The Hidden Secret to a Rock Solid Sense of Self Esteem and Self Worth

December 2022

By Roy Vongtama, MD, DABR, DipALBM


Self Esteem. These two words are all over social media and have become one of the most searched topics on the internet, with influencers and personalities giving their take on what we can do to improve it and boost it; whether by surrounding yourself with positive people who uplift you, avoiding the news or unfollowing people who make you feel worse when you read their content.

Unfortunately, if you think about it, most of the things that make you feel bad about yourself are the things you hear and see from people closest to you; isn’t that true? From a friend’s post at the beach in Bali, to the new job (with a healthy raise) your coworker got that you learned about via email, to a cousin’s new house you hear about over dinner, there are so many ways we start feeling worse about ourselves. As has been said(some say by Theodore Roosevelt), and I do agree, “comparison is the thief of joy.”

If you do a quick search on articles about self esteem and comparison, you’ll find many helpful suggestions of what you can do to quickly turn those thoughts around. Most of them center around avoiding comparison, by freeing yourself from social media and changing who you choose to spend time with. These are good suggestions, and helpful to a degree, but I think they are missing one big component that is staring us in the face at all times.

Before I tell you what this hidden secret is, I want to share with you some of my personal experiences. Something I struggled with when I was younger was a propensity for negative thinking. In fact, one day during college my black mood was so bad, I decided to stay in bed for two days straight, thinking, “I’ll show them.” Guess what? No one came to save me. (Why did I get out of bed? Because I got really hungry. Hey, I was nineteen!)

Lucky for me, I had taken a questionnaire before I went to college which identified me as someone at risk for depression. I was then asked if I wanted to participate in a study, which I agreed to, that taught me how to analyze my thinking. This study was called the APEX study, and later published (Seligman, 1999) in a clinical journal, showing that this type of analytical training really does work. I was only nineteen, but it put into place the beginning of a process that three decades later, turned into the Big Secret I Haven’t Told You.

Normally at this point, an article like this will point you to a paywall and charge you $19.99 to learn this secret process, but I’m going to give it to you for free, right now. So what is this secret?


Introspection is the process of looking at oneself in an objective way, without making yourself feel better or worse. It’s looking at the evidence of your life, by seeing what you did and didn’t do, without judgment. Introspection is so powerful that the very first line of the Bhaghavad Gita, essentially the Hindu version of the Christian bible, is dedicated to it:

Dhritarashtra said: On the holy field of Kurukshetra, when my offspring and the sons of Pandu had gathered together, eager for battle, what did they, O Sanjaya?” (translated from Sanskrit, Paramahansa Yogananda).

Dhritarashtra was a blind king gone astray, and he was asking Sanjaya, a devoted advisor gifted with the ability to relay events and conversations without being physically present, how the battle was going between his sons and the sons of his enemy. Sanjaya had a choice, he could relay the events as the king wanted to hear them, or give him an unbiased and accurate accounting.

Although this was a real battle, the meaning of this first line from the Bhaghavad Gita in our present lives is a powerful one:

Every day we fight a battle in our lives, between good habits and bad habits, and we need to be able to ask our “inner advisor” how we did during our day. And this answer needs to be accurate and unbiased. There is always a temptation to give “our king” aka, the ego, a positive review because we want the king to be happy. It seemingly could boost our self esteem, but in the end, this fabrication destroys any chance at a true building of self worth.

We need to be able to objectively assess how our lives are going, on a day to day basis, on a thought to thought basis. If we do not have that power of introspection, we will lose ourselves eventually, needing to rely on outside sources to build our self esteem and self worth because we cannot do it for ourselves. On the other hand, if we build that day to day accounting of real results, we build momentum of the truth within us, and the opinions of others outside of ourselves becomes by default less important.

The mechanics of this process can vary, but I will break it down in two big steps:

  1. A journal at the end of the day, where you write down what went well and what didn’t go well. This process should take less than five minutes. (What are the benchmarks we need to be looking at? This is a topic of a future article.)
  2. Assessing your thoughts. When you have a thought about yourself, like, “I’m so stupid,” or “I’m a piece of garbage,” stop and assess your thought. Is this statement really true? Give evidence to prove or disprove your thought. You’ll find that at best, negative thoughts like this are an exaggeration, and at worst self-flagellating and damaging.

From your nightly introspection, you’ll see what is really good and what needs improving. From your accounting of your thoughts, you’ll be able to stop yourself from thinking untrue things and then develop the courage to see what’s really going on and change those much smaller things, because your inner self will finally trust that you’re being truthful. Once you can begin to introspect accurately, you’ll see that this inner accounting is the rock upon which real self worth and self esteem are built.



Dr. Roy Vongtama is a double Board Certified physician (Radiation Oncology, Lifestyle Medicine) and professional actor. Getting his degrees from University of Pennsylvania, University at Buffalo and then residency at UCLA, he began to see missing pieces in the paradigms of his Western training. Dr. Vongtama’s interesting and varied background in meditation, acting and nutrition drove him to create a dynamic healing paradigm that combines the best of evidence-based medicine to benefit the entire body, mind, and spirit, with a special emphasis on emotional wellness and meditation. He currently works at UCLA and also has recently published a book called “Healing Before You’re Cured: An Evidence-based Guide to Taking Control of Your Body and Mind” and can be found on Instagram at @DoctorRoyV, Facebook at RoyVongtamaMD and on his website, Dr. Vongtagma recently was a lead in the World Premiere of the Off-Broadway play The Brothers Paranormal at Theater Row in New York City, as well as reprising the role in Los Angeles in 2022.