You Can Not Buy Self-Esteem

MarilynDavisatTIERS By MarilynDavisatTIERS, 23rd Sep 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Personal Development>Improving Potential

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
― Oscar Wilde

Spending Money On The Outside Doesn't Always Help the Insides

People spend millions of dollars a year attempting to look like a stranger in an advertisement. Unfortunately, most of us know nothing about the character or qualities of the model; just this frozen in time visual that represents what is current for that monthly addition of a fashion magazine. The good news is that looks are easily changed:

1. Just walk into your favorite store.
2. Observe what is on the mannequin.
3. Find your size.
4. Pull out the credit or debit card and be on your way.

Yet, how many times have you purchased the latest-must-have-and-I’ll-be-better-item, only to find that you did not feel any differently about yourself?

Becoming Yourself, Not Your Role or Label

When I work with my recovery clients I ask them, “Who are you?”

I invariably get wife, husband, mother, father, business owner, caretaker, student, addict, or a descriptor of their role or label. I quietly let them give me these descriptors as we can use them to evaluate how they feel about the role, however it is not who they are.

Part of the problem with getting our self-esteem from what we do is that when that role or label no longer applies, our self-esteem can tank.

We even use phrasing to mollify these situations. “I lost my job”, as if we have just misplaced it like the phone.

Personal Lesson in Who I Am, Not What I Do

I opened an award winning women’s residential recovery home in 1990. Over the years, I had personal validation for what I did. Brenau University, GA, created the Marilyn Davis Community Service Learning Award in 2008, an ongoing award to recognize advocates in mental health, recovery and wellness.

This award has special meaning for me, as the University had placed me in treatment for my substance abuse issues in 1988. In 2006, I had an opportunity to give back to the institution by creating a psychiatric clinical experience for fourth year nursing students. I knew that this action demonstrated my gratitude and appreciation for what the university had done for me.

In 2010, I was awarded the Liberty Bell Award by the Northeastern Judicial Circuit, GA for my contributions to the criminal justice systems and my community. Here again, I knew that my actions of providing education into addiction and recovery; advocating for treatment rather than incarceration for first time drug possession and supporting the efforts of law enforcement to stem the use of illegal chemicals demonstrated my better qualities.

However, much of my identity was still as the Executive Director of the recovery home. When the house closed in 2011, I felt a pronounced sense of loss - my identity, my income, and my purpose, and these losses started to undermine my self-esteem.

Dealing with a Lowered Self-Esteem

"If we get our self-esteem from superficial places, from our popularity, appearance, business success, financial situation, health, any of these, we will be disappointed, because no one can guarantee that we'll have them tomorrow." -Kathy Ireland

With the house closing, I was no longer figuring out other people’s problems and finding solutions for them. I could not claim that I did not have enough time to figure out my problems and find my solutions.

Any fact-finding exploration of self is aided by a S.W.O.T. analysis. I had done them as part of team building when I was at the University and thought this would be helpful to evaluate me after the house closed.

For a personal S.W.O.T. analysis, the categories are the same, only the focus is different; it is on you rather than a business or enterprise.

•S = Strengths (internal)
•W = Weaknesses (internal)
•O = Opportunities (external)
•T = Threats (external)

In creating this S.W.O.T. of myself, I could see that I had many opportunities using the talents and strengths I had within me to become who and what I wanted to be in this next phase of my life. That unto itself was reassuring.

Re-evaluating, Redefining and Reinventing Myself

This is part of my S.W.O.T. that helped me view the house closing as an opportunity. Changing my attitude about the closing allowed me to focus on more positive aspects of the experience as well as put emphasis on the qualities that would help me increase my self esteem.

When Circumstances Influence Your Self-esteem

I knew that Global self-esteem, what I generally thought about myself had been constant, both in my addiction (very low) and in my recovery (very okay).

I had made many mistakes in judgment, choices, and actions in my active addiction that I knew did not show me in my “finest hour”, but that over the 25 years that I had been in abstinence-based recovery, I had made many positive changes and so generally felt good about myself.

