Focus on building self-worth and not self-esteem
These two closely related yet contrasting hyphenated words appear to mean roughly the same thing at first glance. In fact, as I scratch the surface in this post and delve a little bit deeper, we will begin to comprehend how very different they actually are.
Self-esteem can be defined as a favourable impression or an exaggeratedly favourable impression of oneself. It can be linked to pride, egotism, narcissism, vanity and an elevated idea of oneself above all others based on superficial personal and professional achievements such as getting a good job, physical abilities, relationships, good looks, youth etc.
Yet self-esteem is really based on how we are regarded by other people and their perception of how we interact with others and within our environment. As our self-esteem battery can be charged by an external power source (other people’s opinion of us), having high self-esteem does not necessarily make us a better person automatically, it simply validates us externally. It is more immediate but can change from moment to moment based on additional superficial external influences which could simply be from how we look in the morning, where we went on holiday or where we went for dinner.
The interesting thing is that self-esteem alone creates a false sense of security and achievement. A temporary fix, as the loss of any of the professional or personal achievements without self-worth, will inevitably lead to emotional disturbance or collapse.
On the other hand, the sense of self-worth is internally generated, impervious to external stimuli and is not easily crushed once attained. Self-worth remains unaffected by the increase or decrease of self-esteem as it is a sense of one’s own value and worth as a well-intentioned human being. Self-worth remains intact regardless of how others view us, our successes or our failures.
Self-esteem alone tends to present a constant battle between being ourselves and being who we think others want us to be. Self-worth nurtures and strengthens our authentic self, in the full knowledge that we are far more than the sum of our apparent personal and professional achievements. Self-worth is more stable and sustaining and is based upon how much we feel we ‘deserve’ something based entirely on what we have achieved on our own merit or a contribution we may have made to our environment and society.
In a time where social media and materialism is king, it can be easy to get carried away in the seeking of self-esteem and suffering when we don’t receive that external validation from others or ‘our moment passes’. Instead, we would do well to focus on building our self-worth which is, in fact, an element of basic human value, a driving force to wellbeing and a valuable aid to recovery from trauma and emotional pain. When we give self-worth this focus and energy, we no longer have to fear it being diminished by external forces as we have our own inbuilt authentication. Once a comfortable level of self-worth is achieved, neither challenges life presents us with, nor negative looks and words from others will have absolutely any impact on who we really are because we know our true worth.
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