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Self Esteem #1: Self Acceptance in the Face of Our Humanity

Have you ever thought your life would be better if only you had healthy self esteem?

Many of us know someone who thinks we are amazing. Perhaps one of your close friends or colleagues immediately comes to mind. Just the thought of them makes you smile. But no matter how often they tell you how wonderful you are, it never seems to sink all the way into your psyche. Sometimes it bounces entirely off you as you wonder what they would think if they really knew your foibles. Well, what if no matter what they thought about you, your sense of self worth was unaffected; that you had self esteem that didn't vacillate based on the opinions of others?

I want to start this series of articles with talking about self esteem—what it is and how to grow it. Then, in the following articles we will look at setting healthy personal boundaries as a result of esteeming ourselves. We will look at both listening and talking boundaries to protect ourselves from those who judge us and evolve our ability to stay in integrity around not judging others.

Pia Mellody, one of my favorite teachers and author of Facing Codependence, has a lot of really helpful things to say about self esteem and the setting of personal boundaries. She describes self esteem as the “internal awareness of one’s own preciousness. It is the internal knowing that one has inherent worth....in the midst of one’s humanity.” I love that. Loving your perfectly imperfect self!

Pia then goes on to say, “What this means is that your humanity does not make you ‘worth less’ or ‘better than’” those around you. Great insight. Realizing our magnificence against the backdrop of our imperfections doesn’t make us worth more or less. This is key to understanding what self esteem really is.

Self esteem cannot be raised or lowered. Self esteem either is present or is not present. Either we believe we have inherent value, or we don’t. Self esteem is synonymous with self love and a close cousin of self respect.

Many of us confuse self esteem with self concept (the intellectual evaluation of our strengths and weaknesses) or self confidence (a mental or emotional certainty we will have the ability to perform a certain task). This leads to us thinking someone who thinks really highly of themselves has a lot of self esteem. But this is not self esteem, this is egotism (which is an illusion of being “better than” and is not based on reality). It is important to remember when we have self esteem, we do not consider ourselves “better than” anyone else; we simply hold unconditional positive regard for ourselves in the face of our humanity.

I love Pia’s perspective. It doesn’t take the concept of achievement out of the equation in our workplace or world, but it shifts how we think about the concept of achieving and competing. Our value does not come from what we do or don’t do. Our value comes from something else. To have self esteem, we don’t have to achieve anything or compete with anyone. In fact, when we measure our sense of worth in this way, we misunderstand our humanity and the value of that humanity.

Do you deeply value yourself despite your humanity?

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