By Jim Leonard
Your self-esteem, which means your feelings about yourself, affects every moment of your life, either consciously or subconsciously. Even if everything is outwardly going your way, you will be unable to experience much happiness if you are thinking that you are a sub-standard, incompetent, or undeserving person. Many writers have well-intentioned ideas about the popular subject of self-esteem, and all of these people do some good. Because of teaching Vivation to thousands of people all over the world for the last 23 years, I know exactly what harms self-esteem and exactly what to do about it. Vivation has proven to be the complete solution to problems of low self-esteem for thousands of people.
Everything can be viewed either positively or negatively. To pick an extreme example, we can all be very grateful that Hitler did not kill even one more person than he did. Similarly, people can and do find fault with even the best things in life: even love, even life itself, even themselves. People find fault with everything. When people find fault with themselves, that is called “shame” or “low self-esteem”.
People often think that their self-criticism is somehow justified, or something necessary to motivate themselves to improve, but this is never the case. With any activity, we can choose either to focus on how good we are at it or on how bad we are at it. With no exception anywhere, we do everything better when we focus on how good we are it. To show the consequences of choosing to focus on how bad we are at something, I want to point out that there are so many activities to choose from that we can simply avoid engaging in any activity that we have decided we’re bad at. Clearly this halts all improvement in that particular activity.
For example, I love to play golf. If I approach a shot thinking about what a bad golfer I am, there’s no way I’m going to hit a good shot. If I approach it with confidence, I have a far better chance. This is entirely my own choice of point of view. I am good to some extent and bad to some extent. I choose to focus on how good I am and this helps me hit a lot more good shots, and helps me improve much faster.
If somebody focuses on how terribly out-of-shape he is, that will make him want to avoid all athletic activity. The same guy can just as easily focus on the extent to which he is in good shape, and then he will feel like engaging in physical activity and he will enjoy his progress.
I want to take another example that makes the point very clear: How good-looking are we? Many people get a very distorted self-image and think, in their heart of hearts, that practically everybody is better looking than themselves. This becomes self-fulfilling, because they then give up hope, don’t groom themselves as well as they could, or dress as well. They also are more apt to display an unpleasant facial expression. The world also abounds in people who could find plenty of fault with their appearance, but who manage to be attractive because they focus on their best features and emphasize those. It is never to anyone’s advantage to consider himself to be ugly, no matter what he looks like.
The same is true universally, for every person, regarding every characteristic that there is. Self-criticism harms our performance, our self-esteem, and our happiness.
I am not talking at all about denial or pretending that anything is better than it is, which are bad ideas. For the sake of clarity, I need to draw a sharp distinction between the concepts of “content” and “context”. There are two components to every experience that we ever have: the content and the context. The content is the thing itself, and the context is our point of view about it. Our context defines our experience of something every bit as much as does the content. Just as we cannot ever see anything without seeing it from some certain angle or perspective, we cannot ever think about anything without thinking about it within some certain context. For example, are cities a good thing or a bad thing. One person sees limitless possibilities and a feeling of excitement. Another views the same city as a hotbed of corruption and longs to be back in a rural setting. The city itself is identical either way, but the two people’s experience of the city is completely different.
One particular kind of context comprises negative contexts and positive contexts. Very precise definitions: A negative context is a context in which you compare the content to an imaginary standard. Some examples of imaginary standards are “How things should be,” “How we wish things were,” “How good things used to be back in the good old days,” and “What other people have.” The very best things in life appear to be flawed, or even horrible, when compared to imaginary standards such as these. The imaginary standards are, in fact, imaginary and have no basis in reality. They are utterly fictional, made of the same substance as daydreams. A flight from reality. A positive context simply means any other kind of context. A positive context does not mean that you tell yourself that the particular content is better than any other thing, it simply means that you allow it be precisely what it is.
