Building Self-Esteem (or, Why Are You Worth Feeding?)

Building Self-Esteem (or, Why Are You Worth Feeding?)

Self-esteem is NOT what you think. It’s not really the ‘I feel good about myself’ emotion. If you would have asked me a year ago, I wouldn’t have guessed that such interesting topics would be taught in dental school, but here I am learning about them.

My favorite class in school right now is Dentist-Patient-Relationship. Here we learn about the interactions we will encounter, and the kind of mental maneuvering we have to do in order to deliver optimal treatment and prevent the patient from standing in the way of their oral health.

One way to do this is the concept of interpersonal contracts, of which I won’t get into too specific details right now. They’re basically an understanding between the doctor and patient that both parties are working to meet each others expectations.

In one of our recent classes, Dr. Hittelman the Psychologist who teaches this course, made an interesting distinction about what self-esteem is. We already know it’s not just the ‘I feel good about myself’ emotion. Rather it’s a feeling that you are a valuable human being by possessing a quality that makes you such. This could be for a number of reasons, including but not exclusive to, having a skill, talent, job, relationship, helping people, being attractive, etc.

I think Dr. Hittelman put it best though when he said that self-esteem is the answer to the question ‘why are you worth feeding?’ Sitting down with a blank text file, heading the paper ‘why am I worth feeding?’, and unleashing your mind to write freely might create a new awareness for you.

Although this wasn’t an exercise recommended by Dr. Hittelman, and I can’t say it’s a valid Psychological exercise, I do think that there are a couple of valuable things that will come out of such an exercise for you.

1. You’ll realize why you’re already worth feeding. You might become aware of something that is valuable about you, which you might have overlooked before. You’ll be able to then focus in on this worth, do more of it, and use it to raise your self-esteem. Being proud of yourself, for one reason or another, will color your days a different color as you move forward through life. By doing this exercise, you’re allowing yourself to choose the colors.

2. You’ll realize why you think you’re not worth feeding.
Whether or not this it will come down to your personal opinion is arbitrary, but perhaps you really aren’t being a very valuable person at the moment. By doing this exercise, and self-actualizing about where you think you are lacking in this department, I believe you could create positive forward-bound momentum in your life. If you’re already at rock bottom, that means you have the whole world to expand and improve into.

Regardless of where you stand, there is always room for improvement. You can make a list of things you’d like to improve upon in yourself, and slowly but surely take action towards being a valuable person.

Here’s your chance. In the comments below, answer the question, ‘why are you worth feeding?’ – Don’t think of it as bragging, you have full rights here to say what you think. You could do just one, or list several, it’s up to you.

Posted by in Character Building | October 21, 2009 | Digg | | Stumble | Print | 11 comments

  • fas

    Tricky question. Because maybe I find myself worth my self in Gold?

  • David Rogers

    Interesting post – I’m writing about it on my own blog at the moment (wait for the trackback!). Whilst I like the idea of defining ourselves as a valuable human being, your tutor loses the plot somewhat when posing the question “why am I worth feeding”. There is a great overlap between low self esteem and depression, and I’m sure no one would think of asking someone who is depressed that question? Self esteem is generally only a problem when people lack it – people don’t complain if there’s is high. So as a starting point to build self esteem I think the question could be somewhat different.

  • Alex Shalman

    @David – When Dr. Hittelman presented this to the class, I don’t think he meant it to be an exercise in raising self-esteem. He was merely making a distinction. He did not say to ask this of depressed people.

    The way I framed this blog post is of my own opinion, and I put my own personal development (self-awareness) type of twist on it. I do believe that if you ask this to someone that is depressed, it could make them aware and facilitate them striving for something bigger. It might be that if they’re depressed, it’s because they spend a lot of time thinking about what’s wrong, instead of the positive value that they could be creating for themselves.

  • David Rogers

    I certainly see this as your twist on things – as, if you like, my throwing depression into the mix was mine. But I do think if he was trying to help your class understand the concept of self esteem (which is hard to define at the best of times!) I think the question he posed misses the point.

    If someone has any degree of clinical depression (not just having an off day) then they will spend a lot of time immersed in negative thinking. The problem being its very hard when genuinely depressed to change those thinking habits. Changing that thinking can take along time, and may need other interventions, before someone can accept a more positive viewpoint.

  • Duff

    I also like how Nathaniel Branden put it, which is something like “if you want to build self-esteem, do esteemable acts.” Rather than pump yourself up with airy positivity, go do something courageous that is meaningful to you.

    It is of course also useful to get to know any inner critics that are overly harsh, ask them what their positive purposes are, and if they would be willing to communicate in more constructive ways.

  • Pingback: Why Are You Worth Feeding? | The Invisible Mentor()

  • Adrian

    Holly crap.. impeccable timing mate! I have just figured this out myself and now find this to confirm 🙂

    I recently started living better and became happier by doing more things I like and by finding my worth not in my looks (which I don’t have..), money or something else, but by knowing that I’m a Man who strives to become best, build businesses, be free and enjoy life in general. That’s all… My self-esteem just got better and bigger. I do think that I am worth enough now, maybe not worth the most yet, but I’m working on it.


  • Armen Shirvanian

    Hey Alex.

    I like material like this that challenges us in an upward way. Many would not want to ask themselves this question, as it would require placing some value on what they are doing, but they have to do so if there is to be energy toward it. We have to have answers to these questions if we want a strong drive forward, as opposed to a passive moving from one step to another based on societal pushes or such.

    Realizing why you are not worth feeding sure can be a wake-up call as to what is on the way if you don’t change things. Everyone wants to continue being fed with food and enjoyment and related items, so this provides impetus to get going, if one is not already going.

    Upward-pointing material as usual, and glad to read it.

  • Baker

    Hey Alex,
    Informative and well thought out post. I am worth feeding, because I’m the Baker and I make a lot of dough!

  • jon

    Hey Alex

    Im worth feeding….Because i exist


    We are all worth feeding because we, as human beings, are a physical expression of the universal spirit of love. We are part of the divine and entitled to everything good in life, simply because we are alive.