Why Self Esteem is Overrated

Today, I’m curled up with a cup of Yogi Tea and my computer learning as much about Self Love as I can fit into one day.  I promised you a month of “Showing Love” in honor of Valentine’s Day, so I’m diving in. First topic: Self Esteem. It’s one of those things we all hold on to like a lifeboat. Telling ourselves and others that we gotta have it.  But, we have a tendency to go overboard. With everything. But specifically with this concept. Let’s look at the definition: i-love-myself

Self – Est- eem,  noun:

      1. A confidence and satisfaction in oneself.
      2. respect for or a favourable opinion of oneself.
      3. an inordinately or exaggeratedly favorable impression of oneself.
      4. an unduly high opinion of oneself; vanity.
      5. a judgement of oneself as well as an attitude toward the self.

The thing about self-esteem is, with too much, you slip into delusions of grandeur. It’s cool to know that you’re a good person who is capable of great things. But what if you’re not that great? We’re all good people, but sometimes we do things poorly. When that happens Self-Esteem comes to the rescue like a super hero with excuses, rationalizations and cover-ups.


“I’m an awesome teacher”  Reality: All of your students are failing. Your “judgement of yourself” is not based in reality; that causes pain for yourself and others. Here’s an alternative:

“I’m still learning how to be a great teacher. I’m dedicated to becoming better. It’s okay that I have faults, I embrace them and know that despite that I’m still a good person.” 

That’s Self-Compassion; and here’s a TEDtalk about it that blew my mind wide open today. In this video, Kristin Neff, PhD tells us how Self-Esteem can be a set up for a let down. It’s a major contributor to the growing rates of diagnosed Narcissism in this generation. We’ve been told that we have to be different, excellent, above average so often that we’ve come to think that we actually are, even when we’re not. Huh? Raven what do you mean we’re not different???

Put simply, God made us all with the same dirt. Since then, we may have decided to do something different with what we were given, but at our core we are all a bunch of trees in the same big forest. When the wind blows, we sway. When it rains, we grow. When the soil dries up, we struggle to survive. Once you admit this to yourself you can stop feeling like you’re all alone in the world…the only person going through it; whatever “it” is for you. Others have been in it and lived through it. Know that, and you’ll be capable of getting through it yourself.

Common Humanity is only one step in being compassionate to yourself. You also have to be mindful and kind, I’ll let you watch the vid  to learn more about those. (It’s about 20 minutes long and SO worth it.) Here’s the statement that really woke me up:

“It’s there for you precisely when you fail. Just when self-esteem deserts you, self compassion steps in.”

And finally…I got it. Our self-esteem is overrated because we can only use it when things are all sunshine and smiles. We convince ourselves that we’re great and life is wonderful and nothing should ever go wrong. But when the shit hits the fan, we forget that we ever liked ourselves even a little bit. We say the most wretched things, things we wouldn’t even say to our worst enemy.  So I guess the point I’m trying to get at is

Show yourself some love.

Offer yourself a few kind words when you walk past the mirror. If you’re hurting, ask yourself “What’s wrong? What can I do to help?” When you mess something up, tell yourself “It’s okay, you didn’t do it on purpose, I’m sure you’ll get it right the next time.” Treat yourself at least as nicely as you would a stranger on the street.

Talk to me! How does your self-esteem get in the way of real growth?Do you show more love to others than you do to yourself? In what situations can you be more compassionate for yourself?


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1 Comment

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