I believe we all begin and end our lives virtually equally.

Alone, yet together. Immersed in thought, yet unable to express it.

Nature takes its course. The most significant progression throughout our years is the accumulation of wisdom and knowledge and the buildup of feelings from even the simplest experiences.

Babies are born with their eyes wide open to the world, knowing not the feelings of reluctance or fear, rather the desire to learn and discover.

The theme of my column is not associated so much with learning or change, but with the concept of self-esteem, connected to all of our thoughts and views.

I say concept because self-esteem is such a feeling, an understanding and idea every person may define differently, and accept or unconsciously ignore during his or her life.

Just as babies are enthusiastic to explore their new surroundings, they do so feeling positive about themselves, with no prejudgment to pick out their shortcomings or imperfections. That's because they have none.

I believe many flaws people see in themselves are merely illusions that nobody else may notice.

We are the first ones to degrade our own self-esteem, and really are also the only ones who can mend it.

Humans conceal inner beauty for fear or doubt in themselves, when they should value what's within and what makes them unique from everyone else.

What is the power of a word? An insult? A compliment?

In essence, a few words can transition from being the strongest weapon to most ineffectual message, depending on how it is taken.

Some people are capable of disregarding anything they don't want to hear, while others may be influenced by a single word from a stranger. We control our self-esteem just as we control our emotions, and can find strength with the phrases we battle and absorb the praise we receive to feel appreciative, lucky and truly joyous.

Nick Vujicic, author of "Life Without Limits," says, "If you can't get a miracle, become one."

It's safe to say this man is one himself. Born without his four limbs, Nick demonstrates incredible willpower and courage, supplied by his overflowing self-esteem. In his childhood, he was caught in depression and considered suicide but, by high school, he was already experimenting with motivational speaking.

I think Nick's self-esteem comes directly from the sense of reward he feels each time people applaud for him and he feels he contributes to their lives. Once he learned to take self-esteem in his own hands he saved his life, made himself a happy person, and he didn't need anyone's help to do so.

You may have decided to read this column because the title got you intrigued. Is there really a secret to self-esteem? Do you know? It is another question with infinite answers.

Self-esteem is not just how you feel about yourself; it's a mindset that affects your character and you as an individual. Certainly, it can be altered from the moment we wake up every morning to the last moment of the day.

They say, "do what you love, and love what you do" because only then can you be truly happy with yourself every day. So, do what you love and feel great about it. Everyone with ample self-esteem knows it to be true.

Gabriella Kovalenko is a resident of Sherman and is finishing her freshman year at New Milford High School.