Self-esteem, or Self-actualization?

I teach bodywork courses because I learn so much about bodywork and about life from my students.  When I teach, especially if I’m delving into something I’m not quite sure about, I force myself to get more comfortable with foreign materials and concepts that help me grow as a person.  I also have an opportunity to hear from others about new ideas, some their own, some from readings or course information they present to me.  I have an opportunity to allow myself to see and hear the world through many more eyes and ears than I have in my own body; these students bring me fresh information and ideas in every course.

Generally, something in a class situation will trigger a new thought or idea in me.  We may talk about information I think I know very well; someone brings me a new idea or a new twist on my old ideas, and it sends me to the textbooks, to the internet, to a new book I’ve not heard about before this time.  Or I’ll state what seems obvious to me; then be challenged, or informed I’ve been passed by in the real world by new information.  It’s a humbling and blessing experience.

Recently in a CORE II course, we began discussing my concept of self-esteem and self-actualization, and managed to refine it a bit more.  I’ve watched far too many on this planet at this time struggle with issues of self-esteem.  It seems Louise Hay has been right all these years since You Can Heal Your Life, when she suggested that low self esteem is at the root of many if not all illnesses and conditions that cause us problems.  Our discussion took us to the term self-actualization.  You may remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs:  we must have food, shelter, security, but we crave warmth, socialization, and other aspects that give us a rounded and full life instead of one in which we merely survive.  If our needs are reasonably met, we’re said to be self-actualized.

I realized I feel fairly self-actualized…though none of us on the planet are perfectly there.  I remember a quote from Carl Rogers, who said he always reminded himself he was enough before he started working with a client!  I love that concept, and have decided I am enough, and I do enough, and I have enough.  I’m not wealthy beyond measure, but I feel wealthy.  My relationship with my partner isn’t perfect, but it’s healthy and happy.  My work is satisfying; my circle of friends is loving and my reflection time is fruitful.  Would I enjoy more?  Probably.  Am I satisfied with what is in my life?  Definitely.

This realization got me thinking about the truth that we as parents often work hard to instill self-esteem in our children.  I remember reading a book several years past, called Not Everyone Gets a Trophy.  It discussed this very issue; how too many parents are creating children who crave self esteem given from others, and never develop their own self esteem.  To me, they therefore can never self actualize!  I believe it’s only when we learn to create our own self-esteem instead of seeking it in the form of approval from others, that we can approach self actualization.  We must learn to meet our own needs, and in this age of helicopter parents (think hovering) some of us never get a chance to learn how to do so.

Like all good things, the best self esteem comes from within, from a deep core knowing that we are enough and we do enough and we have enough.  The best self actualization is truly of the self.  As long as we teach our children that we can and must provide these items to and for them, we fail them, and we fail us.  And frankly, as long as we feel the need to make our children’s lives pain free and full of self-neediness instead of self-esteem or self-actualization, we fail all of us, greatly.

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