A few years ago I found myself in a relationship with a friend who had a propensity for getting into disagreements. He seemed to find fault with everyone. He jumped from relationship to relationship—always graciously—but I sensed that this had become a pattern: his ex-wife was crazy, his rabbi was a hypocrite, and his childhood friend was an ingrate. I wanted to help but literally did not know where to start.
I called a rabbi of mine, explained the situation, and asked him for insight and ideas. He thought for a moment and said, “it seems to me that he does not really hate all the people around him; he hates himself.” He went on to explain that when one feels a deep sense of dissatisfaction with themself and does not have the strength to face that dissatisfaction directly, he will lash out against everyone around him. The more I considered my rabbi's words the more convinced I became that he was correct. I was trying to teach my friend ways to see value in others when, in reality, he needed to learn to see value in himself. By trying to help coach him in each relationship I was treating the symptom—not the problem.
After learning that lesson I began toying with the connection between healthy self esteem and healthy peer relationships. It seems to me that the more we improve our self image the more understanding, forgiving, and accepting we become. The more confident we are about our own value, the more open we are to realizing and appreciating our friends’ true value. Everyone we interact with is great at something, some of them are truly amazing and inspiring people. The more comfortable we are with ourselves, the more we will be open to seeing our peer’s greatness.
Why Do I Need To See Myself As A Great Person To Appreciate Others? Isn't That Arrogance?
Close your eyes for a moment and think about the most arrogant person you know. Are they self aware? Most likely, the most arrogant person you know is also the least self aware person you know. With rare exception, arrogance is typically a reaction to low self esteem. Feeling valued is a super important human need, and when we don’t feel that we are valuable we need to inflate our sense of self to compensate. I am not suggesting that you get more arrogant; I am suggesting that you get more honest. True humility is knowing how great you are, knowing what your weaknesses are, and being at peace with both.
We need to get in touch with our inner value and inner greatness. The Talmud teaches us (Sanhedrin 37a), “Because all humanity descends from one person, each and every person is obligated to say: the world was created for me.” That is an amazing thought: God would have created the entire world just for me. I need to read and then reread the verse, “There is no righteous man in the land who does good and does not sin (Ecclesiastes 7:20).” We all make mistakes and we are imperfect. I have my share of problems that I need to fix, yet I am a very good person. When I get used to admitting to myself that I am not perfect, and I have realistic expectations for myself, I can be more honest in my self evaluation. When I am comfortable with my self evaluation, I can see other people in a more real and honest light.
Back to my friend. His ex wife is not crazy, his rabbi is not a hypocrite, and his childhood friend is not an ingrate. None of them are perfect, but neither is he.
I hope that you read this and learn to love yourself. You are an amazing person with phenomenal talents and abilities. You are great at taking care of other people and are one of the most reliable people I have ever met. Look at your strengths—appreciate them—and you will learn to love yourself. When you do that, you will begin to love the people around you. When you do that you will love the entire world.