THE WORTHLESS PURSUIT OF SELF-ESTEEM
HAVE WE INVENTED A WORD THAT MAKES US MISERABLES?
Photo: Michael Jensen/world-photo.dk 2004
Let us glimpse at this strange concept. Not for long, just enough to rattle your world a little. We’ve got other matters to attend to, besides meddling with your belief system.
Self-esteem, what is that other than two words put together? What does it mean? It means, what you think of yourself. Your overall evaluation and appraisal of your own worth. How you value yourself. If you were to sell yourself, what price would you put on yourself? Are you worthless or priceless? It doesn’t mean whether you’re happy. It doesn’t mean that you’re confident. It doesn’t mean that you behave well or treat others nicely. It simply means that you have a low regard or a high regard for your own worth. We all want high self-esteem, but that means you think highly of yourself. It doesn’t sound so attractive, when I put it that way, does it? It suddenly sounds like you are a little full of yourself. That’s why it is so strange to me, why this concept has become so important for so many people, and why so many, especially girls and young women, spend so much time trying to obtain it, because at the same time, we make a virtue out of modesty and humility. And it’s so strange why people torment themselves for having too low self-esteem. Who says that low self-esteem is a bad thing? Having high self-esteem does not make you a pleasant person. How you behave makes you a pleasant person. In fact, the latest studies on this concept, yet to be proved existing, show that young people who spend a lot of time trying to boost their self-esteem end up narcissistic. Also, bullies have not only high but also surprisingly and inappropriately high self-esteem. That is why they can bully, because they feel entitled to do it. They think that much of themselves. Of course, it doesn’t mean that they are happy individuals deep down. Of course not. That’s why pursuing self-esteem is worthless.
I can’t see how ascribing a worth to yourself has any purpose. It would for Sporus (I’ll tell that story later), when Emperor Nero bought him and treated him like a being without either soul, mind or emotion. Then it would be fair to say that the poor boy was worth more than that. Apart from human trafficking, human worth has no context. And we, as people, don’t have an inherent worth just because we’re human. There’s no species on the planet that has behaved more appallingly and atrociously throughout the better part of our existence than the humans. We treat each other appallingly, the planet appallingly and all other species on it appallingly. So, no, we don’t have an inherent value for being human. Furthermore, if you think about it, every time you hear someone trying to describe their self-esteem, they will say something like my self-esteem is generally okay, or sometimes good or pretty bad… but they will also say that sometimes it changes or varies. If they experience one day where everything is awesome; their video on Insta got 1000 hearts, they got the job or passed the exam, then they will describe their self-esteem as high. They never describe an actual value or worth of themselves, because they can’t. It is too elusive. They just describe how they feel. When they talk about self-esteem, what they are describing is usually just their mood. And we can’t attribute the existence of something regarded so valuable and important as self-esteem on something as capricious as our own individual subjective feelings. Feelings are much too fickle for that. Feelings change. Constantly. And if you say, but I have had low self-esteem and felt worthless most of my life, it still does not mean that self-esteem exists. You have just created a narrative, a story of yourself that you have told yourself for years. A story you are unwilling to change. It’s more than 20 years ago that Tony Robbins coined the phrase: The story you tell yourself is the life you lead. Start telling yourself a different story!
Photo: © Annie Spratt 2021
Why would you want to prioritise how much you think of yourself over how you behave, what you think you can do and what you think of others?
If I told you that having low self-esteem has nothing to do with whether you are happy in your life, would that be of importance to you? Would it rattle your world a little? If so, good. Then think about it for a while. If you have confidence problems, and you’re afraid to get up and perform, it has nothing to with what you think of yourself. You may blame your lack of performance on your poor view of yourself, but that’s entirely your choice. If you improve your view of your own worth, it doesn’t necessarily make you perform any more admirably or any better in society, and it certainly does not guarantee happiness or success. What you need to get up there and speak is confidence, competence and preparation.
Even if you’re only too aware that you think badly of yourself, is that so awful? I say, it’s better than thinking too much of yourself, because thinking little of yourself will make you reflect. It will make you look in the mirror. It will make you see other people for who they are. And when you see how they respond to you coming at them with your modest sense of self-worth, you will find:
You are not what you value yourself to be. You are what you have been shaped to be as a child and how you behave as an adult.
Have a lovely day.