It's important for us to develop. In fact, this whole website, the book, the posts and everything I do are all about development of the individual, personal growth (although that is a tired, overused term) and achieving one's goals. Some of us are luckier than others in that they might know what they want, or at least believe they do and are satisfied with that. Others, myself included, have a harder time deciding what to do.
For as long as I can remember, I haven't really known what to do with myself; Long-term plans were pointless or there were too many variables and thus weren't worth the energy that I would have to expend on the mere thought of them. Of course, when I was about four years old I wanted to be a scientist. Then a policeman, then an astronaut or a teacher and after that, I really had no clue. And that's just on the career side of future-thinking. I am very much aware that my typical nihilistic, cynical, skeptical and pessimistic approach to every day and everything that occurs therein may have significantly contributed to this phenomenon, and forward-thinking just seemed like a waste of time.
It's a common association that young people tend to be more nihilistic than older folk, but I think that depends on the person. Some great Philosophers of the modern age have been radical nihilists and extreme pessimists. Read Schopenhauer and then see if you don't feel a deep blandness within yourself, or get to the end of 1984 and try to see the World in any other colour but a bleak, dead grey tone. It's a fallacy that only the youth can relate to this concept.
I consider myself to still be this way, however I once heard the term 'post-cynicism' and I quite liked that. I think I even related to it somewhat, or at least related to my understanding of the idea. To me, it means that after thinking long and hard about Philosphical views and ideas, that you come to the conclusion that you can't trust anything, that nothing has meaning, that there is no purpose to life, and then many people stop there as though it's the ultimate conclusion, and a rather depressing one. I found that, upon more reflection, there was some kind of gleaming of a meaning lurking around somewhere, as I try to explain in H²ELP, which is some artificial meaning we need to make up for ourselves. Hence, there really is no intrinsic reason to be alive or to do anything, yet there is still something if you want there to be.
After coming to grips with such notions, I found myself able to try and find some goals, some reasons to not just be alive, but also to try and live more "fully," as they say. I found that I wanted to write, finish and publish a book (check), that I wanted to live productively (check), that I wanted to feel better about myself (check) and that I wanted to try and help other people feel better too (citation needed).
The book came along well - as you may be aware from my other post about writing advice which I still feel underqualified to give - and that stemmed mainly from the productivity goal, which enabled me to fit more into my days and force myself to write even though I may not have been all that motivated from time to time. All my short-term goals were made easier too from the same idea. I would make myself clean, tidy, sort out the garden, trim some bushes, do this and that and make a week of it from what I saw that needed doing.
Of course, doing these things, being productive and accomplishing short-term and long-term goals fits in with the Cycle Of Productivity. I assume you're familiar with the notion by now, and I can't keep repeating it, so if you aren't, go and buy my book. And read it. And come back. Most of the progress I saw, therefore, came directly from that notion, however, there were times when it didn't exactly do everything for me.
I've never really had a problem with self-esteem - at least not since I was a young, acne-riddled teenager. I usually just accept my flaws, and I'm luckier than many in that, well. aesthetically, things could be worse. They could be better too, but there's certainly some room to fall. It struck me one day though, that I didn't really like the look of myself. It was an unfamiliar notion, and right in the midst of when I was trying to become someone better. Obviously, looking at oneself and saying "huh, you look like shit" isn't motivational at all. But, as you must have known by now, I like solving problems, or at least trying to overcome them, and I developed a strategy for it, which also applies elsewhere too.
I have a tally chart on my wall which has two columns. The two headings are "Feeling bad about yourself" and "feeling good about yourself.." It's quite simple; I just mark out with a baton each day I feel one way or the other. And if I'm indifferent, I just place a mark on the septum between the columns. In conjunction, I exercise and eat well and try to influence what I can about my self-perception in a positive way. If I didn't bother, then I'd never feel any better. Makes sense, right? So I know I want to devote time and effort to making these changes and developing in the correct way. From tracking this, I've made myself more motivated to pursue the positive changes too. I went from a few consecutive "bad" days to a few "indifferent" days, and since then, it's been nothing but "good." And I can maintain that goodness by reminding myself daily of what I want and how far I've come from a time when I knew something wasn't right.
In a similar manner, I did the same thing when I noticed I had spent two whole days being idle and not doing anything because I felt bored, demotivated and as though there was nothing to do but watch Netflix or something. In my mind though, I could see it was wrong, I just struggled to get myself to do anything and make a schedule and stick to it for that short period of time. That being said, I don't think there are problems in having "days off" from being hyper-productive, but I personally don't really enjoy the notion too much. Especially since I can always find something to do.
Therefore I made the same kind of chart with "productive" and "unproductive" which I evaluate after every day and also try to use to shape my mindset for the following days. If I wake up later than I wanted, I feel like I can't keep up with my schedule and that leaves me a little bit annoyed with myself, which I want to stop. My progress is observable in that way, and so I have the objective of what I want to do, which is the chart, and I have the motivation to follow it; in order to feel better about myself, and I have a record of how much I've developed, achieved and how far I've come. This acts as that little sense of pride and achievement node on the Cycle Of Productivity, which has come forth from Being Productive, which has stemmed from the Motivation, which was what led me to make the chart in the first place. You can see then, how the COP fits into this, and it may be hard, but it's a good way of feeling better, especially in terms of accomplishment.
I understand it's difficult to enhance one's sense of self-perception, but understand that it isn't just the perception, but also the notion of "what have you done about it?" If you are doing everything you can to try and make yourself feel better, then you're already on the right tracks. You can certainly feel good about yourself, even if it's only taking small steps. Maybe you did something uncharacteristically brave today, and you can feel proud about it, perhaps you finally got around to doing something you've been putting off. Either way, what you want to change, in the ways you feel you can influence, will make you better off. If you know there's something you can do about it, then do it, and challenge yourself to do it. Make a game out of it and try and push yourself to keep on at it.
Once you start to see the changes and the consistent ticks on the side of the chart you want, you'll be able to see just how bright and full of potential you really are.