Mendy Kaminker
Mendy Kaminker

The cure to low self esteem

We don’t like to talk about it, but it’s already reached pandemic proportions.

It’s everywhere. So many people have it. The saddest thing is that they are too ashamed to admit it. They prefer to pretend that it does not exist and that it has no impact on their lives.

But it does. And its impact is crippling.

Some say that we all suffer from it to some extent.

So how can you tell?

If someone is overly aggressive, it is most likely that.

If someone is withdrawn or uncomfortable in a social environment, it is very possible that this is the cause.

And if someone suffers from addiction, it is also associated with it.

Low self-esteem, that is.

Yes, low self-esteem can cause so many issues in our lives.

Because let’s admit it: when we feel good about ourselves, we tend to be generous, loving and agreeable.

And if we don’t… well, here’s how a research paper published by the Oxford Academic describes it:

“Evidence is presented illustrating that … poor self-esteem is associated with a broad range of mental disorders and social problems, both internalizing problems (e.g. depression, suicidal tendencies, eating disorders and anxiety) and externalizing problems (e.g. violence and substance abuse)”.

Wow. One condition that causes so many problems! Shouldn’t we all spend more time discussing this problem and trying to find a solution?

Now is the perfect time to have this discussion, because the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are called “Aseret Yemei Teshuvah”: 10 days dedicated to Teshuvah, thinking about our misgivings in the past and committed to being better Jews.

And Teshuvah is all about self-esteem.

Usually, the word Teshuvah is translated as repentance: to be remorseful or regretful. Yet the accurate translation of the word is to return.

To return to what?

To what we truly are. To whom we truly are.

The fundamental idea of Teshuvah is that in essence we are all good. We are good because we have a holy soul; we are good because G-d has chosen and created us; we are good because this is our real identity.

Yes, we may have done things wrong. We might not have been true to our identity. Perhaps we have forgotten our G-dly spark, which makes us who we are.

To get back on the right track, we do not have to be born again or embark on a new journey. All we need to do is to return. To look inside our soul and to recognize our deep, unbreakable connection to G-d.

I remember once walking next to a family. The children misbehaved and the father kept telling them, “You are such bad children!” You are so bad!”

I felt so sorry for those children because – perhaps unbeknown to him – he was killing their self-esteem. It is possible that they would never forget his words and always see themselves as bad.

What if he had chosen the Teshuvah route? What if he told them: “I know you’re good children! Please show it!” Please behave as you really are

I’m sure that would have motivated them to behave better.

As we journey through the days of Teshuvah, we should focus on improving ourselves, reviewing our past and deciding to be better in the future; but as we do, let us remember that we are inherently good, connected and loved by the One who matters most.

Shabbat Shalom

About the Author
Rabbi Mendy Kaminker is the Chabad Rabbi of Hackensack, and an editorial member of Chabad.org.
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