Looking for better self-esteem?  Higher self-worth?  Increased self-confidence?

The following ideas about how to achieve a better relationship with yourself—which are really good rules for living—are taken from Don Miguel Ruiz’s excellent book The Four Agreements (Amber-Allen Publishing).

If you want better self-esteem, make the following four agreements with yourself and then be sure to follow up and live by them:

  1. Be impeccable with your word.  The power of our words is often completely misused.  We use words to blame, to guilt, to find fault, to make people feel badly, to express anger, to rage, to judge, to hurt.  Of course, we also use words positively as well—to praise, to build up, to express love—but much less often.  Way too frequently we use our words to gossip about other people, to pull each other down, to keep us in a state of self-doubt and fear of other people’s judgments, and in fear of our own judgments.  How often do we say to ourselves “I look fat and unattractive. I’m getting old. I’m losing my memory.  I’m never going to be good enough?”  You see how we use our words against ourselves?  Use words to build yourself and others up, not tear down.  If we are impeccable this way with our words, emotional poison will be cleansed from our interactions with ourselves, with other people, other cultures, other religions, our neighbors and even with our pets.
  2. Don’t take anything personally.  Not everything is about you.  In fact, almost nothing is about you.  If we pass each other on the street and I call you stupid—that’s about me, not you.  I don’t know you.  If you take it personally, perhaps you actually think you’re stupid, so you think I’m insightful or clairvoyant.  You take it personally because you agree with what I say about you.  But nothing other people do is about you.  It’s about themselves.  Write this agreement down and put it on your fridge:  Don’t take anything personally.  If you live by this agreement, you can go anywhere with a completely open heart.  You can express love when you feel love, and you can ask for what you need without guilt or self-judgment.
  3. Don’t make assumptions.  We have the tendency of making assumptions about everything—and then we believe that our assumptions are true—which opens us up to grievous misunderstandings that lead us to create big dramas out of nothing.  We make assumptions that others know what we want or how we feel.  When we believe something, we assume ourselves to be correct to the point of destroying a relationship in order to defend our position. We assume that others think the way we think, feel the way we feel and judge the way we judge.  This is why we fear being ourselves around other people, because we fear they’re judging us the way we judge ourselves.  So even before they can reject us, we have rejected ourselves.   It is always better to ask questions—and to find your voice and ask for what you want—rather than make assumptions.  Assumptions set us up for suffering.
  4. Always do your best.   Under every circumstance in life, always do your best, no more and no less.  Even if you are sick or tired, if you always do your best, you will lessen the amount you judge yourself.  This is not an easy agreement to make, but this agreement will set you free.  When you do your best, you will learn to accept yourself, but you have to be mindful and you have to be willing to learn from your mistakes.  Learning from your mistakes means that you have to look honestly at what you do—and in how you can improve—and keep trying to do your best.   The first three agreements will only work if you do your best.

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