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Self esteem - Join the conversation



What is this self esteem. 

An interesting article from Psychology Today :


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For me, self esteem is pretty simple. I'm OK! is about it for me.
Then comes: how to live that belief or conviction.........


Please take what you want and leave the rest.

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barelythere wrote:

 What is this self esteem.   An interesting article from Psychology Today :

 The article:

If you look under the Self-Help heading on Amazon, you’ll find roughly 5,000 books listed under the sub-head Self-Esteem.  The vast majority of these books aim to not only tell you why your self-esteem might be low, but to show you how to get your hands on some more of it. It’s a thriving business because self-esteem is, at least in Western cultures, considered the bedrock of individual success. You can’t possibly get ahead in life, the logic goes, unless you believe you are perfectly awesome


The opening paragraph of that article turned me right off.  I have never seen any teaching, in any Self Esteem studies that tell me to believer or become “perfectly awesome”.  I’ve seen a lot of self-esteem teachings that say I can become “normal or good enough” but never a suggestion to believe that I'm “perfectly awesome” which is just another vain label for better than most others.  It might be tempting for a “less than” person to aspire to the mistaken goal of “better than” or perfectly whatever but that is not healthy self esteem.  Being good enough is healthy self-esteem – not better than nor worse than others, etc.  So the article starts off on a completely wrong premise in my experience.


And of course you must be perfectly awesome in order to keep believing that you are – so you live in quiet terror of making mistakes, and feel devastated when you do. Your only defense is to refocus your attention on all the things you do well, mentally stroking your own ego until it has forgotten this horrible episode of unawesomeness and moved on to something more satisfying.


Here again the article completely ignores what I learned in self-esteem studies, that good self-esteem is NOT about mentally stroking my ego or overcoming episodes of unawesomeness (whatever that is).   For me, satisfaction comes from accepting my self just as I am or working to improve the areas where I still tend to put my self down or disrespect my self.  Awesome or unawesome has never been a part of what I learned in self-esteem and I can’t figure out where that ignorant "awesomeness" concept came from unless from some jealous little ego who could not see self-esteem as anything more than just an ego trip. 


When you think about it, this doesn’t exactly sound like a recipe for success, does it? 


It sounds like very ignorant misunderstanding of what self-esteem is all about.  I'd be interested to see the author's version of "success".


 Indeed, recent reviews of the research on high self-esteem have come to the troubling conclusion that it is not all it’s cracked up to be.


Well the first blunder in that concept is about “high self-esteem”.   I was taught about HEALTHY self-esteem, not “high” self-esteem, which is about arrogance, vanity and pride.  Healthy self-esteem says, “I’m OK.” High self-esteem says, “I’m better than all the rest of you”. 


  High self-esteem does not predict better performance or greater success. And though people with high self-esteem do think they’re more successful, objectively, they are not.


High self-esteem can easily lead to arrogance and vane blunders while being deluded about one’s so-called successes.  Healthy self-esteem keeps a person humble and REAL.


  High self-esteem does not make you a more effective leader, a more appealing lover, more likely to lead a healthy lifestyle, or more attractive and compelling in an interview.


Yes, simply because putting on an “I’m the best there is” act can easily backfire for a vein, arrogant person walking around with “high” self-esteem or ****y pride.


But if Stuart Smalley is wrong, and high self-esteem (along with daily affirmations of your own terrificness) is not the answer to all your problems, then what is?


Obviously the answer is honest or healthy and real self-esteem!   The whole time I studied self-esteem, I never once saw a teaching about “high” self-esteem but saw a lot of warnings to avoid it and also avoid “low” self esteem.


A growing body of research, including new studies by Berkeley’s Juliana Breines and Serena Chen, suggest that self-compassion, rather than self-esteem, may be the key to unlocking your true potential for greatness.


Neither self-esteem dressed up as healthy or compassionate have ever held up “greatness” as a meaningful goal whereas Okness has always been the goal.  Greatness may appear as a byproduct of healthy self–esteem or compassion but never as a goal or you will quickly be back on the “I’ve got to become the GREATEST” delusion and fall.  Healthy self-esteem or compassion tells us to do the best we can but not to become GREAT or the GREATEST!  That’s all about “high” or SICK self-esteem.


Now, I know that some of you are already skeptical about a term like “self-compassion.”  But this is a scientific, data-driven argument – not feel-good pop psychology.  So hang in there and keep an open mind.


