Recovering Your Self-Esteem by Focusing on Others
It may seem ironic to suggest that one’s own self-esteem is improved when focusing on others, but this is exactly what we find when doing research on Forgiveness Therapy. This new form of therapy, described in my book, Forgiveness Is a Choice, gently encourages clients to consider forgiving those who are not good to them. To forgive does not mean to find excuses or even necessarily to reconcile if the other is abusive. Forgiveness does encourage the practice of justice alongside the quest to be good to those who are not acting in goodness.
One important aspect of Forgiveness Therapy, but only when the client is ready and willingly chooses this, is to begin seeing the hurtful other as possessing inherent (built-in) worth. In other words, thinking about inherent worth in one other person can lead to the conclusion that all people are special, unique, and irreplaceable.
As the 18th century philosopher Immanuel Kant reminded us, all people are ends in and of themselves and should be treated as such. This kind of thinking converges for atheist and person of faith. As the atheist knows from the study of biology, each of us possesses unique DNA. There never was a person like you in this world……and there never will be again. All are special. The person of faith agrees with this idea of each person being special, but for different reasons, because of a different worldview. And yet, the conclusions are the same: We all possess worth, we are all ends in and of ourselves no matter what our station in life is, no matter the skills we possess, and no matter our failings in life.
As the client continues to develop this idea that the one who acted cruelly has worth and that all people have worth, the question emerges: Does this mean that you, too, possess inherent/built-in worth…….a value that never can be taken from you even if people are so cruel as to try to convince you that you are worthless?
Too often, those who have been beaten down by others begin to believe the lie that they, indeed, are not good, are not worth much.
Do not believe the lie. Recapture the bigger picture of who you are: You are someone who can see the worth in others, someone who can offer goodness to those who are not good to you. If you can do that, who are you as a person?
You certainly are not worth-less. You possess that worth and now need to acknowledge it to yourself. Perhaps you have come to this conclusion by offering this sense of worth to others only to discover your own uniqueness, your own value, your self-esteem. You are…..irreplaceable in this world. Now the challenge is never to forget this.