Give me ’til the end of of this 5 minute read to get you thinking differently about self-esteem.
Let’s start by looking at the definition of esteem:
Esteem ➡️ v. regard highly or favourably; regard with respect or admiration
Now hold that thought. And let’s look at the history of the word esteem:
Now take the meaning of “esteem” and apply it to the way YOU perceive YOURSELF. Do you admire yourself? What sort of value you do you place on yourself?
If you value yourself highly, why is that? Do you have certain qualities that rank higher on the “esteem scale” than, say, your good friend?
And how about your friend … would you esteem the qualities of your good friend in the same way they would esteem them?
If you’re seriously thinking about those questions but not sure how to answer them, we are starting to get somewhere.
Do you esteem yourself?
Think about the intrinsic value of a human being (and yes, I said “intrinsic”). The intrinsic value of a human being (A.K.A. YOUR VALUE) is infinite.
So if the value of your being – your existence – is infinite, then why bother dissecting your being into qualities that you do or do not esteem?
When you describe the way you think about yourself, instead of saying “high or low self-esteem”, just use the term “self-worth”. Accepting the existence of your human-ness is preferable to a self-diagnosis of high or low self-esteem.
“But Ella, you’re over-thinking this. I am SUPPOSED to have high self-esteem! Having high self-esteem is good for my mental health!”
I SOOOO disagree.
First, I’m not over-thinking, I just like to use words properly. If words didn’t matter, I would start calling an apple and orange, and a house a car.
On that note, if you believe your humanness has value or purpose, then why use the word “esteem”? If you aren’t appraising yourself based on anything but your existence, then there’s nothing to appraise. You simply have worth as a human because you exist. Which leads me to my second point …
Neither appraising your qualities and placing yourself higher along the esteem scale NOR regarding yourself with esteem for no apparent reason are beneficial to your mental health. As I explained earlier, you have nothing to appraise – there is no scale of intrinsic human worth. And to the second point, your humanness alone leaves you capable of personal development and therefore capable of improving your life. You should not esteem yourself for no reason, but instead give your intrinsic worth meaning by improving your extrinsic qualities. It is always better to try to improving extrinsic qualities instead of lowering the value you place on yourself because of them.
But most importantly, recognizing your worth does not mean you get life a participation trophy. Thinking you’re the bomb.com for no apparent reason is called narcissism. So instead, give yourself a reason to be confident in life. As a human you are COMPLETELY CAPABLE of giving yourself a good life by working hard for something that gives your worth, meaning. Take advantage of your humanness and give yourself a reason to keep living.
For example, both the alcoholic and brain surgeon have infinite worth. But only the brain surgeon has taken advantage of his humanness to give his worth, meaning.
And as you were probably expecting, here’s a nifty analogy to help you understand:
Let’s say you’re a soccer player. Your team never practices so they come in last place in the league. Your team should not get a trophy for simply participating. BUT just because you came in last place, that DOES NOT mean you or anyone on your team are no longer soccer players.
What your team decides to do is take advantage of their “soccer player-ness” and hold weekly practices. The more your team practices, the more your team gives itself a reason to keep competing.
So no matter your race, ability or disability, career, social economic status, etc., your existence as a human being has infinite worth.
Next time you say you have high or low self-esteem, remember that esteem doesn’t actually matter; what matters is the fact you exist and you can make your existence more meaningful everyday, and that alone is enough ❤
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*Disclaimer: I am not a medical or mental health professional. Any information and content on my website is not a substitute for professional, medical, or legal advice.