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How Changes in Perception Can Improve Your Self-Esteem

800px-NICO_looks_at_himself A hand reaching to the left can be seen from the other side, as a hand reaching to the right. It all depends on your point of reference. Perception is everything. It explains why a poor person can be happy, while a rich person contemplates suicide. The poor person revels in finding a $20 bill, despite owning nothing but the clothes on his back. The rich person is distraught after losing his entire fortune, despite owning several lavish estates.

How Is that Relevant?

You'll never understand what I've gone through. You'll never understand what I've gone through.
It also explains why most self-help article and books come across as get-rich-quick schemes to anyone who has low self-esteem. Their unilateral and singular focus on the end goal—something that is far out of reach to us (yes, that’s includes me) low “self-esteemers,” (LSEers), distort these publications into trite platitudes that ring hollow in sincerity and meaning. We see the confident as people who have it easy; who have never really suffered in life; that their confidence is a characteristic with which they were born. On the other hand, the confident see the LSEers as their past selves who have yet to fully realize their capacity to adapt, which is why the books and articles they author are so focused on becoming confident. Because the confident have already reached that summit or zenith of vision, the idea of unaffected self-assurance is no longer an abstract dream. It is a tangible, breathing creature that they have embodied. Unfortunately, in their haste to help the LSEers see this point of view, they do not dwell on and therefore, trivialize the only concepts that we LSEers actually understand: misery and hopeless stagnation. And that’s only alienates us further. It’s no one side’s fault. The ingrained differences in perception are too great.

Can I Alter Perception to My Advantage?

When a blind man reaches for something, his hand will go back and forth attempting to hone in on the desired object. Similarly, your mind has to reach back and forth; to reach the boundaries on both sides of the unknown, meaning that you must experience both the bad and the good in order to finally discover and grasp that which you so desperately desire.
Role-playing can really help alter your perception. Immerse yourself into that role, and your perception will change. And don't be afraid to laugh at yourself! Role-playing can alter your perception, if you really immerse yourself into that role. And don't be afraid to laugh at yourself!

Role-Playing

The bad: No matter how low your self-esteem is, if you look closely enough, there will always be another less fortunate in whatever attribute that you find yourself lacking. But it’s not just about telling yourself, “Oh, I should appreciate what I have because of…” Trying to force your established perception to shift based purely on observation is futile. You have to experience the adversity. So whatever attribute you find yourself lacking, enhance that disparity.

For example, if you think you have the face of Shrek; consider making yourself a “mask” that’s even worse, and then assuming that identity as you go to public venues to which you’ve rarely ventured in the past, whether it’s a bar or a museum. Give yourself a unibrow, a patchy beard, and don’t whiten your teeth or put on deodorant. Then, absorb all that negative energy and feedback that you’ll no doubt receive. Remember and embrace that humiliation, because at the end of however long a period you choose to endure, you’ll be transformed back into your normal and yes, beautiful visage. By forcing yourself to live through that gauntlet of insult, you’ll be more likely to truly feel good about what you are, of who you are. If you genuinely throw yourself into these types of scenarios, your perception will change.

And this technique is something to which I can personally attest. There was a time when I had to go days without eating. The feelings of aching and yearning were overwhelming. I had to sleep 18+ hours a day, just to escape the incessant gnawing. I drank a lot of tap water those days. Intense as those reactions were, the worst sensation was the crushing abyss of hopelessness and abandonment from which I could not escape, for the whole world was crashing down on me, and no one even noticed. But as it turns out, I needed to fester in that quagmire, for my life since has never been easy. The worst experiences like this one however, eulogize the least-worst; the best. I needed unadulterated torment to appreciate life.

It would seem that you could benefit from something similar as well.

The good: Unfortunately, it’s easier to experience pain rather than joy. You can take things away, but you can’t just give yourself a new face. So what do you do? The only thing you can do: “fake it until you make it,” because like anything, being confident takes practice.

Going back to the ogre example, go ahead and put on your “mask” whether it’s a real one (makeup) or a psychology one. But the most important thing is to not think of when you get to take the mask off; of when you can relax and “be yourself.” Remember, it’s all about perception. Instead, treat the masked version of yourself as an experiment; see that person as an actor; see the time you put on a mask as if you were shooting your first full-length feature film. Act as if you were already overflowing with confidence. Take note of how confident people act. From my experience, they tend to be well-mannered, carefree, and joke good-naturedly and many times self-deprecatingly. They also smile as if every day were Christmas, and do things without rush, but with purpose. And above all, confident people see the best in others.

So when you put on your mask, try and talk more slowly. Deepen your voice. Smile more. Walk as if you were strolling on the beach. And don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself! I know that putting yourself in these new situations can be stressful. But by not taking things too seriously, recognizing that being confident takes a LOT of practice, and cackling in mirth at how ridiculous you sound while trying talk like James Earl Jones, will go a long way to ease feelings of discomfort.

