A common question I am asked is “how do we develop our sense of self-worth and a positive self-esteem?”

From my perspective, our self-worth begins to form in infancy.  As a newborn, we sense our value through basic caretaking – keep me fed and keep me comfortable.  When we show delight in children through skin-to-skin contact, replication of sounds (playing), and learning how to interpret the early “talking” of the various cries, babies feel our love and connection.

There are countless ways we can continue to show children they are valuable, worthy, and loveable as they grow.  We start with the basic needs and pay attention to many other needs as infants become, toddlers who then become preschoolers, and school-aged children.  Those school-aged kids keep on growing until they are in middle school or junior high ending up in high school.  (Yes, some follow that up with further education, but for simplicity’s sake, you will hopefully, allow me a bit of leeway. 😊)

The time with “good enough” adults lays our foundation
and we also hope children find other relationships that help them
feel that same sense of belonging, connectedness, value, and trust.

As peers become a bigger influence and children begin to experience disappointment and hurt, parents can help their children learn to identify, understand, and value their emotions.  Parents will continue to be that “safe space” kids can come back to no matter how old they are.  They will also teach their children how to identify, express, and then manage their emotions.  How to problem-solve and advocate for themselves.  The art of forgiveness, while learning how to accept feedback, use it appropriately and move past the words and actions that come to us with the intention of harm. 

Teaching children it is okay to hurt because they can use those experiences to learn and grow.  Helping them see the difference between hurt and harm.  Reenforcing the value and respect that has been taught along the path of life.

While our healthy and good-enough parents will always be our safe space, we strive for the independence to live life as healthy adults.  We will continue to choose people who will find joy in us, see the value, give the respect, maintain the connection, and demonstrate love and affection.

And this, my friends, is the journey of positive self-esteem that includes self-worth and value in ourselves, as well as the desire to continue to grow and learn.

For those of you who had parents who were unable to take you along this path, or who had parents who experienced bumps in the road taking you all off track, detours, dead ends, and accidents, YOU are in the driver’s seat now.  You can choose your path and find your value and self-worth and love.

As E.E. Cummings so eloquently stated,

“We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”

Finding that space on your own, circles back to those adult relationships you find, create, and bring into your life.  Friends and mentors can help you connect to that sacred space of belongingness and love.  Sometimes, you would benefit from working with a good psychologist or therapist.

If you find yourself struggling and uncertain, please feel free to reach out.  Remember, Relationship Solutions Center focuses on

creating closeness and transforming relationships from the inside out.

Dr. Irgang
Dr. Lisa Irgang is a Clinical Psychologist and the Owner of Relationship Solutions Center. She provides a variety of services to meet her clients needs. Dr. Lisa has worked with people throughout Chicagoland, helping with adjusting to significant life changes, ADHD, Alternative Sexualities, Anxiety Disorders, Bipolar Disorder, Dealing with Chronic Illness, Depression, Low self-esteem, Parenting special needs children, Relationship concerns, and Trauma. She's a graduate of Argosy University Chicago and a Fellow at CLII - Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois.

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