I see “self-compassion” as just another label for: healthy, reasonable self respect/worth/esteem and calling things “pop psychology” is about as meaningless as using “high self-esteem”.   I’m OK with new and different labels and theories but not with BAD ONES.


Self-compassion is a willingness to look at your own mistakes and shortcomings with kindness and understanding – it’s embracing the fact that to err is indeed human.


And that’s exactly what I was taught in self-esteem studies – to look at my self HONESTLY.


  When you are self-compassionate in the face of difficulty, you neither judge yourself harshly, nor feel the need to defensively focus on all your awesome qualities to protect your ego.  It’s not surprising that self-compassion leads, as many studies show, to higher levels of personal well-being, optimism and happiness, and to less anxiety and depression


I was taught to do and be all of that in self-esteem work but was never taught to “defensively focus on all my “awesome qualities” to protect my ego”.   That kind of egoic teaching came from family conditioning prior to doing any self-esteem work.


But what about performance?  Self-compassion may feel good, but aren’t the people who are harder on themselves, who are driven to always be the best, the ones who are ultimately more likely to succeed?


That depends on how one defines "success".  I cannot imagine a driven and self punishing person enjoying their so-called success through such self abuse and hard/driven contempt.



In their studies, Brienes and Chen asked participants to take either a self-compassionate or self-esteem enhancing view of a setback or failure.   For example, when asked to reflect on a personal weakness, some were asked to “imagine that you are talking to yourself about this weakness from a compassionate and understanding perspective.  What would you say?


I’d say, “It’s ok to fail.  I can try to do better the next time but I refuse to beat myself up over this or any other “weakness”.


Others were asked to instead focus on boosting their self-esteem: “Imagine that you are talking to yourself about this weakness from a perspective of validating your positive qualities. What would you say?


The only “positive quality” I’d focus on is my willingness to respectfully accept my “weakness” without regret or self-contempt.  I’d say, “I’ll try to do better the next time”.


People who experienced self-compassion were more likely to see their weaknesses as changeable.  Self-compassion – far from taking them off the hook - actually increased their motivation to improve and avoid the same mistake again in the future.


Most of my self-esteem work involved HONEST improvements but not just stupid assertions of existing perfection and excellence.  Self-esteem does not say, “I am PERFECT!” , it simply and HONESTLY says, "I’m good enough" or "I will try to be good enough where I’m not".


This increased motivation lead to demonstrably superior performance. For instance, in one study, participants who failed an initial test were given a second chance to improve their scores.  Those who took a self-compassionate view of their earlier failure studied 25 percent longer, and scored higher on a second test, than participants who focused on bolstering their self-esteem.


All I can say is that the ones who did not improve were not doing self-esteem correctly.  Self-esteem is about HONESTY – not delusion or denial!


Why is self-compassion so powerful? In large part, because it is non-evaluative – in other words, your ego is effectively out of the picture - you can confront your flaws and foibles head on.  You can get a realistic sense of your abilities and your actions, and figure out what needs to be done differently next time.


Self-esteem, when correctly applied, does that also.  I see the ego in both “pictures” so either method can and most likely will be used to serve the ego rather than TRUTH.


When your focus is instead on protecting your self-esteem, you can’t afford to really look at yourself honestly. You can’t acknowledge the need for improvement, because it means acknowledging weaknesses and shortcomings – threats to self-esteem that create feelings of anxiety and depression.  How can you learn how to do things right when it’s killing you to admit – even to yourself - that you’ve done them wrong?


None of that is about the self-esteem I studied and still apply.  I was never taught to LIE to my self about my shortcomings or IGNORE a need to improve something.  I did learn that any teaching or process can easily be corrupted and turned around to please the ego so, give it whatever label you wish, it will still be up to the User to do it right.


Here’s an unavoidable truth:  You are going to screw up.  Everyone – including very successful people – makes boatloads of mistakes.  The key to success is, as everyone knows, to learn from those mistakes and keep moving forward. But not everyone knows how. Self-compassion is the how you’ve been looking for. So please, give yourself a break.


Use whatever works for you but please just be HONEST with your self!  Cool, deliberate and consistent HONESTY is all you really need and then let some self-help or spiritual process give you an extra boost.  IMO, this article was not very honest from the 1st paragraph and I’m glad I had enough self-esteem training to see through the dishonesty and twisted concepts offered here.







Please take what you want and leave the rest.

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 This was the classic for me.... Self esteem by Bob E.   Seattle, 1982.



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