Back in 2011, I came across an Issue magazine at the Kenya National Library in Upperhill, Nairobi, that discussed extensively about self-esteem. I found the contents of the magazine so educative, so inspiring, so invigorating.
Unfortunately, I have never seen that Issue magazine again in my subsequent visits to the library. I tried to follow up on the whereabouts of the magazine with some workers in the library but they also had no clue on where it had gone. It seems some guy somewhere walked off with the magazine.
All the same, I have managed to learn more about self-esteem from other sources. And what have I learnt? That there are people with good self-esteem and those with low self-esteem.
People with good self-esteem love and enjoy learning. They respect people of other backgrounds, regardless of their sex, age, race or creed. They can see the truth more clearly and are thus less judgemental. They forge more fulfilling relationships and build happier marriages. And they don't consider others more or less important than themselves.
On the other hand, people with low self-esteem feel inadequate and may thus avoid new challenges. They may engage in people-pleasing activities, they may boast too much and they may trust others' reactions than their own. Their self-worth goes up and down like a yo-yo depending on how others behave towards them. And they may allow others to influence them in negative ways.
People with low self-esteem may bully those they see weaker than themselves in an attempt to feel better. They get jealous very easily and they may do drugs and engage in illicit sex that brings unwanted pregnancies and STDs.
Living with a low self-esteem, as you can see, is very frustrating but it doesn't have to remain that way. I've got a number of suggestions on how to build self-esteem.
First, stop making life a contest. If you do so, you'll feel envious and unfulfilled for there will always be people better than you in all areas of life. Also, try not to compare yourself with others; it's because we are different that each of us is special.
Secondly, find something to do that gives you a feeling of achievement. It could be cooking, writing, building websites or knitting clothes. Whatever it is that you find fulfilling, create some time to do it regularly because as Thomas Carylye observed, nothing builds self-esteem like accomplishment.
Thirdly, focus on your strengths instead of dwelling on your weaknesses most of the time. I suggest you make a list of your qualities, skills as well as talents, then review that list often. It will help build self-esteem.
Fourthly, avoid wallowing in guilt by thinking about all the mistakes you have made. Understand that everyone makes mistakes; it's not only you. So strive to see your mistakes as learning tools instead of as signs of worthlessness.
Fifthly, take care of health. And when I talk of health, I just don't mean physical health but also mental and social health. All of the three are important to a good sense of well-being, so try to work on them all.
Sixthly, improve your mind by reading a book, listening to music and writing a story. It's the best way of improving mental health. And improving mental health builds self-esteem.
Seventhly, build a network of supportive friends. You can join a church choir, an organization or a club that does constructive activities. And in this age of the internet, you can build a network of supportive friends by staying in touch with old friends via email, Whatsapp or social networks.
Last but not least, strive to practise gratitude often. Be thankful for all you have especially health and friends. Also remember this is the only life you have to live; why not appreciate it?
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How a Trip Helped Me
While on a school holiday in April 1996, my father woke me up earlier than usual one morning. He asked me and my brother Joe Kagigite to get prepared for a trip. I obeyed his commands without knowing where we were headed to. Well, he had informed me the night before that we would be travelling but he didn't make the destination of the trip known to me.
My father, Kagigite and I left home early that morning when it was still dark. We boarded a bus to Nairobi where we stopped for a few errands including having our shoes polished. Afterwards, we boarded another bus.
Sooner than later, I saw airplanes through the bus window. Seeing the planes at close range made me fizz with excitement. Before then, I had been accustomed to seeing them fly over our home from where they looked like small noisy toys in the sky. It had never occurred to me that I would get a chance to see planes so close. So you can imagine how excited I was that morning.
We alighted from the bus at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. After going through the required clearance, we were led into an aircraft scheduled for Mombasa, a city in coastal Kenya. The mid-sized plane, a Fokker 50 owned by Kenya Airways, looked heavenly on the inside compared to the public service vehicles I had been used to. And I noted that most passengers in the plane were whites - how civilized!
My father allowed me to sit next to the window from where I observed things on the ground shrink in size as the plane ascended to the clouds.
The plane didn't fly directly to Mombasa. It made a stop in Malindi, a town also in coastal Kenya. And on the flight to Mombasa from Malindi, I saw some rivers flow into the Indian Ocean.
We arrived in Mombasa before midday. The exact order of activities we did in the city has long since faded from my memory. All I remember is us boarding a ferry, taking photos on the seashore and touring Fort Jesus (a historical site in the town) after which we went back to the airport to catch a flight back to Nairobi.
That one-day trip to Mombasa helped me to better understand Robinson Crusoe when I read it a dozen months later.
Well, Robinson Crusoe is a novel by Daniel Defoe in which Robinson Crusoe is cast on shore by a shipwreck wherein all the men perish but himself. Robinson then lives alone for twenty eight years on the island on which he is cast by the shipwreck.
Having seen the expansive blue ocean on my one-day trip to Mombasa in 1996, I could picture Robinson Crusoe stranded on an island. Later on, I would fantasize myself also getting stranded in an island where I would feast on coconuts and fish.