Self Esteem is the judgment we have about our value as a human being.We usually have two main areas in which we evaluate, or esteem ourselves: How lovable are we, and how capable
If we don't value ourselves as lovable, we see ourselves as: Unlovable, unattractive, undesirable, unworthy, disgusting, and shameful. if we don't value ourselves as capable we see ourselves as incapable, incompetent, inferior, weak, inadequate, wimpy and/or guilty.
The first domain has to do with being which includes our feelings and our needs. Our needs include needs for
physical care and regulation (food, temperature, freedom from pain, etc.,
- feeling that we belong, are attached, connected to another,
- having like-minded associates
- exploration and assertion of our points of view, preferences,
- expression of distaste or aversion
- and some would say, competition or territorial power.
Often we are taught to feel bad and wrong for merely feeling certain feelings. We may then have a shame reaction. The painful feeling of "not being good enough" - which can spiral into feeling revolting, burdensome, and contemptible -makes us inhibited, and stops our forward actions. With shame we feel as if we ourselves are deficient.
The second domain has to do with action, with doing. The area we are judging is not our very self, but what we have done or not done. The self evaluative feeling is guilt. While feelings of guilt can be extremely painful, we can often correct our behavior. We can fix a broken chair, make an apology to a friend, choose to study harder. With shame, we can't just eliminate a feeling or a need. We have a self that is just wrong and, when we are caught in a shame episode, feel that there's no escape from the crushing feelings of defectiveness.
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From My new blog for PsychologyToday.com,
YOUR ZESTY SELF, APRIL 29, 2009--
This is my first blog post at PsychologyToday.com, so I want to refer to the name "Your Zesty Self." What do you think of when you think of a zesty self?
Google definitions of "zesty" include references to gusto, enthusiastic enjoyment and having a spicy quality. So I will share away with you here things that can build and enhance those qualities of zest. Sometimes these qualities are expressed with the words "self-esteem" and "self-confidence," "power," and "joy." I'm just sick and tired of those words right now.
I know of one ingredient that keeps us zesty. It is validation. In fact, as we look at the word ‘validity' it means robustness, the quality of being strong and healthy in constitution. While the very strongest of validation is self validation, in times of sadness and distress, validation from others really helps. I describe below a recent occasion I had to remember the power of outer validation.
I lay on the purple velvet couch in the euthanasia room. Soft new age music wafted out of the tiny boom box on the floor. A water fountain burbled on the altar before me, next to clusters of aromatic oil bottles nestled on a tray. And on my stomach I held my beloved cat of 18 years, "Punky" (short for Pumpkin). He was suffering from the end stages of kitty diabetes. His right front leg was taped, holding in the needles for the fluids which would follow.
I had gone in earlier to be able to spend time with Punky before our five o'clock "appointment" with the veterinarian. My eyes were filled with tears, making it hard to see into his eyes as I pet him. But I did not want to move my hands away from stroking his now boney body which was shutting down, cooling right before me.
At five, Doctor Schwartz entered gravely and started talking. Blah, blah, blah... (medical stuff about Punky's compromised liver), blah, blah, blah (that I could have given him appetite stimulants, but they had bad side effects), blah, blah, blah (that he was 18 years already, a good life time for a cat). Hearing a comforting message that it was not too bad that Punky was dying now, I can begin to listen. And what I hear, I like. "If you asked me what I'd do if he were my own cat, I'd say that this is a good option. I know you've been devoted to him. You are not killing him; you're preserving the end quality of his life."
At such a time, his kindness was a great gift. He was validating me and my choice to have Punky put to sleep. That validation has helped me through the few days since then. It reminds me of how important it can be when we are in pain to know that another person thinks that we and our actions make sense.
The testiness can happen when we receive the opposite of validation. I'm talking about judgments and contempt. A loved one's contempt often provokes straight out feelings of inadequacy. Another response is jumping to defensive anger. The anger can feel like a more powerful choice in the moment. But we all know exactly how "momentary" the felt power of defensiveness can be.
I vote for zesty not testy. And I ask you to consider what validation will you give some one else today. And what validation will you give yourself today? It matters.
How Low Self Esteem Happens
From Dr. Jane's Practice Brochure
"When early caretakers are not able to focus on the needs of the child, the child will then try to meet the needs of the parent. The child has to chose between expressing an authentic self and losing love, or giving up self expression to keep the necessary tie.
This creates a skewed relational dynamic that has life-long injurious effects on the growing child.
Perfectionism, people-pleasing, shyness, submissiveness, depression, and/or anxiety often follow. Issues of self esteem, communication, assertiveness, expressiveness, and creativity are usually involved. Adult Children of Alcoholics, children of narcissists, therapists, and artists, are some of the people most affected."
Please visit my blog about Self Esteem,
Here's an example of a blog post:
Are You Setting Yourself Up For Disappointment Or For Happiness?
I had a friend who would go to Target when she was feeling low. She’d just go around piling things into her cart as the impulse hit her. But by the time she reached the check out counter, she was so disappointed in her items, that she would turn her cart around and put them all back. She left he store even more depressed than before.
What was happening?
What I call The Matching Principle was operating. That Matching Principle is that we all experience happiness more when what we expect matches what we get. My friend did not get clarity about what she wanted and then set her intentions for what she wanted.
Matching expectations requires two essential things.
The first essential thing is that we KNOW what we are looking for, what we want or need. So we have to consciously work that out. Think about how many times you might have entered a relationship without being clear about your needs, and then realized that they were not being met. You thought you could do without—you fill in the blank. Then you realized you were wasting your time.
The second essential thing to match expectations is to be able to look clearly at your situation, relationship, job or activities and see whether they will be ABLE realistically to fulfill what we need.
To illustrate that point, I’ll tell you about another friend who was broken-hearted at a relationship that “he” had suddenly quit. She decided to help herself work through her pain by making a video diary entry. As she spoke into the camera about what she wanted from a partner-- that he be reliable, committed, and self-supporting, she suddenly burst out laughing. She realized that her ex-partner was none of those things.
So getting clear bout what you want, and getting clear about the likelihood of whether what you are doing is likely to match what you expect are important skills for happiness.
How is this all this related to the Shame vs. Self-esteem see-saw? Another way of describing a trigger for shame is the statement: The bigger the gap between the ideal and the real, the more shame is triggered.
So let’s get clarity about our desires and get real about whether (to quote those old sayings), we are trying to get blood from a turnip, or to make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.
Using Our Creativity Enhances Self Esteem
There seems to be a basic sense in us that makes us proud of ourselves when we invent or make things. When we see what we have done- and that we have done some thing we usually light up inside.
For me, personally, I think that my grade school years of making shell jewelry, burning wood plaques, tooling leather wallets, etc. saved my sanity. I know for a fact that having to produce paintings for an exhibit has saved my life.
Artist's Way Groups are a fun, safe way to increase self esteem. Please download a flier for upcoming Artist's Way Workshops.
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