Your level of self-esteem is largely determined by how closely your self-image—your current performance and behavior—matches your self-ideal—your picture of how you would perform if you were at your very best. You are always comparing your actual performance with your ideal performance at an unconscious level. Whenever you feel that you are living up to your very best, you feel terrific about yourself. Your self-esteem soars. You feel happy and fulfilled.
Whenever you do or say something that is not in keeping with your ideals or the best of which you feel you are capable, your self-esteem goes down. Whenever there is a wide separation between the person you are in the moment and the ideal person you want very much to be in the future, you feel badly about yourself. This is why you get angry with yourself whenever you fail at something, or behave badly in a situation with other people. Your self-ideal continually reminds you of how much better a person you can be.
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