Reprinted from Hamodia
To someone suffering from low self-esteem, Rabbi Twerski writes:
The Torah relates that when the meraglim returned from Eretz Canaan, they said that the land was inhabited by giants. “We appeared in our own eyes like grasshoppers, and that is how we appeared to them” (Bamidbar 13:33).
The Chiddushei HaRim comments that the Torah is telling us that the way a person feels about himself is how he thinks other people perceive him.
This is the most important psychological insight. A person does not think he may be hallucinating or delusional. A person feels that what he sees as reality is in fact reality and does not doubt the validity of his perception.
If a person thinks of himself as being small, he is certain that others see him as small. Similarly, if he thinks of himself as dull, unattractive, unlikable, and inadequate, he is certain that this is what he is and that others see him as such.
In my books, I have repeatedly pointed out that many people’s self-concept is erroneous and that they have unwarranted negative feelings about themselves.
In Angels Don’t Leave Footprints, I pointed out that these erroneous feelings about oneself are the work of the yetzer hara. The Talmud says that the yetzer hara constantly tries to destroy a person (Kiddushin 30), and I believe it does so by crushing him, making him feel inferior and worthless.
It takes away the initiative to accomplish, causes a person to be paralyzed by fear of failure, and makes him lose confidence in his ability to live up to all the Torah’s requirements.
If you thought better about yourself, you would feel that people relate to you because they value and enjoy your friendship, rather than that they are doing chesed with you. We are all better people than we take credit for.
Certainly, we may have some character defects, but we should have the confidence that we can improve upon them. The famous baal mussar Rav Yerucham Levovitz said, “Woe unto the person who is not aware of his character defects, but much worse off is the person who is not aware of his character strengths.”
We can defend ourselves against the yetzer hara’s efforts to crush us by working towards a true self-awareness. Rav Shlomo Wolbe has a section on self-awareness in volume 1 of Alei Shur.
In Ten Steps to Being Your Best, I suggest a method to build self-esteem. This will not only change how you feel about how others relate to you, but can relieve you of some of the self-defeating things we do as a result of an erroneous self-concept.