As I write this, I am visiting Portland, Oregon. Is Los Angeles near or far? The answer is 100% up to me, and has nothing at all to do with the distance in miles. I can simply focus either on how near it is or on how far it is. I travel constantly all over the world, teaching Vivation. I tell people all the time that the entire planet is small, no place on Earth can be far from any other place on Earth. Getting from any one place to any other is “only a hop”. You can be practically anywhere in just one day’s journey. This makes complete sense to any world traveler, but can seem practically incomprehensible to someone who has lived his whole life in the same town he grew up in. In another context, I could just as easily say, “I don’t feel like going to the grocery store. It’s too far away.” The distance from Portland to Los Angeles is some real number of miles, but whether it is near or far has nothing to do with that. Near and far are purely contexts. I do not advocate lying to oneself about the content, saying that fewer miles separate the cities than actually do. Instead I do strongly recommend viewing the accurate distance as being near rather than far.
This applies to every aspect of ourselves. Am I smart or stupid? There is never any benefit, or any truth, to thinking of oneself as stupid. Precisely the same for all characteristics, across the board. It is universally to our benefit to think highly of ourselves. I do not have to pretend to be Einstein, but I do not need to make Einstein an imaginary standard and call myself stupid in comparison. If I want to experience the fullness of my intelligence, I do that best by comparing my intelligence to that of a stone.
All of this is easy enough to grasp consciously. However, the vast majority of our mind is subconscious. It won’t work wonders to paste conscious truth on top of subconscious falsehood. If we have negative contexts about ourselves at the subconscious level, then we have to do something about those contexts, if we want to raise our self-esteem. Something that sounds good and has obvious benefits like earning a PhD and excelling in our chosen field will not raise our self-esteem nearly as much as we want it to, as long as we have subconscious negative contexts about ourselves. A few sessions of Vivation will raise a person’s self-esteem more than a lifetime of accomplishment. The world is full of successful people who do not think well of themselves.
In order to change the contexts in the subconscious mind, we must gain access to the subconscious somehow. There exist quite a number of approaches for gaining access to the subconscious. Nearly all of these are mental, which practically dooms them to failure from the start. An easy example to illustrate this is that when we were babies we were developing contexts about ourselves and the world around us for at least two years before we had language. Nothing verbal will ever address that vast quantity of fundamental contexts. Instead what is needed is access through the internal feeling or kinesthetic sense.
Every negative context creates a specific unpleasant feeling in the body. For example, criticizing yourself for being insufficiently good-looking creates one feeling in the body, whereas criticizing yourself for not being good at hitting a baseball produces quite a different one. This is true of every one of the negative contexts we have about ourselves–each one is unique. Furthermore, these unpleasant feelings tend to stand out and ask for our attention, in the same way that a pebble in our shoe stands out and asks for our attention. In Vivation, we use all of this greatly to our benefit.
Here is how Vivation permanently resolves low self-esteem very efficiently: Vivation works 100% at the feeling level. Vivation has no mental component. This makes it vastly more effective. Vivation is a skill that you learn from a Vivation Professional. Part of the skill that you learn is the skill of intentionally maximizing your enjoyment of the present moment. When you do this, even very skillfully, you will find that there is a limit to how much you can enjoy the moment. From this experience of reaching the limit to how much you can enjoy the moment, the feeling that is most preventing you from enjoying the moment stands out and demands your attention. Even that feeling is not infinitely bad, which means that it is also good to some extent. When you open to finding at least a small amount of pleasure in that feeling, that shifts the context. Instead of focusing on how bad the feeling is, you focus on how good it is. That particular feeling integrates permanently. When that is a feeling about yourself, your self-esteem goes up by a quantum jump. All of this feels great. With proper instruction and some experience, this process becomes very efficient, so that you can raise your self-esteem very much in an hour of practice. (There is much more to Vivation than just this simple explanation.)
Vivation is the most effective, most efficient way in the world to clear negativity out of the subconscious mind and raise one’s own self-esteem dramatically. This increase in self-esteem has a very positive effect on every aspect of life.
Jim Leonard was the originator of the Vivation process. During his life he conducted more than 45,000 Vivation sessions in 22 countries.