What defines who you are, your past or present you?

What defines who you are, your past or present you?

Has your hurtful past tempered your self-esteem?  Do you see yourself now as a failure?  Do you think that you aren’t good enough for that job, that promotion, that relationship, the lifestyle you want etc?

Low self-esteem can destroy a person.  It is a “virus” that gets into your mind and slowly destroys your self confidence in every aspect of your life.  But how can anyone with low self-esteem build it up and come to see in themselves as a worthwhile and valuable person? 

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No one could teach us better that it is possible to regain our self-esteem and begin to see the potential within us to achieve the things we seek than Oprah Winfrey.  

Until Oprah defined herself, she was a woman who subconsciously allowed her past to determine her future.  Being born into poverty, the world was to her an ugly place.  She grew up under the care of her grandmother in poverty and was mocked and insulted by other children both at school and in the community because of it.  She didn’t have the privilege of experiencing parental love and attention either and nothing kills a child’s esteem more, to know that their parents are alive, but they don’t seem to care if you are.  Things got worse though.

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“I was sexually molested by my cousin, uncle and a family friend starting from when I was nine,” says Winfrey.  “I had to run away from home on many occasions.  When I realised that I was pregnant at fourteen, my life became more meaningless.  I hated who I am, and I felt that there was no reason to live anymore, so I decided to commit suicide.”  - Oprah.

Failing on the suicide attempt, Oprah gave birth to a baby who died shortly after birth. 

Due to her circumstances, from a young age Oprah’s self-esteem was shaped to be very low.  Some people never recover from the trauma of a bad childhood,  a bad relationship breakup or a bad work experience, let alone the unimaginable trauma of sexual assault.  Even those who do are left with fragments of self-hate.  Their ugly experiences shape their beliefs and thoughts, and they tend to see the world as a callous place.  

At some point they do one of two things - they give up or they decide to not let past experiences decide their future.

Oprah Winfrey is now one a hugely successful person and remains one of the wealthiest people in the world today.  She knew she had to decide not to allow her circumstances define her or let what others thought of her affect what she believed about herself. 

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“Whatever has happened to you in your past has no power over this present moment, because life is now,” says Oprah. “I knew that the only way I could prove them wrong was to become successful.”

She knew she had to change her beliefs and develop the self-esteem she needed to attain do this aim.  We can rightly assume that she asked herself two little questions: “Who am I and what do I want?” and that finding the right answers changed her thinking and her beliefs about herself. 

Developing or regaining a healthy self-esteem follows the same path, whether it is with the view to achieving great success in your friendships, career, relationship or just life in general.

Louise L. Hay, the author of You Can Heal Your Life, remarks, “You have been criticising yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.”

Follow these suggested steps below to find and ignite your self-esteem.

Step 1: Who Am I?

Some of us do not know who we are.  Some allow circumstances to define them and a good number of people allow others to tell them what they are not.   

Ask yourself, “who am I?” Be sincere when answering the question. Having interviewed thousands of people, Oprah Winfrey observed, “The root of every dysfunction I’ve ever encountered, every problem, has been some sense of a lacking of self-value or self-worth. As you become more clear about who you are, you’ll be better able to decide what is best for you—the first time around.”   

Understanding who you are helps you see yourself from your point of view, observing and knowing that you have been made unique and powerful and despite the circumstances, that you possess the power to turn your life around. 

 Step 2: See Yourself from A Positive Point of View. 

What you think of yourself and how you see yourself will determine what and how others will see you.  A positive thought is the key to ever even making the first move towards anything you wish to accomplish.

“Don’t put your life on hold so that you can dwell on the unfairness of past hurts.” —NICK VUJICIC

No one has left me in such astonishment as Nick Vujicic. Nick was born with Tetra-Amelia Syndrome, a rare disorder characterised by the absence of arms and legs.  Imagine his self-esteem was growing up feeling alone and very different from the rest of the world.  The segregations, the insults, bullies, mocks—nothing destroys a person’s self-esteem faster. But despite his condition and circumstances, he never saw himself as someone with a severe problem. 

In fact, he was incredibly positive.  “I was never crippled until I lost hope,” Nick said.  He saw his condition as a challenge, but not a disorder.  Today, Nick is a highly successful man, married and a proud father of four. 

No matter what your circumstances, do not allow them to start self-hate bubbling within you. Understand that events in your life do not have to destroy you as there are so many examples of people, including Oprah and Nick, who have risen above hardship and tragedy to succeed.  As much as you wish things had been different, and as difficult or even terrible as situations can be, you can learn from them and they can bring out the best in you. 

Step 3: Set Goals

A goal is a driving force that encourages you and sets you on a path.  It promotes consistency, confidence, dedication, direction and leads to success.

Asking myself the question each day “Who am I?” helps me set and achieve my goals.  It is a fundamental question for everyone, and for me it reminds me of how lucky I am, that I am a unique and special person with great talents and that there is a lot I have to offer people.  Thinking about who I am generates the confidence I need within me to pursue the goals that I’ve set for the day, the week and beyond. 

For whatever reason your self-esteem has affected, I urge you to build it up again and go for what you want.  With a healthy self-esteem you can achieve anything as Oprah Winfrey demonstrates daily.

Carolyn Rowland is a qualified NLP Master Therapist, Advanced Practitioner of Matrix Therapies, Time Line Therapist, Practitioner of Hypnotherapy, has a Diploma for Business and Life Coaching and A Professional Image Stylist.  Carolyn is happily married to her husband Simon, and raised four beautiful children, who are now young adults and a teenager.


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Images are from Getty Images.

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