Monday, November 15, 2010

Self-esteem or Self-indulgence?

In a discount shoe store I browsed recently, my eye was caught by the clogs called “Self-esteem.” And BTW, when did we start naming shoes? Do we now have to have the right shoes for good self-esteem? Or will wearing the shoes give us good self-esteem?

I’d like to call attention to the anti-self-esteem movement. Okay, I just made that up. There’s no such movement. But there are those who argue that self-esteem is not all it’s cracked up to be. Some psychologists have decried the emphasis on self-esteem because it leads to grandiose expectations that will be forever unmet, and others because it emphasizes self-absorption in the never-ending battle to be the best at everything.

Instead of aspiring to have higher self-esteem, perhaps we could aspire to have more gratitude or greater self-compassion. Most of you are familiar with gratitude, but self-compassion or self-kindness is newer to many. Self-compassion includes:

* Being tolerant and non-judgmental of the self, particularly in the face of failures.

* Recognizing that we all have pain as part of the human experience and we need not be isolated in our pain.

* Not needing to exaggerate our failings or indulging in self-pity when in pain, but instead trying to maintain emotional balance.

Not surprisingly, people who practice self-compassion tend to be, you guessed it, more compassionate toward others. They’re also happier and better able to attain goals, and less anxious, depressed and angry.

So maybe instead of buying the self-esteem shoes, we’d do better to focus on mindfulness, compassion and kindness.

Well we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun
Instant Karma, John Lennon.

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