' self esteem has been damaged.
      I think you'll resonate with what I wrote here: http://benralston.blogspot.com/2011/07/emptiness-
      It's not so hard to release it Pam, and I can help you with it. Or if you prefer, I can point you in the direction of another therapist who can help you. Message me via my website / blog – links in my profile above.

  12. B . Waterfire says:

    Just the thought of it made me cringe.I am not at all surprise.Winter always brings up the shit for me.I have long known I have trauma, all kinds, of abuse, some subtle(emotional neglect from mother), the hardest to pinpoint and the not so subtle(sexual) but very repressed.I almost laughed at the reflection as I said it because I know it to be untrue, then I said it again and cringed and shuddered ans felt like the biggest liar.I know I have trauma from childhood , adulthood and from the womb and probably inherited as I see my eldest son has inherited from me, my genes… my youngest not at all…now how to resolve this? I am very interested in your therapy. I was at a big fat 10!!!! I agree with your theory.I feel better now that you have written this….now how again to change this around?I am a yoga teacher and as I said winter is a shit storm, I feel like a fraud teaching lately….obviously I have been using band-aid methods as it keeps coming around.Thank-you for your insight.

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      Don't worry B. The reason I practice this therapy is that it is so wonderful – in a short time you can free yourself, permanently, from the consequences of trauma. Trust me, it really is that good. And then your yoga practice, and teaching, and relationships, and every area of your life will improve enormously. We are meant to be free – it's truly our birthright. And it's time…

  13. Lori says:

    P.S. By the way…all that took place BEFORE I read your post. I also know that is NOT a "co-incidence"! : ))

  14. hayleyrules says:

    Such refreshing insight into ones self esteem. It sparked memory of my father teaching me from a young age to look into the mirror and say, "I love myself, I love myself, I love myself". It has been such a long time, remembering this puts a smile on my face.

  15. Lori says:

    I am "debating" some of this with a couple of friends on FaceBook – just spent the last oh, hour or so (???) typing out this long quote from one of my favorite books. You can find that Very Relevant info here: http://thebluemoonturtleblog.blogspot.com/2012/01…. I welcome everyone's feedback! Enoy! : ))

  16. mindy says:

    Wow…eye opener. I barely managed a 4 comfort level (1-low/10-high) I felt fear and disgust. I suffered sexual abuse as a child which I have blocked out and only rarely have flashbacks. I also suffer from an eating disorder…I went to treatment 9 years ago and feel I have recovered, but it is a devil on my back always. My dad abandoned myself, my mom and my 3 brothers when we were all young. I guess, for me, I expect everyone to leave or hurt me. I have also always based my self worth on the acceptance and opinions of others…it gets difficult to live up to everyone's expectations. I have wonderful people in my life…I have a beautiful daughter and a wonderful boyfriend and family. I have been divorced for 2 years now…something I vowed would never happen. Anyway, thank you for this post.

  17. roberta says:

    I did it and almost burst into tears. I'd say I scored a 8/10. There is a part of me who feels compassion for myself and the state I am in, so I think there will always be a part of me loving myself at least a little bit. But yes, abuse and traumas in ancient times are the reason why I am feeling like this, I have looked into my own story and saw the abuse, and realized it was the copy of an older one which my unaware "torturers" (my parents) had been through themselves, and their parents and the parents of their parents…and when I look around I see the same pattern going on everywhere, or almost. I think love needs to be brand new and to win over despair everytime as if it was the first time, so I am just trying to assist this feeling as it struggles to come into light despite all the fear . But when I look into my eyes, right now, I see a person in pain who just wishes for help and hardly believes she'll make it.

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      Dear Roberta,
      You. Are. Love.
      But your experience is veiled by trauma.
      It's that simple really…
      Your essence is pure energy, pure consciousness, pure love. But because of the 'stuff' (and you described it very accurately in the comment, so I know you understand it) that happened in the past, you get caught up in the veil. Trapped in the past.
      Love doesn't need to be brand new – it IS brand new: every present moment, always changing, ever new, is where love is.
      I can help you, please email me.

  18. Devyani says:

    I could easily say “I love you”. Tears started rolling down. I don’t say it very often to myself.

