Who identifies your sense of self? I know--you're saying, "huh?" If I asked you to describe yourself, could you do so? Would the words be positive? Would they be YOURS? I think that sometimes our sense of self is dictated to us by people in our lives rather than by ourselves.
Many years ago, I read the book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray. In this book, (which I highly recommend, by the way) Dr. Gray describes men as being work focused while women are relationship focused. In other words, a man's self-esteem is based on his success at work while a woman's self-esteem depends on her success in relationships. I think that while this is completely accurate, it also hurts women because they then become dependent on the opinions of those around them.
We all want to be liked--hell, we all want to be loved. But how can we expect other people to like us or love us when we don't like and love ourselves? Think about it. When we love ourselves, we have a commodity--a product, if you will--that we want to share with others. Would you buy a car from someone who couldn't convince you of the great qualities of that car? How successful would salespeople be if they didn't believe in their products?
You have to love yourself--and that begins with knowing yourself. I'm not perfect--no one is. But I do have some great qualities--I'm a great writer. I am a good friend. I have a giving heart that will keep me poor financially but that makes me a wonderful person. I'm smart. I have beautiful eyes. And I'm bright enough not to continue to bore you with this list! Still, I can create that list--can you? A homework assignment for you: create a list of all of your positive qualities. Seriously. Do it. Get out a pen and a piece of paper and write your list.
A word of warning: you will feel a little silly doing this. You will. And maybe embarrassed. And that's okay. Do it anyway. Do NOT write a list of negative qualities you have--we have enough people in our lives doing that already! Create this list and read it. I mean read it. Really read it. Read it aloud. Our brain processes things differently when we read aloud, so read it aloud. And read it again tomorrow. And the next day. And every day until you can do so without feeling silly. Without being embarrassed. And when you know that it's true.
And remember this above all. Life is hard for everyone. People are struggling to make sense of the highs and lows of life, and when they do, they make mistakes, mistakes that often hurt us. Look at the intent behind it when someone hurts you. If they are intentionally cruel, cut those people out of your life. If they aren't intentionally cruel, forgive them. And then add "forgiving" to your list!