Healthy Self-Esteem
by Diane Linsley

Self-esteem is not something you can get - like getting a new car.
It's not something you can develop just by practicing affirmations.

Self-esteem is the natural result of accomplishing your goals. It
involves overcoming challenges, learning from experiences, and
creating a better life for yourself.

To understand how self-esteem fits into your overall development, check out this Wikipedia article about Maslow's heirarchy of needs.

Self-esteem is not the same as self-compassion. I put self-compassion on the level of self-actualization because it is a spiritual ability. Even higher than that is universal compassion, which is on the level of self-transcendence (the enlightened stage of development). This level is not shown on the diagram because Maslow realized it later in life.

Healthy self-esteem is not the same as high self-esteem. Healthy self-esteem is accurate self-esteem. It is possible to esteem your abilities too highly, which creates blind spots.

Feedback from others can help to reveal our blind spots. Of course, the value of the feedback depends on its source. A person who just wants to criticize and drag you down is not a good source of feedback. Biased parents and nice friends who are afraid to tell you the truth are not very helpful, either. For many people, a supportive teacher or coach can be a valuable source of feedback.

Self-Esteem is Personal

"As long as we suffer from low self-esteem - and it is a suffering - we will both fear others and crave their approval.... In the end, we are not here to fit in, to be well-adjusted, acceptable to all, or to make our parents proud of us. We are here to be ourselves." ~James Hollis, Living an Examined Life

Self-esteem is an inner experience. If your self-esteem is based on how many likes you get on social media, it's going to fluctuate wildly. Healthy self-esteem requires self-knowledge, as well as boundaries.

The most common problem I see with clients is they worry about what other people think of them. I ask them, "Who are these other people that you are trying to please?" The others are often narcissists who have their own agenda for what the client should be doing.

If I could only teach my clients one thing, it would be to stop trying to please other people and focus on their own personal growth.

Self-esteem is a barometer that measures your success based on your personal values. You respect yourself when you are living your life with integrity and authenticity. This means aligning your goals with your own values.

Self-Esteem and Development

We experience self-esteem differently at different stages of development. At higher levels, self-esteem requires a connection with the soul. As we become more mature, our self-esteem shifts from being about worldly accomplishments to being about aligning our goals with our soul's purpose.

No matter how highly developed we are, we are still human beings with a body. Going to a new level in Maslow's heirarchy of needs doesn't mean that we no longer have to deal with the "lower" needs like eating food and having relationships.

At every stage, self-esteem is part of the picture. We always have a need to feel good about ourselves, even as we are working towards our highest creative and spiritual potentials.

For further reading, I recommend Nathaniel Brandon's The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem.

Here's a meditation for self love and confidence.

Be well,
Diane Linsley

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