So many times I hear the term “low self-esteem”. Clients will say, “I’ve got low self-esteem”, or some variation of that. So let’s get this ‘high/low’ self-esteem thing sorted once and for all. In order for self-esteem to be considered ‘high’ or ‘low’ it must be conditional – and that means it’s not real self-esteem. How can that be? Well first we have to define self-confidence and self-esteem.
Self-esteem and self-confidence are all too often confused…. Confidence is to do with perceived ability; the performance of a task that can be measured by independent criteria and standards; it’s an ‘out there in the world’ thing. It’s measurable in that we think “I’ve done something similar before, I could do that”, or, “I think that fits within my skill set/talents, I could do it”. It is conditional and so there can be levels of self-confidence in different contexts with different criteria.
Esteem is to place value on something; it’s a purely subjective value judgement. For example: a new born baby is a precious, wonderful, amazing thing – but it can’t feed itself, speak, it doesn’t know anything, it can’t even coordinate its own movements. But it has value – unconditionally! Its value is not conditional on anything; it just is.
Self-esteem is a nominalisation (a verb turned into a noun) it’s a process of placing value on yourself as a person, from yourself; of value-ing self. To demonstrate, I often ask the question, “If you are butt naked in the middle of a crowd with nothing and everybody hates you, do you still consider yourself a good and valuable human being?” If the answer is “yes” then you are self-esteeming. Hopefully you don’t have to go to those lengths to test it out! You either esteem/value yourself or not. Self-esteem has nothing to do with anyone, any ability or lack thereof, or anything else! Self-esteem is an ‘inside-out job’.
Another question might be to ask, “How do you know you have self-esteem?” If the answer is anything like, “when I do something good…” or “when so-and-so tells me/smiles at me…” etc. then your self-esteem is conditional and context driven. So it’s not real ‘self-esteem’. The real answer to this question is simply, “because I do”.
To esteem is to value. You can value others. But can you ‘self-esteem’ another person? Put like that it sounds a bit silly doesn’t it? So how can anyone ‘self’-esteem you? Or put another way, how can your sense of self-esteem be dependent on what anyone else thinks?
When I had my major accident at work in 1995 it left me with a permanently messed up arm which to this day doesn’t work properly. It stopped in its tracks many aspects of my life; martial arts, territorial soldier, my career… I literally couldn’t do half as much as I could before. I couldn’t even cut up my own food or wash myself properly. And back then, it affected me badly. But does that mean I became less valuable as a person, as a human being? No, of course not. But it took me a long time to realise it. It doesn’t take my students or clients very long – usually by the end of a session with me they fully appreciate their intrinsic value. By the way, if you want to book a session just firstname.lastname@example.org
Having a robust sense of self-esteem is not to be confused with being egotistical or arrogant. Typically these kinds of people have a poor sense of self as they try to prove how good they are and try to get self-worth from comparing themselves with others… there’s that conditional/comparison thing again. And it doesn’t work. On the contrary, those who independently esteem themselves tend to not have anything to prove. Healthy self-esteem is a major contributor to success and living a self-actualising life.
So I wish you to value yourself unconditionally – just the way you deserve! You were born beautiful, celebrate yourself.
How have you ever put your self-esteem on the line? And what are your strategies for realising your value as a person? Leave a comment or question below.