  19. pathwalker says:

    8 – funny thing is I’ve been doing this exercise for years, plus EFT, meditation, affirmations–I even watched Ref point therapy online and tried to do it myself. Yesterday after 3 days of staying focused on gratitude and saying “i’m happy & grateful” over and over–the unhealed part of me had a meltdown and my mirror exercise was the child in me telling off “God” (in me). and she is pissed and sabotaging big time. Today I’m trying to get my perspective back to begin again-did EFT for an hour. When I manage to get my finances together I will drop you a line…until then any articles that point in the direction are useful (I followed a couple you posted but couldn’t seem to clear it-even though I’m able to pinpoint where I feel things in my body). namaste.

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      Hi Pathwalker, thank you for your comment.

      RPT is elegantly simple – but when you want a technique to also be highly efficient, then the simplicity must suffer. It's just not possible to learn it simply by watching it online. The training takes 2 full days, or 5 including the advanced technique.

      EFT I'm sorry to say is not so efficient – it heals, but not permanently, so you have to keep tapping. Simpler than RPT, but less efficient.

      Namaste.

  20. Janet says:

    This was a little weird for me, but I guess my comfort level was about a 5. I have been working on esteem issues for a long time and you are right, started in childhood. I guess the biggest thing was father leaving when I was a kid, never to be seen again, but I have been working on that for years. Logically I know it has nothing to do with me, but emotion and logic are two different things. Also have body image issues that I work on constantly, too, which negatively impact on self-esteem.

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      Trauma is something that we carry around with us. Baggage. Just as you can simply put down baggage when you choose to, and leave it behind, so you can also release trauma quite easily – because it's not who you are.
      Who you are is pure consciousness, untainted by trauma.

      This is the basis of Reference Point Therapy.

  21. Kathryn says:

    Much lower than I would have scored a few years ago before I started practicing yoga daily! Probably a 3-4 on the stress-o-meter. More than stress I feel a big ol lump in my throat and get the tears of joy feeling- it feels like a release and something that needs to be done more often! Not so much a negative experience. Thanks for the great post and suggestions for pursuing trauma healing- I am definitely interested in how I can explore this in my yoga practice. Also plan to watch the epigenetic doc- studied anthropology and have always felt that reconnecting to our ancestral roots is strongly needed in our vagabond, ungrounded culture.

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      Check out the doc, and check out RPT which applies the knowledge in the doc with other science and spiritual wisdom to make a simple and effective method for permanently healing trauma. Yoga is wonderful – I teach it for a long time now – but it's slow. In combination I find it to be really quite wonderful :)

  22. annonymous says:

    As soon as I read about doing the mirror exercise my stress levels went up to 10, when I eventually did it, id say they where at 100, did not enjoy it at all. Felt very uncomfortable, I dont like never mind love any part of myself exxcept for my generosity and my talent for making other people feel good about themselves!

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      I'm sure that your generosity and talents outweigh the things you don't like many times over – but the thing with self-esteem is that it's like a veil, so all you see is what you *don't* like. Heal it and suddenly you see the light, and fall in love with yourself all over again!
      Thank you for the comment!

  23. Nitya says:

    I wouldn't say that this exercise was easy. I would say that the discomfort was about about 4/10. I felt it in my belly with tension and the urge to cry. I have been aware of my own self loathing for a couple years now. Slowly I begin to look at myself in the mirror with kinder eyes. But I feel that I always come back to this sense of being inadequate. I am fully aware that I need to find joy, love, peace within myself but I continually look to exterior sources for validation. I am currently studying TCM and I fully support your belief of trauma being a root cause. In TCM trauma is stored in the blood…that is a very yin level…any suggestions on how to release my trauma would be great. I did my yoga training as well at Sivananda…in Kerala. Anyways, I really enjoyed your article. I believe that the phsycho emotional is the root of all dis-ease.

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      The belly is where it's at Nitya. Real healing has to heal the stuff that's in the belly, but most healing works on head (psychotherapy) or heart (emotional healing methods like EFT). To really undo the effects of trauma you have to release it in the belly – the gut – the survival instincts.
      As for the suggestion you ask for – all i can say is try RPT. I do sessions via Skype, or you can find another therapist on the RPT website. It's a very fast and easy way to permanently release trauma and increase the love you feel for yourself, others, and life in general!

