Often, those suffering from low self-esteem apply self-pity as a ‘balm’ to their wounds. In truth, statements like, “Nobody cares about me” or “I never have time for myself” are actually a cry for attention. Admittedly, each person must nourish themselves first and not surrender themselves to the point where they feel they are being taken advantage of. However, if we have filled up on enough positive energy and self-attention we should be able to give to others from a position of strength and not from self-pity or negativity.
A question often arises as to how much chesed we should be doing. The key to the answer is self-awareness. Knowing our limitations and capabilities is the best indicator of how much or how little chesed we should be doing, both in and outside of the house. Of course, there will be times we are required to over-extend ourselves and times when we feel we can give less. However, generally we must look within and explore our boundaries and limitation. We should not be driven by impulse. Nor should we undertake a chesed in order to be praised by others. We must delve within and ensure we are not to be doing chesed for the sake of admiration. Investing sufficient thought into the extent of our limits is a great contribution towards, self-respect, self-awareness and ultimately self-esteem.
Some with poor self-worth have a difficult time accepting compliments. Rejecting complements may occur because they do not think of themselves as worthy. Alternatively, it may occur because they wish to hear another compliment after they dismiss the first. Or perhaps they want others to think how humble they are? Regardless of the reason, rejecting a compliment causes us to be unfair to both ourselves and the one handing out the compliment.
Ultimately, low self-worth is tied to a low level of emuna. In failing to accept a compliment or undertake chesed for the wrong reasons, we are failing to recognize Hashem in the picture. With regard to chesed, complaining of being taken advantage of is failing to recognize that it is Hashem sending us the chesed opportunity, thereby enabling us to increase our self-knowledge and awareness. With regard to complements, by rejecting a compliment directing at His creation, we are indirectly rejecting Him. Furthermore, we are failing to recognize that He sends us messages via the events and people in our lives.
He constantly showers us with gifts and ‘kind words’ given to us through His many emissaries. It is a great chesed to allow another to share warm words and acts of kindness. Hashen wants us to feel cherished by Him, experience pleasure and feel His closeness. By accepting these compliments we are acting as a kli to accepting Hashem’s bracha.