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How to build self-esteem

I originally wrote this entry about a year ago for a site called Capessa which has since been closed. Someone emailed me recently who liked the entry and couldn’t find it anywhere, so I’m posting it. There are some time discrepancies now, but I’ll leave it as it is. Just take in mind I wrote it a year ago and I’m going to Europe in May, so wheee!

I was cleaning out my desk a couple months ago when I found a list of goals I’d written six years ago. Usually it is embarrassing to find lists like those because I either haven’t accomplished anything on the list or I realize I used to want some pretty lame things. In high school, I had to write a letter to my future self and an inordinately large segment of it was devoted to wondering whether Mulder and Scully would have gotten together on The X-Files by the time I read it five years later. The funny thing? I can’t remember if they ever did.

I think I shredded the goal list I found, along with all my credit card statements going back to the 90’s, (must declutter!), so I can’t type it for you verbatim. However, item number one was (of course) “Lose weight.” Cool! Mission accomplished. The next item was something like, “Start a writing project.” Score again! I write on this blog all the time. I was really rolling. Third item, “Get a scholarship.” Oops. Probably should have done that before I graduated. Too late now. Fourth item, “Get an apartment.” Signing a rent check every month is kind of depressing, but if it makes me a success goal-wise, it’s worth every penny. Fifth item, “Visit Europe.” Still haven’t done this, but because of the blog (see goal number 2), I now know several people to crash with if I ever do go.

I was amazed. I’d accomplished almost everything on my list. This was unprecedented. For once, I was someone with accomplishments and not just potential. It made me feel really good about myself, and it made me realize that’s a key to building self-esteem – you have to do things for yourself. Everyone wants to love themselves, but it’s tricky figuring out how to do that outside of an adult toy shop. Everyone wants to like themselves, but it’s not something you can buy. It’s not listed on the credit card statements I was shredding. I get e-mails sometimes for people wanting to know how you build that self-respect. Well, you have to make yourself into someone you respect.

When asked, most people will say they are nice. Buy how do you know if someone is nice? The guy who held the elevator for me even though I was halfway down the hallway, he was pretty nice. And my mom sent me a Valentine’s Day card even though I’m an ungrateful daughter who couldn’t get off her ass to the Hallmark store in time to do the same. That was nice. And someone let me into the right lane of traffic on the snowy ride home this evening, even though he could have been an asshole and blocked me out. That was nice. These people are nice because they did nice things.

So, if you want self-esteem, you need to do things that earn your esteem. Figure out what kind of person you want to be. Then figure out what kind of things that person does. Then start doing them. Eureka! Self-esteem! Okay, it might not be that easy, just like eating less and exercising more isn’t all that easy. But the basic philosophy is true. You might want to think of yourself as a nice person, but if you haven’t actually done anything nice lately, are you really nice? And you may want high self-esteem, but have you actually done anything lately that you hold in high esteem?

Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away
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Monica • April 22, 2009 at 1:51 am

Does that say June already or am I really sleepy?

Thanks to your book, I love myself a little more each day!


Monica • April 22, 2009 at 1:52 am

Does that say June already or am I really sleepy?

Thanks to your book, I love myself a little more each day!


vague • April 22, 2009 at 2:11 am

Another good post, PQ! Common sense for the win.


Amy • April 22, 2009 at 2:30 am

Didn’t I read a little while ago that you were going to Europe?


MrMB • April 22, 2009 at 3:15 am

Hi Jennette, really you did a great job on yourself. 10 thumbs up. I got a nice motivation booster from your website :-) Thanks for it


Bryher hill • April 22, 2009 at 3:23 am

If you want to visit Wales/England then your more than welcome to come visit and borrow my spare room!!


Lucy • April 22, 2009 at 4:37 am

A brilliant, brilliant post. :)


mike • April 22, 2009 at 4:43 am

What a wonderful post.


Karen • April 28, 2009 at 9:51 am

Thank you. Well put, I’ve been looking for a way to help my teenage son figure this out. This helps me.


