What’s Wrong with Self-Esteem?

By Cathy Malmon, LMFT, LICSW

Man using scissors to remove the word can't to read I can do it concept for self belief, positive attitude and  motivation

The short answer is nothing. Many clients identify increasing self-esteem as a goal or identify having low self-esteem as a problem. There are literally hundreds of books about self-esteem on the market. The offerings include workbooks, audiotapes, and self-esteem books for teens, adults, women, and even “Self-Esteem For Dummies”. How elusive is self-esteem that we need a Cliff’s Notes version to get?

 

So if we have to raise, get or increase self-esteem, the goal then is to set the standard of self-esteem against the standard of others who appear to have it. We measure our self-esteem “weight” much like we do the scale, in terms of losing, gaining or being imperfect. We ignore the very thing that makes us human.

 

Self-compassion. To be compassionate with the face in the mirror would mean we could be human, imperfect, and fallible. That inner critical voice would be less punishing, more loving, and unconditional. Self-compassion would mean that we would understand that to be human is to be imperfect and that very humanness connects us to others. Kristin Neff, PH.D has studied the science of self-compassion. In her book, Self Compassion (William Morrow, 2011), she writes that there are three components to self-compassion:

 

  • Self-Kindness Being kind to ourselves rather than judgmental
  • Recognition of Our Common Humanity Feeling connected with others rather than feeling isolated
  • Mindfulness Being aware of our pain but not exaggerating or ignoring

 

Self-compassion is treating ourselves the way we would treat a good friend. What better friend to have than ourselves?

 

“Self compassion is simply giving ourselves the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others” Christopher Germer

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