Week 3: Discover Authentic Self-Esteem


This week we’re diving into the heart of happiness by connecting to our true self, which is pure love, infinite awareness, and unbounded joy. At the deepest level of being, what we seek, we already are. Our real self is the source of happiness, creativity, understanding, peace, harmony, laughter, love, and all possibilities. Instead of seeking outside of ourselves, we need to go to the source and realize who we really are.

Beautiful landscape

When we’re living from an awareness of our true self, the following elements will be present:

  • We feel connected to all that exists.
  • We cease to struggle.
  • We feel free of limitation.
  • We experience the spontaneous fulfillment of desire.
  • We are fearless and willing to step into the unknown.
  • We feel completely safe.
  • We view ourselves and the world with compassion and understanding.

This is a state known as self-referral, which means that we identify with our inner self, the unchanging essence of our soul. We feel whole and at peace even when life rises up with its inevitable challenges and surprises. Self-referral is an internal state of joy, and is different from happiness for a reason.

The opposite of self-referral is object referral, in which we identify with our self-image or external things, including our status, relationships, possessions, accomplishments, titles, and so on. By their very nature, objects are always changing, and long as we tie our identity to them, we will never know our real essence. We may feel happy when things go our way, but we will always feel an underlying current of instability or insecurity because part of us knows that the source of our good feelings can disappear at any moment.

Self-Referral: The Source of True Self-Esteem
Authentic self-esteem comes not from improving your self-image but from being established in self-referral, from knowing and accepting that core self within that is beautiful, wise, and loving. Once you have fully owned and experienced your essential nature, you will let go of the struggle to build an external sense of self-worth. You will stop trying to “make” yourself feel better as you push down feelings of emptiness and unhappiness. Your true self doesn’t need to be improved, changed, or even healed. It is whole, perfect, and complete exactly as it is.

Exercise: The Shine in Your Eyes
Conscious inner dialogue is a powerful tool for connecting to your true self. Whenever you look in the mirror, even if just for a few seconds, make eye contact with yourself and silently repeat the three principles of self-referral:

  1. I am totally independent of the good or bad opinion of others.
  2. I am beneath no one, and no one is beneath me.
  3. I am fearless in the face of all challenges.

Look into your eyes to see these attitudes reflected back at you. Look just in your eyes, not at your facial expression. Look for the shine in your eyes that reflects the fire in your soul. If you do this exercise a few minutes every day, it will create profound shifts in your life.


Cultivating Your Intentions

This week we invite you to hold the intention to deepen your connection to your true self. A time-honored means for doing this is the practice of mindfulness, which is about cultivating present moment awareness of our thoughts, actions, and feelings. According to the ancient wisdom teachings, this capacity to observe ourselves without judging ourselves is the highest form of human intelligence.

Here is a practical three-step approach to nourishing mindfulness as you move through your day:

  1. Meditate.
  2. Notice what you’re doing.
  3. Allow and accept.

1. Meditate

Woman meditating into the sunset

Learning to still the mind’s dialogue opens the door to a domain of silence that has the potential to heal and transform your life. As you tap into this inner silence, you begin the process of shifting your internal reference point from ego to soul, from fear to love, from anxiety to peace, and from constriction to expansion. The time-honored means of doing that is through a meditation practice.

Special note for the new or hesitant meditator
If you have never meditated or you have tried to meditate and stopped because you were frustrated, weren’t experiencing the benefits, or weren’t sure you were doing it “right,” you now have a fresh opportunity to discover the healing power of meditation.  

There are many different techniques to quiet the mind, including focusing on the breath, walking in silence in nature, biofeedback, prayer and contemplation, and countless other approaches. It’s important to explore and find a practice that resonates with you. The Chopra Center offers instruction in a practice known as Primordial Sound Meditation, a natural, easy practice that dates back thousands of years to India’s Vedic tradition. In this practice, you meditate using an individualized mantra, a word that means “vehicle of the mind.” Mantras are pleasant, resonant sounds that have no meaning – they are instead chosen for their vibratory quality. When you silently repeat your mantra, the mind naturally settles with no need to strain or concentrate.

A few ways to get started . . .

2. Notice What You're Doing

As you develop an abiding sense of your true self with meditation, you can cultivate compassionate awareness of yourself by paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, and reactions throughout the day. Remember that awareness is the key to change. As you witness yourself getting caught up in familiar emotional reactions, gently witness the habitual patterns without judgment. Notice when you’re wounded by small slights or you feel anxious or unhappy when someone you love doesn’t give you the attention you want.

Most people are trying to earn the approval of others, repeating a pattern that goes back to our early childhood, when we believed we had to earn our parents’ or caregivers’ love and approval. We unconsciously believed that our survival depended on it – and it may have. But now we are adults and can start to let go of the false need for approval.

3. Allow and Accept

As you open the door to awareness, feelings of fear or insecurity may seem more intense. Instead of fighting or resist uncomfortable feelings, simply be with those feelings as best as you can. When you try to push away a feeling, it only grows stronger, but when you simply notice and allow it to be, it will soon dissipate. In the beautiful words of Harvard neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor, “Just like children, emotions heal when they are heard and validated.” In her bestselling book, My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey, Jill described her own extraordinary experience of having a stroke that temporarily disabled the function of her brain’s left hemisphere – generally responsible for analysis, language, and judging – pushing her awareness into the right hemisphere, the domain of creativity, empathy, and wordless one-ness.  At first she felt intense pain, and then, as she describes in her book, “I felt like a genie liberated from its bottle. The energy of my spirit seemed to flow like a great whale gliding through a sea of silent euphoria.”  

The fleeting nature of emotions
Today Jill Bolte Taylor has recovered from her stroke yet still cultivates an awareness of the power and transience of emotions. When uncomfortable or difficult emotions arise, she uses a technique that may help you. She looks at the second hand on her watch and sits with whatever feeling is coming up, knowing that most feelings move through the body in ninety seconds or less.

Whether we’re feeling joy, fear, or surprise, the chemicals in the body associated with those feelings flush through the body in a short time. The only reason a feeling would last longer is if we continue to fuel the emotional loop by choosing thoughts or telling ourselves stories about the past or future that retrigger the emotional response. By allowing your feelings and bringing the light of your consciousness into the present moment, in time you can heal old emotional patterns and reclaim your true self-esteem and innate happiness.

Consciousness in Motion

The essence of yoga and meditation is experiencing our innate wholeness, the unity of our body, mind, and spirit.

In this guided practice led by Deepak Chopra, we focus on cultivating the trust and acceptance that connects us to this experience of wholeness and to our true self. As we release the ego’s self-judgment, fear, and doubt, our consciousness expands and we feel at-one with ourselves and with the world.


Listening to Your Soul

In this week’s meditation, we’ll begin cultivating the inner stillness and silence that allows us to tune into the voice of our true self or soul. While our ego-mind’s dialogue tends to be laden with self-judgment, anxiety, or limiting beliefs, our true self speaks in the language in the language of love, peace, acceptance, possibility, and joy.

The meditation is led by Kyla Stinnett, a certified Primordial Sound Meditationinstructor, and the Communications Editor for the Chopra Center for Wellbeing.