The Fallacy of Self-esteem

By Javier Munoz
Posted on: April 12, 2010
5 comments so far (is that a lot?)

Self-esteem by Robert CookSuspecting the validity of the Self-esteem concept here must sound contradictory. What’s wrong with feeling good? Isn’t that the objective of personal development? Isn’t it all about loving and being happy with ourselves? It sure is… but the term “self-esteem” entails a trap that can derail your growth.

First, let’s attempt to define the term “Self” separately. This term allows various interpretations as you can see in the diversity of meanings people derive from it. To understand its meaning it is necessary to investigate what we are. This of course has been the central question that science, philosophy and religion have tried to answer through the ages – an enormous task indeed.

Is your Self your Ego?

The trap starts to unfold when we realize the western tendency to identify what we are with our “Ego”. Most people in the western world relate the term Self with Ego. Therefore, the term Self-esteem would be more closely related to Ego-esteem in a western context. Could an egocentric focus prevent your personal growth? Keep in mind that all spiritual practices motivate the awakening of a holistic awareness that keeps your ego in check.

It is not about denying your ego; instead, it is about remaining aware of your ego in a larger context. Could you consider the term Self in a larger context unrestricted by a rigid ego construct. Naturally, placing your attention solely on your Ego would not be conducive to an understanding of Self in relation to a larger whole. Therefore, you should ask whether your concept of Self integrates your relationship with your social and natural environment. Keep in mind that your infinite potential lies in how you integrate these relationships to your concept of Self. If you don’t address all dimensions of your relationships with people and nature, then how could you develop this infinite potential you hold? Have you questioned whether your concept of Self includes all dimensions of these key relationships?

Is your Self defined by others?

We have analyzed one aspect of the Self-esteem concept by questioning whether an egocentric pursuit, as it is commonly understood, opposes your personal growth instead of enhancing it. Now let’s analyze another factor that could mistakenly dictate your Self-esteem: Other people’s opinion of you.

Frequently, we give enormous value to positive or negative opinions other people have of us. In many cases, people build their personal identity based largely on other people’s opinion of them. Naturally, this has a significant impact on what we call our Self-esteem. As mentioned before, our infinite potential is born from integrating our social and natural environment into our concept of Self. Hence, we suggested the term Self should include these relationships transcending an egocentric concept of Self. Then, it would be easy to conclude that other people’s opinion of us are in fact decisive for our Self-esteem. And therein lies the confusion that we should try to clear up.

Even after deep introspection it is rather difficult to define ourselves. This is due in part to the inherently unknown nature of our potential which is difficult to foresee. If unaware, the conditioning we are subject to through the years may keep this potential from manifesting. Even knowing all of that, we allow other people’s equally conditioned opinions define what we are. These opinions for good or for worse may be valuable and respectable, but they are intrinsically limiting since they originate from a subjective personal perspective.

However, in many cases, we take either praise or criticism as if it were definitive truth. There is nothing wrong with considering the feedback you receive as long as you take it as a point of view that holds a relative perspective, but not the absolute truth. You should pay attention not to fall in the trap of allowing praise or criticism change the way you feel about yourself without being aware of it.

Then, the question remains: How do you integrate your relationships into your sense of Self without being conditioned by them? You may try listening to all positive or negative opinions you receive while considering the belief systems from which they were expressed. In other words, try to put yourself in their shoes to understand their perspectives, even if limited in scope, they may remain valid. In fact, the exercise of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes requires detachment from your ego to consider everyone’s perspective.

Could we come to a simple conclusion?

Yes, we certainly can. So far, we have come to two conclusions:

  • Your concept of Self should integrate your relationships with people and nature
  • Detachment from your ego helps you consider everyone’s perspective enriching your field of possibilities while keeping these perspectives from being definitive.

Both, holistic integration and detachment to consider all perspectives requires one thing: Love

Simplify, there is only love

Coaching could help you tune into a state of being that powers through creatively to unleash your potential while flowing with a deeper holistic awareness of how your sense of Self relates and contributes to the whole. Coaching could help you integrate multiple perspectives even if they counter your own as a means to enrich your field of possibilities.

It won’t be easy to uncover the nature of the Self-esteem fallacy in one brief post, so I would love to extend this discussion in the comments section. Let me know what you think?

5 Responses to “The Fallacy of Self-esteem”

  1. Glistening Deepwater Says:

    Considering the feedback we receive from others and our environment whilst maintaining a detached perspective is a worthwhile aspiration, our very concept of ‘self’ is intimately bound up in our concept of ‘world’ and the impressions we perceive as coming to us from this “world out there” definitely conditions our concept of our ‘self’.
    Once we are able to stably realise that the feedback we receive is a reflection of our current state of mind, we can subtly adjust that mind state in order to receive modified feedback…this then lends a depth of perspective to our interactions (as far as I have been able to ascertain through experimentation!)

    Wonderful work Javier, profound gratitude :-)

  2. Javier Munoz Says:

    Yes Gistening,

    I have found that there is a direct cause-effect relationship between our energy flow and this detached wholy aware state of being that you mentioned.

    As you mentioned, as we subtly adjust our inner-dialog learning how to observe those thoughts that are sourced by our ego-mind, fostering stillness and the stream of intuition would then spring you into a more holistic world-view…

    This is not a linear process where you follow steps, but there one starting point nonetheless… Intent. You must have the intent to experiment fueled by our unrelenting pursuit for a higher Self.

  3. Joe Wilkinson Says:

    I feel this is one of the most important issues in ‘personal growth.’ Expanding beyond ego, while allowing it to remain a creative power, rather than reactionary force in One’s life experience. I tend to observe it this way, “We are each and all operating from Self Interest. The difference for the Expanded Being is in HOW One views One’s Self.”
    This post touches on an obstacle of many (mySELF included) on the Path to Freedom and Well Being, AND I’m so glad, Javier, it was you who brought this point directly into the Just Action conversation.
    One of the issues I initially had to overcome when approaching the Just Action process was, how to address the idea of ‘Creating an Identity (a Character) that wasn’t just another false [or limited] idea of Self.’
    This issue, however, is overcome as you go thru the BITS and observe the depth and sensibility you present when considering how to access the Higher Realms of Awareness AS an aspect of The Character One builds.
    I’ve often recognized how the term, ‘Character’ as an avatar like being you create to perform in the Game of Life, and ‘Character’ as the characteristics of your BEING which you naturally emanate work so well in the Just Action design. The SELF cannot be esteemed, in fact, in the deepest investigation we find it cannot even be located. It is FROM The Self that One esteems their BEING, the Spirit, Consciousness, and Mind’s Perceptions. It is FROM the Self that ego is observed. It is FROM the SELF which all things arise into BEING. Thank You for addressing this so very important issue in a way that goes beyond mere semantics, AND linking in the INFINITE POTENTIAL conversation was also a brilliant Play. namaste.

  4. Javier Munoz Says:

    Hello Joe, thank you for a great comment! your contribution to this discussion provides an additional point of reference. This sort of post derives more value from the comments than from the post itself since we get to know about multiple perspectives.

  5. Joe Wilkinson Says:

    I appreciate the acknowledgement of the comment/message, Javier. It is exactly thru dialoguing openly that WE ALL achieve expansion. btw: you gave me a great platform to shout from. Again, excellent issue, and observation of it. ;-)

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