Why is it so important to our self-esteem that we avoid going on autopilot in our lives?

After all, a lot of life is pain. A lot of life is inconvenience. A lot of life is hassle. Isn’t it better if we can go on autopilot and not feel as much of that pain, not experience much of that inconvenience, avoid a lot of that hassle?

It would be lovely if going on autopilot in our lives would spare us that pain. Ultimately, however, checking out of our lives, gong on autopilot, skating by on a minimal level of conscious engagement…doesn’t, actually, spare us that much pain.

In fact, going on autopilot tends to lead to a lot more pain, inconvenience, and hassle than we would have to deal with otherwise.

One of the central pillars to living a life of healthy self-esteem is living consciously. What that means is choosing to engage consciously in life.

In other other words, when we’re given the choice to either think or not think…making the choice to think.

I know, I know. A lot of the people who are reading these words associate a lot of pain with thinking and consciously engaging with life. There seem to be a lot of forces working against us, discouraging us from thinking and actively engaging in life.

I know, as well, that for many people “overthinking” to the point of anxiety or depression is also a serious problem. There is a difference between “thinking” and “ruminating”…but sometimes that difference can be hard to perceive.

Make no mistake: thinking is hard. I know.

Actively engaging in life is tiring. I get it.

The thing is…it’s really, really hard to cultivate high, healthy self-esteem without thinking and actively engaging. Without living consciously.

There is a lot about self-esteem that is misunderstood in our culture. A lot of people in our culture seem to think that self-esteem is more or less our own opinion of ourselves, and they often think it’s formed by what we do, what we achieve, or how we’re recognized by others in our lives.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to do good things, to achieve great things, and to be positively recognized by others. But those are only peripherally related to true self-esteem.

True self-esteem isn’t formed from the outside in. It is always, and only, an inside-out job.

True self-esteem is more than our own “opinion of ourselves.” Self-esteem is comprised primarily of two things: a sense of worthiness, and a sense of efficacy.

Worthiness is our sense that we deserve dignity; we deserve respect; we deserve good things to happen to us; and we don’t inherently deserve bad things to happen to us.

Efficacy is our sense that we can handle what life throws at us. We can get stuff done when stuff needs to be done.

When we consider those two factors— efficacy and worthiness— it becomes apparent that it’s really hard to cultivate either of them if we’re living life mostly on autopilot, refusing to consciously engage because we’re afraid of pain.

Living life on autopilot makes us passive. When we’re passive, we’re essentially leaving it up to other people and the world around us to decide whether we’re “worthy.” We haven’t made an intentional decision that we have inherent worth…we’re leaving it up to others.

Living life on autopilot leaves us unable to make informed, judicious decisions. And how are we ever to feel efficacious— like we can get done what we want and need to get done— if we’re not able to make good decisions?

Living life on autopilot leaves us, by definition, in a very reactive place. We’re not authoring our own narrative, we’re reacting to other peoples’ narratives. That means that the pain, the inconveniences, and the hassles that come our way may or may not have anything to do with what we want and value…and enduring them may or may not get us any closer to our goals.

If we’re going to experience pain, inconvenience, and hassle in our lives, isn’t it better that those things be in the service of getting us to where we want to go, or in furthering our own values?

Lots of people and organizations want to make us go on autopilot, and buy into their own values and priorities. Advertisers want us to go on autopilot. Political candidates want us to go on autopilot. Gurus want us to go on autopilot. All for the purposes of accepting their messages, without too much critical examination or fuss.

Worthiness and efficacy can’t be built on autopilot.

Living consciously can be painful— but it’s a far more productive pain than the alternative.

Pain, if it has to exist, should serve a purpose.

Use whatever pain that you must endure to build your TRUE self-esteem.


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2 thoughts on “The Zen of Living Consciously.

  1. Now this is a subject that could be debated “till the cows come home”! (as the old saying goes in Ireland).
    Self Esteem comes from the Inside. So I get that. However the Ego should not dominate.
    From my own personal experience, i have endured hardship, anxiety and depression. I really believe that letting go or turning off negative thoughts is key to mental health. What do you prove by letting yourself get caught up in all this reality, I won’t be taking the view to endure all the nasties that come my way but rather admit they are there and not linger on them. I still have my self-respect, worthiness and efficacy when summoned but life is too short to worry. If that means im in a wheelchair, then so be it. But its a high powered wheelchair and a lot of us are truckin along at our own pace . Contented with a Calm Mind.


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