I also knew that my Situational self-esteem as it related to what I did was high over the 20 years that I ran the house. What happened when the house closed was that I was left with less than positive self-esteem. However, that is often times the norm for Situational self-esteem; it tends to fluctuate, depending on our circumstances, roles, and labels.

I knew that to get my self-esteem back on an even keel, I would have to view qualities within and not focus on what was lacking on the outside. Doing my personal S.W.O.T., I felt good about my qualities and realized that the door that closed gave me opportunities to use my strengths to reach more than the thousand I have previously worked with at the house.

Put Your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats into Perspective

Make time to evaluate your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, also adding talents, limitations, or words that help you hone in on qualities within to realistically view yourself and increase your self-esteem.

Some Questions To Help You With Your Own S.W.O.T.

• What are important values to you?
• What do people compliment you on besides an external possession or attribute
• What characteristics do you possess that are admirable?
• What have you achieved and what qualities did it take to accomplish this?

• What are your negative habits: for example, short tempered, easily stressed, chronically late, or disorganized
• Any unfounded fears
• What tasks, people or events do you avoid and why?


• Do you have a network of strategic and helpful contacts to offer good advice?
• How can you take your talents and strengths and put them to different uses?

• What obstacles do you currently face: age, physical disabilities, and financial threats? at work, at home and socially?
• Could any of your weaknesses lead to threats?
• Are you current with today’s technology?

Remember, finding your answers within is much cheaper than trying to find just the right make-up, dress, car, hairstyle or latest accessory to increase your self-esteem.


Learning To Value Yourself, Self-Discovery, Self-Esteem, Self-Help, Swot For Personal Insight

Meet the author

author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
A Certified Addiction Recovery Empowerment Specialist, with 25 years of abstinence-based recovery. I write about addictions, recovery, life lessons and general writing tips.

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
23rd Sep 2013 (#)

Thank you, Steve.

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
23rd Sep 2013 (#)

Another winner! Keep up the good work!

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
23rd Sep 2013 (#)

Good Evening, Phyl. I sincerely appreciate your encouragement, means a lot to me. Thanks. ~Marilyn

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author avatar Stella Mitchell
23rd Sep 2013 (#)

This is an excellent post Marilyn . Very honest and extremely helpful . Thank you for sharing it with us here .
God bless you
Stella ><

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
23rd Sep 2013 (#)

Good Evening, Stella. I appreciate your comment, thanks. ~Marilyn

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author avatar C.D. Moore
24th Sep 2013 (#)

Another great article Marilyn!

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author avatar C.D. Moore
24th Sep 2013 (#)

Loved the Oscar Wilde quote

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
24th Sep 2013 (#)

Good Evening, C.D. That quote actually says it all, but it had been used by someone else, so I had to write more words.....: ) ~Marilyn

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author avatar M G Singh
24th Sep 2013 (#)

Nice and topical

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
24th Sep 2013 (#)

Good Morning, Madan. I appreciate your comment and thanks for reading. ~Marilyn

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author avatar Ian R Thorpe
24th Sep 2013 (#)

Enjoyed this, I've written a lot on the importance of knowing who we are and finding our own place in the world where we are comfortable. Unfortunately those of us plugging the theme are trying to stop a juggernaut of a propaganda machine.

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
24th Sep 2013 (#)

Good Afternoon, Ian
Unfortunately, I believe you are right. However, if we idly sit by and do not at least attempt to point out the distorted thinking, we are giving tacit approval.

I assume that short limb gets lonely for you sometimes, so thought I would climb the tree and keep you company for a few. : )

Different topic than your article, but same principle. ~Marilyn

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author avatar Trillionaire
26th Sep 2013 (#)

No you can't and self-esteem is very important.

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
26th Sep 2013 (#)

Good Morning, Trillionaire. Yes, self-esteem is important and changing for the better is one way to elevate our self-esteem. ~Marilyn

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