  24. Mariette says:

    I guess I would say I score on good days a 6 and on most days a nine… I just started seeing a psychologist because I know that I need to start loving myself cause otherwise I will never be happy and will never be able to share my happiness… I am 27 but I remember even with 4 years old haveing a low selfesteem. Its strange but it has been a red line through my life, ruining times, friendships and other relationships. I really hope that I can work through and pull through. It will be hard enough but the worst is doing it alone, but I have to, its the only way.

  25. CoreyYogey says:

    Unfortunately it was about a 9/10. I had a fairly good childhood, lots skin issues which made me extremely self conscious. When I reached age of 26 I was stricken with a strange circulation issue in my hands causing my sleep to be disrupted. As a result, of having a low quality of sleep I am always very tired, unable to enter relationships and unable to focus (as most people with sleep issues experience). It's tough to have self esteem when you are not able to do what you want in your life and always feeling like sleep is a must. I've been to many doctors both Western and Eastern. Interesting article but be curious what you think of self esteem for people who have unsolved issues like I have.

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      Hi Corey,
      I have a feeling that your skin issue was about boundaries, and that the sleep problem is about secondary gain. I believe I could help you solve it. Essentially boundaries are connected to abuse, so I'd heal ancestral abuse trauma, strengthen your boundaries, and heal the secondary gain that causes you to sleep badly.

  26. katie says:

    some butterflies walking to the mirror, but maybe only a 4 once i did it. lots of struggles lately and actively working on improving them. i always enjoy your articles and look forward to more!

  27. John says:

    .5 Mostly because it was cold in my bathroom and I was uncomfortable and should be sleeping. Other than that, I really love myself. My definition of love is acceptance. That's how I can love each and every of the 7 billion emanations of divine spirit on this planet.

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      Hi John,
      Your comment (thank you by the way for that) reminds me of Eckhart Tolle's last chapter (ish) in his book New Earth. he describes the 3 'modes of dinginess'.
      First is acceptance, second is enjoyment, and third is enthusiasm.
      I think that it kind of works applied to self esteem – a reasonable self esteem is when we fully accept ourselves. Then when it gets stronger we really, truly enjoy being ourselves. And finally, when we love ourselves very deeply, fully, we feel bliss.
      To me, healing is more than just about feeling ok, or feeling good. It's about spiritual growth and personal development… and I guess my background as a Yoga / Meditation teacher informs this a lot.
      Thanks again.

  28. grey says:

    Interesting topic. I have had a voice occasionally in my head before I go to bed that asks "do you love me?" I realized last night it was me asking myself the question, and that the answer was a sorrowful "no" I read your article this morning and did the experiment, I give myself 7, I can look my self in the eye but the answer is still the sadness and the "no"

  29. Maya says:

    Louise Hay says to do the mirror/i love you thing in "you can heal your life." Great article I want to look into that therapy ur talking about, sounds good, all the trauma stuck in my body in three days, that's fast, lol! I do Primary Emotional Energy Release Bodywork, P.E.E.R., this work I've been doing for 3 years its amazing. Namaste

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      I dont' know about ALL trauma in 3 days, but specific traumas can be healed in one session easily. Actually, RPT is faster now than ever (it's constantly evolving), and you can heal a lot of trauma in one session. But I don't know about it all in 3 days. Some people, yes. Others it takes a bit more time :)
      Love

  30. Erika Chotai says:

    I actually could feel and see the light..have done this practice before, but didn't see this deep into myself then. I come closer to the being I know from my "happy years", which is about 15 years ago and then I did know and deeply love my own being (but of course something else – good – has evolved now instead) from time to time. I think it's because I have worked a lot on myself lately, that my blockages are finally letting go! I am grateful for all the help I get, and I wish you a happy life!

    /Erika.

  31. Maya says:

    another thing, I have so much trauma from my past, and I have realized that the most severe is the emotional abandonment and how much it has hurt myself esteem! I became a Certified yoga teacher a year ago and I have never taught a class that wasn't to a friend or family. I am really trying to build up the confidence to interview and teach yoga. What bothers me about that is I've been doing yoga everyday for the last 5 years, and there is people in my class that had their own studio and started teaching the next day. It is definately a struggle and if I have never done any work on myself I would be saying "trauma, what trauma" and be in a lot worse place today, if here at all, but it did bring me to yoga and that has been a blessing!

