I recently read an article about self-worth & self esteem not being useful concepts.
I was rather stunned to read self-worth & self esteem not being useful concepts since over the past 25 years I have witnessed the mental health and the personal development fields being such avid supporters of high self-esteem and self-worth. I was quite taken aback by reading this statement since one of the most common reasons that people seek out a mental health or personal development professional is to improve their self-esteem or self-worth.
The reason pursuing higher levels of self-esteem or self-worth are not helpful is they are both based on global evaluations of a person’s “whole self” vs. specific evaluations of specific aspects of how a person operates in the various roles in their life.
I had never considered that feeling good or bad about myself was evaluating myself on a global level. But after learning this it began to make sense to me. When we evaluate an accomplishment or a failure by “feeling good” or “feeling bad” about ourselves, we are making it involve our whole self vs. just that one role or aspect of ourselves. Since your whole self is not involved, it is not helpful to involve it. When we make a failure in one area of our life about our whole self, we feel shame.
For example, one mistake or one success does not involve the whole self. It only involves the particular area of your life that it is related to. Therefore if you fail at tennis, it does not mean you as a person are a failure, it only means that you failed at tennis. Your whole self is not involved in you being a tennis player. Same goes for being successful.
In a nutshell what I learned is:
- Self -worth and self-esteem are “made up” evaluations of the “whole self” that are not helpful.
- There is no “whole self” worthiness scale or score that you are born with or must achieve to be considered a success or worthy.
- Evaluating your performance is only helpful when you focus on the specific mistake or success and the area of your life that it is involved in and not your “whole self”.
Why is working toward increasing your self-worth and self-esteem not helpful?
- Sometimes we try to counteract feeling bad about a mistake or a limitation with a high self-esteem score. Since self-esteem and self-worth scores are not real, they are not helpful.
- Many people state: “If I can just feel good enough about “myself” then these small mistakes or failures won’t make me feel shame.” However, since a “good enough” score is a global evaluation which is not real, it can therefore never be high enough. Therefore it is a set up for never feeling good enough.
- A high self-esteem score can be used as protection from feeling shame. However, since your self-esteem can rise or fall based on your latest successes or failures, you make yourself vulnerable to shame when you depend on self-esteem.
Problems that Measuring For High Self-Esteem or Self-Worth Cause:
- It puts more emphasis on getting approval from others
- Without self-acceptance, when criticized your self-esteem and self-worth are on the line and a reversal can trigger shame
- It can lead to changing yourself to “fit in” and not honoring your values which decreases your overall fulfillment and satisfaction
- Self-esteem and self-worth can go up and down based on our successes or failures
- Creates the need to have higher self-worth or self-esteem to feel special and you therefore, need to feel above average and better than others to feel ok about yourself, which gives you a false sense of confidence.
- People often gain self-esteem from feeling superior
- Studies show that anger and aggression are often higher among those with high self-esteem
- Self-esteem is often contingent on appearance, competition & putting others down.
- Self-esteem is not protection at all. It actually creates increased vulnerability to shame since it is contingent on your success at any given time and in any given area.
Self-Compassion vs. Self-Esteem
- Positive self-esteem is based on evaluations of the self as worthy, likable or competent.
- Self-compassion does not involve self-evaluation but entails positive feelings of care and a connection to the self.
- Self-compassion can be accessed regardless of positive self-esteem.
- Self-compassion is always accessible. Positive self-esteem is not.
- Self-compassion is associated with taking increased responsibility for past mistakes while also being less distressed by them.
- Self-compassion fosters less anxiety due to less ego threat
- Self-compassion provides greater connection, fewer social comparisons, less anger, better relationships
- Self-compassion research shows it is a healthier way to walk through life vs. by being self-esteem focused
Self-Acceptance is a much more helpful and powerful concept than Self-Esteem and Self-Worth
Definition of Self-Acceptance: This is who I am (my whole self) right now without judgment.
KEY INSIGHT: You must have self-acceptance in order to resolve shame.
Self-Acceptance Is The Wiser Goal & Life Target
(vs. the goal of high self-esteem, self-worth)
Self-acceptance is a much more helpful & powerful concept because it focuses on the goal of living a life that honors your values vs. evaluating your whole self in order to get a “good enough” score. When we are focused on discovering and honoring our values, we naturally set ourselves up for a life focused on fulfillment and satisfaction.
- Without self-acceptance, you will not be able to fully experience life satisfaction since you will always be struggling with self-esteem and self-worth issues which are not helpful since they don’t address the specific areas of your life.
- The wiser goal is to seek fulfillment, not self-esteem/self-worth (an evaluation of your whole self) since it is achievable and fulfilling.
- What is helpful is to judge how well you are doing on the specific behaviors or goals you have in your life since this serves the purpose of improving and evolving that specific role and goal in creating a fulfilling life based on honoring your values.
- The best way to judge how you are doing in a global sense is to focus on whether your behaviors or goals are serving you and/or are supportive of your values.
Will this be the year that you finally achieve self-acceptance and
be true to yourself by honoring your core values?
The answer is up to you!
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