Self-esteem is perhaps a term you’ve heard so often you’re probably sick of hearing it. This is how Wikipedia defines self-esteem:
“Self-esteem is a term used in sociology and psychology to reflect a person’s overall emotional evaluation of his or her own worth. It is a judgment of oneself as well as an attitude toward the self. Self-esteem encompasses beliefs (for example, “I am competent,” “I am worthy”) and emotions such as triumph, despair, pride and shame.”
The problem I have with how many people treat self-esteem is that this sort of self-worth becomes tied to a “market value” in today’s world. You’re worth so-and-so per hour or so-and-so in yearly salary. That doesn’t sound quite right. But, when you consider things in terms of job markets, that’s exactly what happens. People become so tied to their occupations, so self-esteem is often tied to one’s career performance.
What you really want is self-esteem being tied to how a person respects and cherishes one’s talents and abilities. Healthy self-esteem should never be tied to performance. Unfortunately, when someone struggles at their job, favorite activity, or cherished hobby, their self-esteem is often attacked instead of nurtured. We need a serious paradigm shift among many school systems and employers to fix this horrible error in our society’s handling of hard-working students and employees.
Another very important part of self-esteem is self-respect, a term that in itself should be self-explanatory. It’s about respecting yourself the way that you are and not letting others attack you in self-deprecating and harmful ways. Think of it as a sort of “respect” shield. If anything, this is the most important part of what I would call true self-love, which is all about taking the way that you respect yourself and extending that respect out to others. Self-love that is selfish isn’t truly self-love in my opinion – it’s the worst kind of pride.
The topic of self-love obviously could have an entire book written about it. But I think that people need to be careful when they hear people throwing around the term “self-love.” I’m not sure that those saying it always mean what it should mean.
Self-love in general should be about respecting one’s self and one’s talents and abilities. But, learning to love yourself should also include helping other people to discover that same sort of self-love, as well. That’s what I’m sticking to these days. Even though I can’t say I’ve come anywhere close to actually mastering self-love, I’m getting there.