And after doing this for a long time, you may one day find yourself acting confident, but then realizing that you have no mask on; that the “tangible, breathing creature” has become you!

Where Do I Go from Here?

You will find your vision. You will find your vision.
When the blind man finally found that which he so strongly desired—a miracle, he discovered that it really wasn’t so hard to find. All he needed to do was to unwaveringly move left and right, backwards and forwards; to never stop touching and experiencing everything around him. You too, must never stop searching for the gift of vision; for the chance to irrevocably perceive a world that cherishes you. ***Please keep in mind that, despite taking courses in various subcategories of psychology, this post represents nothing but my own personal observations, ruminations, and interpretations of the lore surrounding the topic of self-esteem. In no way, am I basing the viewpoints addressed in this article on any particular scientific study or school of thought, nor am I guaranteeing that the techniques discussed will elicit measurable change.   Oh, and it would really help me and my self-esteem, okay not really the latter, if you'd take the time to tell me your experience with water-based products versus oil-based ones. Which ones did you find more effective?  
By: John Su
Date: March 8 2013 at 4:40 PM
Q&A, acceptance, courage, determination, experience, experimentation, LARP, LARPING, live action role play, love yourself, role playing, self-confidence, Self-esteem

Comments (8)

  1. carmen k
    March 8 2013 at 4:59 PM

    Perception is reality, as least to the perceiver, and our identity are the stores we told ourselves. I do agree with you.

  2. John Su
    March 10 2013 at 4:11 PM

    @carmen k Mhm, bingo. Thanks for the vote of confidence. :)

  3. Rebecca
    March 10 2013 at 4:29 PM

    Adorable dog !!!!

  4. Another LSEr
    March 11 2013 at 9:22 AM

    John, I have tried the second method that you have mentioned. Even to try that, or to imagine that figure in your head, you still need a self-esteem. Sometimes it gets very confusing between having a high self-esteem and accepting a reality. If you are lacking something, doesn't it makes more sense to just accept it. The consequences of that thing will be around you all the time to remind you of that lackness anyways. And how do we learn to live or cope or accept the face and move forward is easier said than done. I am talking about myself personally, I am a bit slow learner, and not quite good looking. As a woman, it's a deadly combination. I can't pretend to be a good looking , smart woman. I just have to accept it, know my limits and work within them. I can't pretend an wear a mask of someone talented and smart. That is what my family did to be all those many years, they shielded me from reality and keep telling me you are intelligent, you are good looking, you are smart (may in their mind they were boosting my self confidence). Yet when you grow up one day, you come to know that all that you were told was not that true. And you loose even more confidence. Same goes with mask wearing thing in my opinion.

  5. John Su
    March 11 2013 at 8:04 PM

    @Rebecca If only he were mine. Sigh. :)

  6. John Su
    March 11 2013 at 8:55 PM

    @Another LSEr You're right that accepting yourself is crucial. However, I feel at times that just saying "accept yourself" to anyone who has ever had low-self esteem, is like saying, "Yeah, sorry bud. You're stuck with whatever you've got." There's no change in anything: not in perception, hope, etc... It just makes those stuck in that situation, feel even more stuck. Because like I said, it's all about perception. How can these people suddenly accept themselves if they're experiences haven't changed; if for their entires lives they've been telling or been told that they are worthless? As for the second "exercise," I'm not telling you to imagine that you're suddenly good-looking, etc. I'm not asking to picture a different you. I'm asking you to bypass that limiting characteristic and just pretend to be confident. Don't think about what you lack. Think and imagine how a confident person operates, and emulate/become that; finding a real-life role model can be helpful. Finally, it's not about building up a false sense of security by telling yourself that you're "good." It's about trying, experiencing, and living that idea. And I know that this is no easy thing to ask for. Trust me, despite sounding rather hopeful in this post, I myself still struggle with low self-esteem. There are days when I can't even be bothered to put on a mask. I'm just so down that for any given length of time, I'll just wander through life shunning everyone around me and wishing I was born as someone else. The pain is so great, that I have to simply numb it. But I haven't given in. And so long as you don't permanently cave in, you will one day evolve. That's why it's important to not just have everyone "accept" themselves. Because to many people, accepting themselves means permanently caving in to the pressure and demands of society; to just resign oneself to what is given. It's important to have acceptance, but it needs to come from a place of contentment, rather than resignation. Please keep pushing yourself and I wish you the best!

  7. Another LSEr
    March 12 2013 at 2:25 PM

    Thanks for the reply. It is hard for me to imagine a person as smart and intelligent as you would be having low-self esteem. You should be flying with pride. And one day I know i will see you as a very successful dermatologist who will be famous all over the place. best,

  8. John Su
    March 12 2013 at 9:55 PM

    @Another LSEr You're very welcome! And thank you for the delightfully candid endorsement.

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