In her book Give Yourself a Break Kim Fredrickson describes self-esteem as: assessing ourselves in a positive way often in comparison to others… “I only feel good if I’m special or better than someone else.”
When our worth as a person comes from the ‘outside in’ it can lead to all kinds of emotional problems like depression, self-pity, and free floating anxiety because we simply can’t control everybody’s opinion of (or reaction to) us. Attempting to constantly ‘earn’ their approval can eventually lead us to lose our own identity in the process.
The way out of this trap is to practice humility as well as self-compassion which Kim conveys as: a balance of truth (yes I made a mistake) with grace (I have worth and value, and I will address this mistake directly).
Christian counselor Stephen Arterburn characterizes humility as: …an attitude in which we see ourselves in totality, the good and bad parts… as neither the best nor the worst, just as human… admitting the negative as well as the positive is a sign of authenticity. We become real with God and with ourselves.
Therefore, practicing humility and self-compassion can actually help heal our ‘self-esteem.’
What an amazing paradox.