Let’s define each first. Self-esteem is how you judge your worth and value.

Self-esteem is now a household word whereas a few years ago no one had ever heard of the concept. A high self-esteem is supposed to help us feel good about ourselves.

We judge ourselves very positively and approve of ourselves. We think we are pretty good and think others think the same of us.

Usually this judgement includes things we have achieved, and it usually includes the ratings of others. It includes the way the judgement of outsiders or some outside criteria is used to rate how good we are. The higher the rating, the more we see ourselves as worthy, especially when we compare ourselves with others with a lesser rating.

But researchers have found that high self-esteem is a myth. How can this be?

Let’s say that when you were a child your parents thought you were wonderful, they told you that, and your whole family doted on you, heaping praises on you and you grew up as a little prince or princess with high self-esteem.

You grew up in an unrealistic bubble.

In this case your high “self-esteem” may be false. You could be deceiving yourself, have a big ego without much to back it up, or worse still, be an arrogant, narcissist, dismissing everyone else, and seeing all your failings as someone else’s fault.

You are completely unaware that you are not as good as you think you are.

You can continue in this belief until one day you are shocked into seeing that you are not as good as you thought you were, and you could be in for a big fall. Your self-esteem, based on well-meaning by unhelpful flattery now looks a bit hollow.

Especially when you compare yourself with others who have more, do better, or are true high achievers.

If high self-esteem isn’t so great, then is self-acceptance better? Yes!

We need to learn to accept ourselves warts and all because as humans we make mistakes, we stuff up, and even though we don’t like doing that we need to be able to accept ourselves just as we are and not feel that we have to do everything perfectly before we can be acceptable.

Sometimes we will reach our goals and things will go well, and other times we stuff up. We need to think of ourselves as acceptable and worthy human beings, our worth not dependent on achieving, or reaching goals, even we would like to.

In fact, we may fail many times rather than succeed in doing something. That’s OK, although we can still strive to do our best.

Failure is absolutely necessary in learning. Michael Jordan, the great basketball player said that if he hadn’t missed so many goals in his career he would not have succeeded in being the great player that he was. Every time he went for a goal he learned something about the way he threw the ball that helped him improve.

If Michael Jordan had put himself down when he missed a shot and stopped trying, then his career would have come to an abrupt end. But he kept going. He accepted himself – failures and all.

The paradox is that when you accept yourself, you have good self-esteem. You accept yourself as OK, and you can feel good about that, even with all the fails, the regrets, the disappointments and the joys of life.

Accepting yourself unconditionally means you don’t estimate how much you are worth because of a top job, your appearance or your possessions or achievements. Regrettably this is how most people estimate their worth which means that they chase the wrong things in life.

People place great emphasis on status, possessions, appearance and achievements, thinking that these things will make them feel good and have good self-esteem.

If they don’t have these elements in their lives then self-esteem may plummet because it relies on external boosters to help them feel good and worthy.

Consider dieting and dating. Women spend hours and heaps of money on diets that ultimately fail them. They believe that their self-worth lies in their appearance. If they don’t succeed in losing weight, then they put themselves down and feel unworthy as they compare themselves with others who are slimmer.

Men have their own criteria for self-esteem. They place great emphasis on physical strength and appearance in order to attract a female. Status, money, and achievement are very important also for a man to feel worthy. Men chase these things, oblivious to the fact that they they are worthwhile just as they are.

Recognising our own worth releases us to be authentic. We don’t have to pretend to be better,or more worthy, and we can be ourselves, our authentic worthy selves. We accept ourselves, just as we are, and it is a freeing thing to do.

© Kathleen Crawford


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Research quoted from “Does High Self-Esteeem Cause Better Performance, Interpersonal Success, Happiness or Healthier Lifestyles?
From Psychological Science in the Public Interest, Vol. 4 No. 1, pp. 1-44.  Authors – Baumeister R.F. and others.

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