How to build self esteem

According to the bible, Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil… In addition to losing their place in the garden, they also lost some sense of perspective. Many of us have not yet reclaimed the view that each of us is unique. When we fully embrace this view, we see that each of us has our own compilation of values in a differing rank order. To one, peanut butter is a delicious snack on apples. To others, it is a trip to the hospital. To one, a nude beach is liberating. To another, a sin. Some prefer self expression, others privacy. Each is nourished by something different. What is good to one, is bad for another.

But having eaten from the tree of knowledge, some things have been banned. Some topics, words or even opinions have become taboo. Usually this is done with the best of intents. But this comes to the expense of minorities and at times to the majority at others and sometimes to us all. These taboos limit us in thought and action, but also in subtle ways act with a numbing effect as we ourselves feel stifled by these limitations whether they are directed towards us, or towards others. In this way, good and evil have become gatekeepers of experiences outside the gates of culturally imposed norms.

Freedom from the norms

One of the difficulties in reclaiming some sense of freedom is being able to identify where we are bound. This is often difficult to see from within the constraints of culture. It is much easier for people on the edge of a culture to spot the problems within it, than it is for people at the center of a culture who are benefiting from it. At the center of western culture is the megaphone of the media. From it emanates the cultural norms delineating good from bad. Because it is difficult to perceive culture from within it, the extent to which the media has been used to skew cultural norms cannot easily be measured.

One of the ways psychologist Carl Jung dealt with this problem is by helping people move towards what he called individuation. Jung realized that group imposed norms often stifled individual longings and potentials. Honoring an individual’s unique capacities, character and longings helps to pull one’s unique gifts from the rigid expectations and imposition that restrain the life-force of the life you were meant to live. So when the restraints begin to come into view, this can be very good news. What does the butterfly first notice but the constraints of the cocoon?

From the place of liberation, we can see that good and bad are largely relative concepts. What is good for the butterfly is bad for the caterpillar. Revisit the garden tree and the implied rules that came with good and bad. But this time, be like the caterpillar and eat the leaves. Slowly and patiently. The change will come.

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