Why Self-Esteem is a Big Fat Lie

Are you good enough? This may seem like a silly question, but I bet you’ve asked yourself this on more than a few occasions. “Well yes,” you may say, “I’m good at a lot of things.” Or maybe you would respond, “Good enough for what?

Regardless of how you answer this question, the point is to reveal the fallacy of self-esteem. This is the exact question that we ask ourselves when we evaluate and determine our self-worth, and believing we can measure our self-worth is a lie. “Am I good compared to that other person?” “Am I good at what I do for a living?” “Am I as attractive as them?” “Am I as successful as they are?” Am I good enough for this or that?” The fallacy with these questions is that we don’t need to be “good” at something, or “liked” by others in order to be a good and worthy person. These are expectations that we place upon ourselves which leave us with deflated self-esteem.

Self-esteem is not the answer

I realized recently, despite my interest in the formation of self-concept and how people think about themselves, that self-esteem doesn’t offer any true freedom or peace of mind. It’s an ongoing continuum of being “good” enough when things are going smoothly and success is being achieved, to feeling completely useless when things don’t happen the way we intended or we failed to reach our expectations. Not only that, but our expectations for ourselves continually rise as we reach our goals, leaving us still not quite good enough, and yet striving further to feel successful and significant. The foundation of self-esteem is based on rating or grading ourselves according to an internal measuring stick. The problem here is that many people have an unrealistically high measuring stick that they will never live up to. Focusing on self-esteem only sets us up to feel like a “zero” or like we’re flunking life at some point or another. It is not possible to always have our goals, accomplishments, and achievements line up smoothly. There will be times when we do poorly on something simply from inexperience or lack of preparation. Are you basing your self-worth on some arbitrary measuring system or grading scale?

If self-esteem is a lie than what’s the truth?

So, what’s the alternative to self-esteem? Self-acceptance! The very essence of self-acceptance means we are good, worthy, and valuable no matter what happens to us, what mistakes we make, or the conditions we encounter. It is the realization that our self-worth cannot be graded or measured. External circumstances and performance don’t need to affect our self-worth at all, but instead can become learning experiences that lead to personal growth and expansion. Are you ready to stop constantly evaluating your self-worth? Don’t believe the lie of self-esteem. A person’s value cannot be measured.

Does self-acceptance lead to stagnation and passivity?

Certainly not! Self-acceptance is a state of mind, not a way of living. There are realistic ways to continue pursing goals and living a meaningful life without making it about how “good” or “valuable” we are. 3 things to pursue along with self-acceptance in order to thrive. Intimate relationships – One of primary aspects of living a life of satisfaction, fulfillment, and meaning is intimate relationships. We are social creatures and desire to interact, grow, and bond with other people we care about. Intimate relationships include friends, loved ones, and anyone who offers us moments of joy and affection. More than likely as you begin to reach self-acceptance it will enhance your relationships. Gratification and lack of pain – Having a lifestyle where we are not constantly in emotional or physical pain, and have moments of pleasure and satisfaction are prerequisites for living a good life. Self-acceptance doesn’t mean we sit back and take whatever comes our way, but that we approach difficult circumstances with confidence and effectiveness, and seek out moments of enjoyment and gratification. Taking an active role in creating our life is crucial, and we can learn to do this with contentment and acceptance about where we are along the way Meaningful vocation or avocation – What is your life’s purpose? Many people have a personal life mission and vision that offers guidance for how they want to be and the legacy they want to leave. Whether it’s a pastime, hobby, or career, following your passions and uncovering a purpose offers a significant source of strength and courage that can be a source of motivation and reassurance that you’re doing what you’re meant to do and being the person you’re meant to be. We all naturally want to excel and be the best we can be, but we don’t have to make what we do connect to our worth and value as a person. Much of how we feel about ourselves is based completely on external circumstances and this only sets us up for disappointment and distress. Learning to have acceptance as we begin to design the life we are meant to live, require that we disregard measuring and rating how good we are, and begin to recognize the natural worth we all possess. Photo credit: Helga Weber