Throughout life there are many rough seas to navigate, but few catch us more by surprise than the savage waves of the life roles we inhabit. In today’s society, whereby we inhabit many roles, our lives are becoming increasingly complex and compartmentalized. At any given time you could be a daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, professional, student, painter and patient. Juggling this can not only be exhausting but challenging too.
Moreover, each role brings with it subconscious emotional baggage, often played out in destructive ways, which take us completely by surprise. In this month’s series we will delve into the dark side of life roles – exploring the issues that create disasters and how to avoid them. Finally, we will examine the ways we can ensure our roles serve and support us, rather than define or destroy us.
Self-esteem and life roles; how to avoid feeling worthless
If I was asked whether I derived my self-esteem from any one life role in my twenties I would have laughed and said ‘of course not’; however, I would have been mistaken. One of the reasons life roles can cause us such upset is because so much of what can go wrong, does so on a completely subconscious level. With this in mind my aim for this series is to bring this issue into the conscious realm.
In truth, I have suffered from deriving self-esteem from my work and academic studies. Others still may derive their self-esteem from being what they consider a good daughter, wife, mother or friend.
Healthy self-esteem is derived from character and so it is easy to think it’s healthy to derive self-esteem from your relationship life roles; however, there is a subtle but critical difference between deriving self-esteem from your character as opposed to deriving it from relational life roles. Whereas deriving your self-esteem from your character (for example, being kind and considerate) is advisable because you have complete control over your behavior, deriving self-esteem from a relationship life role (like being a daughter) is risky. This is because, whilst being a good daughter is related to your character, the relationship between you and your mother remains in part beyond your control.
For example, if you derive your self-esteem from being a good daughter, and you and your mom have a disagreement (despite you being kind and considerate) your self-esteem would be negatively impacted and may cause you to mend the relationship prematurely at the expense of being assertive and creating healthy boundaries.
Indeed, depending on your relational life roles as a direct source of self-esteem always leaves you vulnerable to feelings of worthlessness should conflict arise. Choose to base your self-esteem on your character instead and you will not only protect your emotional health, but nurture it too.
If you believe your self-esteem might be tied to your life roles and would like to build healthy self-esteem based on your character instead, please read my Tiny Buddha article titled ‘Learning to Love Yourself: 3 Steps to Instantly Boost Self-Esteem’.
The difference between self-esteem and identity
Although it is possible to derive self-esteem from your identity (I did this when I identified as a model in my early twenties) self-esteem and identity are two very separate things. Whilst your self-esteem relates to how much value you place on yourself as a person (always a good idea to base this only on your character), identity is how you perceive yourself.
For example, you might consider yourself first and foremost an athlete, so this would be your primary identity. Notice that your identity points to what you do as opposed to who you are.
What would you say is your main source of self-esteem? Have you ever over identified with any one life role? Do you have any tried and true tips for focusing on your character as a source of self-esteem or even how to avoid getting too tied up in any one identity? Please share your thoughts in the comments below to gain encouragement, insight and support from our community, we’d love to hear from you.
Stay tuned – next week I’ll be tackling identity and life roles and how to develop a core identity.