Self-esteem and what makes life worth living.

“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” ~ E. E. Cummings

Self-esteem is obviously important because it helps prevent you from eating sh**. Even when packaged in a sweet, candy-covered shell.

Self-esteem is important because as Chuck Reid remarked, “In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; In practice, there is.” And self-esteem is what allows you to navigate reality, and your world, with authority beyond theory.

Self-esteem is important because it will make you feel safer than the love of any other human being you can come up with.

Because it lets both you and the Heavens know that you can be counted on. That you are dependable. And there are few things as exquisite as coming through when either of those call on you.

But self-esteem is also important because as E.E.Cummings points out, ‘once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.’ – Essentially, all the things that make being alive appetizing. That make the dark, the hard, the scary, and the brutal realities of life, worth reckoning with. Why – how – why would you climb Everest without ever picking your head up to look around, to breath the air, or to note the Nature around you? Miserable. But probably also impossible.

It takes self-esteem to enjoy the good things in life. By which of course I mean the good feelings in life.

And it takes self-esteem to take the emotional risk of engaging with the unknown and uncontrolled by you as unknown and uncontrolled by you. Which is pretty much everything, and definitely everyone, as they exist in reality.

The one best thing you could build this year is not your bank account, your career, or your body. It is your self-esteem. The others will expand with it.  [If you need direction I’d recommend any of Caroline Myss’ work on the subject; The Anatomy of Your Health is a recent example. And if you need permission, I hope the essays in my philosophy for the people series help you find it. (Always, of course, your own.)]


As you build remember: the point of this image is not that the kitten sees himself as a lion. That would make the cat delusional; and the destructive, and incorrect, implication would be that self-esteem requires us to lie to ourselves about who we are. The point of the image is that the feelings that are evoked by the image of the lion – awe, respect, reverence, majesty, wonder, say – are evoked in the kitten by his own image. It is not that he imagines himself to be a lion, but that he reacts with the same awe, wonder, and reverence, to an accurate reflection of himself (a mirror). That is self-esteem. So may it be for you. And so may it be for all of us.