If you want to stop paying rent you can withdraw some of the IRA money you tweeted about yesterday, early without penalty, for a first time home owner down payment. Then if you have bought before December 1 of this year, pass go and collect the 8k from the feds as a first time home buyer…just saying….


Caitlin • April 28, 2009 at 10:03 am

What a great entry. It’s words of wisdom like that, that gets my ass up to the gym every morning! =) Have fun in Europe. I’m excited to go to Vegas for my 21st in May, nevermind Europe.


Anna • April 28, 2009 at 10:40 am

wow! Your’e smart!

Wonderfully put.


Helen • April 28, 2009 at 10:48 am

You know why I loved this post? Because if, in the last paragraph, you can replace the words “self esteem” with “thin” or “weight loss” and the meaning stays the same. Whatever it is in life that one is trying to accomplish – the secret is to begin to actually live that way. Thanks for the reminder.


victoria • April 28, 2009 at 2:37 pm

This is really helpfult o me. I’ve been struggling with resentment I’ve been carrying around (for years!) towards someone who treated me badly. I really want to let go of the resentment, but haven’t been able to.

I’ve tried praying for him, wishing him well, extending compassion, etc., and nothing worked. I still hate him.

This idea that “If I can let go of the resentment, and forgive him, I will be a person I respect” inspires me. Your post gives me hope that I can do this, that I can let go of the negativity and move on.


lila • April 28, 2009 at 2:45 pm

Didn’t you just post this a couple of weeks ago or am I on crack?


Bobbi Jo Beaver • April 28, 2009 at 2:56 pm

Give a holler if you make it to Deutschland. We’ll probably be in the States while you’re here but it’d be great if you could swing by and feed the dog ;)


Ang • April 28, 2009 at 3:06 pm

Oh, this was so well put. I also plan to share this with my teenage son. He is the perfect age to think about what kind of person he would like to be, and how to earn his own respect.


Mary @ A Merry Life • April 28, 2009 at 4:50 pm

Great post. It’s so true that sometimes self esteem takes work.


Robin • April 28, 2009 at 5:16 pm

Mulder and Scully DID get together in the end… and in the 8th (?) season, they had a baby together named William (after Mulder’s father). But then in the 9th season, Scully had to give him away because there were people after him. They did a closed adoption, and he is never seen from again. They talk about him, but he is forever with his new family. :) I love the X-Files.


MizFit • April 29, 2009 at 6:09 am

Ahhhh capessa.

I hardly knew ye and yet ye made me film 12 videos you never ran :)


dana • April 29, 2009 at 7:41 am

Anything worth having is worth working for. Self esteem has to the most valuable thing we can have. It does take a decision, a plan and some action. I know must work at it everyday! Thanks for the thoughtful and inspiring post.


PastaQueen • April 29, 2009 at 9:32 am

@MizFit – Ouch! That sucks. I hope you got to use the vids on your own site at least.


Meg • April 29, 2009 at 9:54 am

Isn’t it great to look back and realize that you’ve actually accomplished something with your time? ^_^

As far as esteem worthy living, I think it’s important to realize that every person you meet is a person, whole and complete, and treat them that way. It’s actually harder than it sounds, especially here in NYC. It’s easy to start viewing people by their rolls, like pedestrian, or tourist, instead of a complete person.

Great post!


Leilani • April 30, 2009 at 2:40 am

I recently have lost a bit of weight (again).

People have commented that I seem to be much more fashion conscious. I dress better. I do my hair. I take good care of my skin. I get the impression people think I’ve become vain.

I, on the other hand, just don’t think they get it.

I put some hard work into losing weight, and am finally seeing results. So I looked around at the other things in my life I was dissatisfied with and decided to try to make changes. Months later, better style, better hair, better skin. Behold! Effort yields results!

I love your post because it said so clearly what I’ve been trying to communicate for weeks. Thanks.


Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog at JennetteFulda.com.

Man looking into telescope

Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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"What distinguishes us one from another is our dreams and what we do to make them come about." - Joseph Epstein

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