When I look at my dogs, I marvel at their astonishing, vibrant self-esteem. My two big puppies, four and eleven years old, respectively, never question their deservability. They assume, and rightly so, that they are fully worth being fed yummy meals and treats, sleeping in clean doggie beds (or mine), getting all the pets and snuggles they ask for.
If, for some odd reason, they don’t get the toy or walk they wanted in the moment, they don’t deduce that there’s something wrong with their furry selves. They shine it on as in “Mommy isn’t in the mood” or a cavalier “whatever,” and go on to whatever next takes their fancy.
Why can’t we humans be more like our pets? Why do we question our self-worth at every turn, stopping ourselves from the wonderfulness of life with “I’m not good enough” to be, do, or have whatever it is that would delight us?
In clinical psychological terms, the belief that we’re “not good enough” is called low self-esteem. The research shows that low self-esteem, otherwise called “lack of self-love,” not only stops us from doing things we might thoroughly enjoy but also considerably increases the stress in our lives.
Stress, in turn, contributes to less effective immune systems, can lead to issues with our cardiovascular systems, not to mention the adverse impact on our sleep and general well-being. Year after year, scientific studies conclude that people who have more self-esteem enjoy more happiness in their lives, less stress, and overall better well-being.
Which makes perfect sense, when you think of it. When we stop telling ourselves we’re too old/young/fat/thin/untalented/unskilled/homely/stupid/inept and on and on, we become capable of taking on challenges, projects and new experiences we otherwise would never dream of attempting.
What we tell ourselves is important. More than that, it is critical to our happiness and success in every arena.
Take Vera Jiji, for example, who learned to play the cello at the age of 12 while attending the High School of Music & Art in Manhattan. Once she graduated, Vera set aside her cello to become an English Professor at Brooklyn College until her retirement at 62. At that point, a full 50 years later, Vera once again picked up her cello.
At 93, Vera performs regularly as a cellist with not one, but two musical groups – a trio and a string quartet. Plus, Vera enjoys not only the creative expression afforded by her playing but also the dynamic connection it provides with her fellow musicians and the audiences they play for.
Just think what joy Vera would have missed in her later years if she’d thought “I’m not good enough.” As in, “I haven’t played in 50 years, how dare I think I could play again?” “My fingers aren’t as supple as they were, I won’t be good enough.” “Others have been playing non-stop since their youth, they’ll all be better than I ever could be.” “I’m too old, who would want me in their quartet?”
Such a “not good enough” litany could have stopped Vera in her tracks, and thus deprived her of the wonderfulness she now experiences in her life.
Give a precious and marvelous gift to yourself this Holiday Season. Give yourself the gift of “I’m good enough” to undertake whatever it is that would please you. You don’t have to be brilliant, you don’t have to be the Master/Mistress of All They Survey, you just need to accept that you’re good enough. And good enough is all it takes to enjoy a richer, happier, more fulfilling life.
While you’re at it, how about sharing that gift with others? Seeing everyone in your life as “good enough” as often as you can. Because truly, we are all good enough. Our pets know it, why shouldn’t we?
What have you been putting off because you don’t feel “good enough” to try it? What activity did begin recently that you hesitated to start but now thoroughly enjoy?