  32. Tanya Lee Markul Tanya Lee Markul says:

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  33. FromTheNorth says:

    I don't usually respond to these sorts of posts but for whatever reason I feel compelled to do so. Let me start by saying what you ask is not something I can easily do. At one time while learning the heart sutra we had to acknowledge the god spirit in ourselves as well as within each one of us. Unfortunately this is something I just can do. I’ve been down too many dark roads and unpleasant landscapes. Now approaching 50 the only wish I have is not to pass this on to my sons. Ben you are doing wonderful things. Keep up the good work and strong spirit.

    All the best

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      Thank you for a powerful comment.
      When we heal our trauma, we also heal our children and our ancestors. This is my experience. It's a chain, and one broken link breaks the pattern completely. I'm sure you have already helped your sons a great deal. Perhaps they are free of the patten completely? Anyway, keep up the good work also, and if I can be of service please let me know.
      With love

  34. chiara_ghiron says:

    Hi Ben! I did the exercise. I'd say 0-1, I am a pretty self-loving type of girl (see? I consider myself a girl even though I am actually 46…). BUT while saying "I love you" to myself I remembered that last week I was completely convinced of being totally unfit to deliver a current work objective so I would have given myself a 3-4 probably. What I mean is that – especially for women I guess – the self-esteem varies dramatically over a period of time. Perhaps a worthwhile experiment would be to keep a log and check how it oscillates through the months?

    Love
    chiara

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      Hi Chiara,
      Interesting comment. Definitely true that *something* vacillates, but I'm not convinced that it's self-esteem. Maybe more like confidence? But I'll think about it a while because it's a very interesting suggestion… in fact I'll do the experiment you suggest myself and see what happens!
      Love

  35. Celia Aurora de Blas Aurora says:

    I did this exercise 10 years ago and sobbed as I looked at myself with pity. I thought about doing this exercise again just now and it made me feel anxious and I thought to myself, "Yeah, you've got some work". But then I did it and I was fine. I said it three times with no discomfort. Hooorah! My # -0- ( in this moment anyway).

  36. Hmmm says:

    My score was a 2. Started out smiling, but got squirmy after a minute. Hmmm…something to think about. Thanks!

  37. Brandon says:

    I had to start over a few times… I could not even maintain eye contact with myself without feeling stressed. I would score myself as 10 with an inkling of 9. I was overcome with a great deal of anxiety and fear, quickly escalating into fear and sadness. When I look at myself, I feel hatred. I hate the person I am, I hate my past and present life. The few things I like about myself are things I have been told I should have no pride in and have no worth.

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      First, forget everything you've ever been told. When you like something, it's real, and focus on it. Your heart guides you well.
      Second, if you feel you hate yourself, I urge you to do something about it. Please read this: http://benralston.blogspot.com/2011/09/3-steps-to
      I say this because I know how it feels, and I know that such low self-esteem makes life an ordeal, every day a struggle, every moment full of resistance and stress. And it just does not have to be that way.
      With love to you Brandon.

  38. kamelien. says:

    [...] lo and behold, I found this lovely article (via Elephant Journal) about the importance of loving [...]

  39. Carl says:

    Before I even said "I love you" I felt a bit uncomfortable..then I said it and it was a 7. As i said it more and more it was a 5 and then I started to smile but then had a feeling of being stupid …Can we love ourselves better in practicing in front of the mirror ? Thank you for your dedication!

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      No Carl, you can't love yourself better just by saying it. Unfortunately it's not (quite) so easy. You have to heal the blockages that prevent you from feeling the love that is already inside you…

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  45. Cheryl A. Lowitzer says:

    I truly appreciate this article and the courage/honesty expressed by people who've responded to it.

    I've been doing a similar mirror exercise for the past 2 months. Some days, very low stress response (1-2) and I'm incredibly grateful. Other times, stress level can shoot right back up to 10 – go figure! Practicing compassion and radical acceptance of myself, all my feelings and continuing to face myself in the mirror (with a smile) are now part of my daily round. Recently saw the film "Beasts Of The Southern Wild". Something about Hushpuppy and the way she faced her beasts hit a deep chord. It's a wonderful image that I now hold very dear.

    Namaste,
    CAL

    P.S. Louise Hay suggests the Mirror Exercise in several of her books, including the classic You Can Heal Your Life.

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