Is self-esteem really that important?
Some of my work takes me into the realms of helping people to find their ‘unique selling point’ or asking them what sets them apart from others. If I’m honest, I always feel a certain discomfort when I’m in that territory; this type of questioning takes me to my modern day worry that I’m helping to fill the world with spotlight-grabbing self-promotionists!
I think this issues touches on the ‘other’ pandemic of the 21st century, that of unhealthy self -esteem. The Western version of self-esteem is unfortunately based on the need to be better than others. Check out Kirstin Neff’s TED talk on this issue where she highlights how self esteem is hinged on feeling special and above average. It provides the perfect storm for bullying and narcissism in our society as our search for higher self-esteem inevitably pitches us against our fellow human beings.
So it shouldn’t be about standing alone in order to feel good. What matters is encouraging everyone to realize that our true and natural inclination as human beings is to stand together; at the heart of this inclusion is kindness. So, when it comes to self-esteem, start by asking ‘how kind am I to myself?’. If you can get this right, it’s easy to fill up your own well of personal happiness and have plenty left to give to others.
When going back to my original opening dilemma: yes, it’s fine to promote ourselves and ‘sell our wares’. Perhaps, though, we need to look at what our intention is behind this activity. Giving to the world in a helpful way by far outsells our quite often unconscious need to address our feelings of personal inadequacy.