Why Building Your Self Esteem Is Overrated and What to Do About It

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“To say “I love you” one must know first how to say the “I”.” ― Ayn Rand

In the early 1990s to early 2000s, a lot of self help gurus and motivators have encouraged people to develop self esteem (or more popularly, self confidence). 

At its core self esteem can be defined as an evaluation of our worthiness, a judgement that we are good, valuable people. 

William James, one of the founding fathers of modern psychology stated that we derive our self esteem from thinking that we’re good at things that have personal significance to us. Most people raise their self esteem in one of two ways:

Value things that we’re good at, and devalue things that we’re bad at.

Increase our competence in those areas that are important to us.

Thus, we can conclude that self esteem stems not only from our own self judgement, but also more importantly, the perceived judgments of others. 

The problem is, as a human being full of our own biases, we tend to undervalue or overvalue our worth, hence not being able to measure our self esteem objectively. 

Relying on the judgement of others are also dangerous because more often than not, people don’t know us very well and hence, can’t make well informed judgement of us. They knew our mental representation to the world, but they don’t know the real us. 

What you need to understand is that the way we portray ourselves to the world might not be the real us. It is simply a representation, a wildly inaccurate portrayal of our habitual thoughts, emotions and behaviors. As Kristin Neff in her book self compassion said, “the broad brush strokes that outline our self concept don’t even begin to do justice to the complexity, subtlety and wonder of our actual self.”

She continued, “We are a verb not a noun, a process rather than fixed thing. Our actions change-mercurial beings that we are- according to time, circumstance, mood setting.” 

So instead of managing your self image so that you will always look good, practice radical acceptance. Accept that you are both strengths and weaknesses. Realize that your present identity is temporary, who you are is always changing from time to time. Remember that successes and failures are temporary, they are merely the process of being alive. 

So forget self esteem, focus on the self instead.

I hope that you find this article useful and if you wanted to delve deeper into this topic, do read the book “Self Compassion” By Kristin Neff that greatly inspires this article. You can get it here or anywhere else you get your E-book.

Lastly, if you wanted to get my next article earlier, leave your email on the subscribe box below. By subscribing to this blog, you will get my latest Ebook- Threesome (It’s still in Indonesian) and one bonus article every month.

Magnus lives in Semarang, Indonesia. He is currently managing the family's business together with his dad and his elder brother. Magnus enjoys reading and recently he started writing his personal reflections.

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