I saw your post to Willowley, and her reply, so knowing she'll be here later I thought I would mention something on this.
As you may imagine, I have lost 100 pounds in weight and this has opened up lots of new doors for me and generally made me happier.
But I am also finding that the as you find out about the truth behind things generally, the state of the world, food, meat, oil, all that stuff... the outward reality crumbles and it can make you feel quite depressed. I now see people as "processed people" like at http://www.processedpeople.com This can wear you down a bit, when I walk past a fast food restaurant I feel like I am only one alive amidst a load of brain dead people. For me I think the solution is to get a job related to that field of work, ecology, nutrition or health. The other solution would be to join them and eat junk food, but I have come too far to go back that way now!
I guess I am talking about general happiness here as opposed to self esteem, however I think they are probably linked.
I also found something interesting in "The Pleasure Trap". It's a great book and I would recommend it to everyone. The text was an end note to Chapter 14, "the Myth of Moderation":
* The wise parent, coach, or mentor knows that a key to motivation is to keep expectations at achievable levels, or else a self-protective paralysis becomes likely. (p. 167)
It is often assumed that giving people support and encouragement is a helpful motivational technique. Sometimes this is true. Sometimes, however, the would-be helpful parent, coach, or friend is overly encouraging. This sets the stage for a most curious motivational reversal or paralysis. It appears to work according to logic described as follows.
Our status is not something that we have within us; it is actually located within other people’s minds.The amount of status that we have with one person is different than the amount we have with another. The amount of status we have can be roughly translated as being how important the other person perceives us to be. This judgement is related to their estimation of our current abilities, as well as our latent talent.
Status is a critically important variable in our psychology, and we carry within us a status monitoring mechanism, neural equipment to monitor how well or poorly others think of us. (We can think of this status monitoring mechanism as our “ego.”) Status has been intimately related to survival and reproductive success throughout the natural history of our species.
If we perceive that our actions have raised our status, we typically feel pride or excitement, i.e., moods of happiness (it is “ego enhancing”). If we observe that others have reduced their evaluations of us, we are sensitive to this status loss and may feel ashamed or embarrassed, i.e., moods of unhappiness (the ego “hurts”). Because of its value in survival and reproductive processes, it can be valuable to have as much status as possible even when it is based upon false perceptions. When others give us too much credit for our abilities, we may feel uncomfortable, but the right move—in the natural history of our species—is to refrain from disillusioning them about their overestimation of us. A young man on a solitary hunt who killed a wildebeest with its foot stuck in a snake hole might have been rewarded with an extra dose of status for his remarkable success. Though uncomfortable with this unearned status, he might well refrain from explaining the exact details of his success. The young women of the tribe might have found him to be suddenly more attractive. As a result, an honest recounting of the hunt might not have been the wisest course, biologically speaking.
His extra, unearned status would come with the discomfort of knowing that it would probably have to be given back at some point.The young man might avoid the next group hunt, feigning injury or illness. Sooner or later his real status would eventually be realigned with reality, but it would be in his best interests to delay the discovery of his actual abilities. The best move would often be to avoid participation as much as possible. This phenomenon is routinely observed in children who are told by their parents that they can “be great” at something they are attempting to do. Studies have shown—to the surprise of self-esteem champions—that such encouragements are often a significant deterrent to achievement. Few situational forces can undermine motivation as effectively as bequeathing unearned status.The receiving party dares not give their best effort, as it feels dangerously expensive to risk the near inevitable status reduction when performance is beneath expectations. We refer to this paradoxical motivational problem as “the Ego Trap.”
However this mechanism doesn't work for me, in the case where I know I am right. For example, others - especially those "larger" people have said "you have lost too much weight". I ignore them. People who say "it's OK to eat this or that in moderation" and try to put me down for my diet choice, I think they are wrong, so it doesn't drag me down. But there are plenty of truths that depress me. Lately I have found that working up a sweat at the gym helps, and it also helps with my weight loss goals. Equally a run would have the same effect. But I'll leave it for Willowley, she is good with this.