Improving Your Self-Esteem

Following is a continuation of a list of personal strengths, courtesy of Martin Seligman in the book Authentic Happiness (Free Press). Look at this list and decide what your strongest strengths are – not strengths that you sometimes have, but strengths that actually define the authentic you. Using these strengths every day in work, parenting and love is a crucial element in living the “good life.”

Teamwork/citizenship. You are a loyal and dedicated teammate, and you work hard for the success of the group. You pull your own weight in group situations, and you respect those rightfully in positions of authority, such as teachers or coaches. You are a good team member, sometimes sacrificing your own self-interest for the benefit of the whole.

Fairness and equity. You give everyone a fair chance, and you don’t let your personal feelings or prejudices bias your decisions about other people. You take the welfare of others as seriously as you do your own, even for those you don’t know personally.

Leadership. You do a good job organizing activities and seeing to it that they happen. You acknowledge responsibility for mistakes. The humane leader must first of all be an effective leader, getting the group’s work done while maintaining good relations among group members. A humane national leader forgives enemies and includes them in the same broad moral circle as his or her own followers, such as Nelson Mandela did.

Self-control. You easily can hold your desires, needs and impulses in check when it is appropriate. You can repair and neutralize negative feelings on your own, and when something bad happens, you are able to regulate your emotions.

Prudence/discretion/caution. You don’t say or do things that you may later regret. You wait until all the votes are in before embarking on a course of action. Prudent individuals are far-sighted and deliberative. They are good at resisting impulses about short-term goals for the sake of longer-term success. They avoid physically dangerous activities and make wise choices in friend- ships and relationships.

Humility and modesty. You are unpretentious, preferring to let your accomplishments speak for themselves.

Appreciation of beauty and excellence. You stop and smell the roses. You appreciate beauty, excellence and skill in art, in nature and in everyday things. Sometimes you’re in awe.

Gratitude. You are aware of the good things that happen to you, and you don’t take them for granted. You take the time to express thanks. As an emotion, it is a feeling of wonder, thankfulness and appreciation for life itself. Gratitude also can be directed to nonhuman sources – God, nature, animals.

Hope/optimism/future-mindedness. You expect the best in your future, and you plan and work in order to achieve it.

Spirituality/sense of purpose. Your life has a strong purpose, and you have coherent beliefs about the higher purpose and meaning of the universe. You know where you fit in the larger scheme. Your beliefs shape your actions and are a source of comfort to you. Life has meaning for you by virtue of attachment to something larger than you are.

Forgiveness and mercy. Forgiveness means to grant pardon without resentment. It releases us from the past. Your guiding principle is understanding or mercy, not revenge or attempting to avoid dealing with your feelings.

Playfulness and humor. Are you light-hearted, playful, funny? Do you play well with others, and do you take time to have fun?

Zest/passion/enthusiasm. Do you throw yourself – body and soul – into the activities you undertake? Do you wake up in the morning looking forward to the day? Is the passion you bring to activities infectious? Do you feel inspired?

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