Post No.: 0899
Some people – especially within cultures that value self-sufficiency and independence above all – self-stigmatise expressing pain by hiding their own pains from others, being self-critically hard on themselves, beating themselves up through self-punishment (e.g. feeling like they don’t deserve a holiday or even weekends off), by not wanting to seem like a complainer or weak, and by feeling guilty for merely asking for help even though they’d genuinely benefit from receiving it.
Increasingly, many of us are more understanding and supportive of those in pain for being more enlightened about invisible health problems – but there remains a notable proportion of individuals who’d label such people as ‘snowflakes’ or similar. And whether we have a mental or physical health problem or not, we’re more sensitive to negative than positive comments and on average need about a 5:1 ratio of good to bad comments to feel that the comments are balanced.
It’s not self-pitying to merely talk (or even briefly rant) about one’s problems, and no one should accuse someone of pitying themselves unless they seem to gratuitously and incessantly wallow in it to try to extract as much as they can from others while giving as little back or paying as little forwards as they can. We’ve learnt now that we need to allow people to talk – especially those who seldom complain. So if you know of someone who barely ever complains now complaining about something – rather than thinking that they should quit it because it’s not doing their usually tough image any favours – we should listen because it must be something major for them to complain about it. Even those who repeatedly complain about things may have legitimate reasons to, possibly because their plight is continual – be that on an individual level like chronic pain, or a systemic level like sexism.
In any case, talking about your problems with others can logically help solve them and also connect people together for the shared common humanity. (We should never begrudge anyone for asking us for help – we should clarify that we don’t have the time to help them right now instead of help them then begrudge them for it.)
Contrary to misconceptions, exercising self-compassion typically doesn’t decrease responsibility for a wrongdoing but increases it – this is because if one can forgive oneself for a wrongdoing, one will more likely accept that a wrongdoing had been committed, that it was unsatisfactory, and one shall take responsibility for it. This can be contrasted with trying one’s best to deny any wrongdoing or responsibility altogether because one would otherwise have to accept having done an unforgivable thing.
Self-compassionate people typically have a more stable sense of self-worth hence they feel less threatened when considering their own shortcomings. This allows them to admit more readily that they’ve done something wrong and to consider making amends. If you’re highly self-critical or afraid you’ll be shamed for admitting to doing something wrong then you’ll be more motivated to deny having done any transgression, to minimise it as not a big deal, or blame it on someone else.
So it’s not the same as guilt-free shame or shame-free guilt. Self-compassionate people are less likely to feel humiliated or incompetent or take things too personally, they take things in their stride, understand that everyone goofs up occasionally (even though others may deny it), and in the long run they recognise that most things don’t really matter unless one dwells on them.
They’re not upset with negative feedback or being ‘just average’, they’re less likely to blame others for mistakes or think of others as idiots (i.e. their happiness doesn’t depend on external appraisal or validation), they accept who they really are and don’t believe they’re more superior to others.
Self-esteem, on the other paw, depends on receiving positive reviews, social approval, successes and feeling attractive, and may lead to evasive or counterproductive tactics when there’s a possibility of facing unpleasant truths about oneself. An emphasis on self-esteem can lead to schadenfreude, or taking pleasure from other people’s losses or putting others down in order to feel better about oneself. Our own insecurities sometimes project onto others through abusive banter or bullying.
If we arrogantly think we’re more intelligent than others, we can feel threatened by intelligent peers whom we regard as our intellectual rivals. (Less intelligent people can also be suspicious of more intelligent people because they cannot understand what they’re up to – a common villain stereotype is a cunning mastermind.) Being boastful isn’t attractive either – read Post No.: 0629.
It’s sad if you see a friend as a rival (a ‘frenemy’) just because you’re insecure or jealous of something about them and thus you regard them as a threat to your own relative social standing or status. They achieve something amazing but instead of being happy for them, you try to point out what they didn’t do perfectly, or hypothesise that they must’ve cheated or something else, in order to diminish their achievements.
But no one else makes you look bad but yourself – improve your own self rather than blame how others make you look bad in comparison (e.g. generous and altruistic people don’t make you look bad – your own lack of kindness or self-sacrifice does).
You may even hope they fail in whatever they do and take pleasure in seeing them fall because you cannot lift your own game up to better yourself this way. You’re not really a friend to them if so. Real furry friends root for each other and are always happy to see each other succeed in anything they do. Don’t constantly compare achievements or treat your siblings or mates with unhealthy competition or schadenfreude. If the shoe is on the other foot, I guess you could feel flattered for being considered a benchmark – but real friends cooperate as if wins and losses are mutual for being on the same team.
So some people don’t have real friends, not because of how others treat them but how they treat others as rivals (e.g. seeing someone get a job that earns more than them) and with market norms (e.g. only giving favours when one expects something in return).
So whereas self-esteem is fragile when things don’t go to plan – self-compassion is more stable because your self-worth stems from being a human being who’s intrinsically worthy of respect, even if you’ve made mistakes. It’s a fragile state when one’s self-worth depends on extrinsic factors like one’s wealth, fame, social status or grades.
Self-compassion is associated with less need for making social comparisons or the desire for retaliation for perceived personal slights. There’s therefore less need for cognitive closure i.e. the need to be unquestionably right – thus it creates a better social atmosphere and the social benefits arising from this. People who perceive their self-worth from feeling superior and infallible tend to get angry and defensive to protect their own ego when they feel their status is threatened.
Self-compassion reduces stress, anxiety, rumination, perfectionism, the fear of failure, and procrastination; and ultimately boosts our happiness, ability to cope better with chronic pain and traumatic life events, our optimism, curiosity and exploration, and emotional intelligence. It creates better relationships and improves our compassion towards others too.
It allows us to respect ourselves. That respect means we’ll make better choices about our minds and bodies. We’ll look after ourselves in the right way. If you think you’re intrinsically important, you’ll be less likely to follow the crowd if your peers are doing something dumb or dangerous. You’ll know you’re smart enough to make your own decisions. You’ll value your safety, feelings and crucially your health. Self-care helps you to know that every part of you is worth caring for and protecting.
So relax more. Allow life to be as it is and be kinder to yourself. (And whenever you do chill out – do so without guilt or thinking about work otherwise afterwards you won’t feel like you’ve had a rest at all.) Celebrate small wins too!
Self-esteem concerns how one values oneself, but a valuable person isn’t necessarily a happy one – it’s more important to accept oneself, whatever one’s perceived value relative to others. Accept that to err is human so give yourself a break. This means not judging yourself harshly in the face of difficulties or failure, or feeling the need to try to protect your ego. It’s not about your ego hence you can confront your flaws head on and figure out what needs to be done to practically improve yourself in a healthy way. Like illuminated earlier, if you have an ego then admitting to the need for improvement is essentially admitting to your weaknesses, which is a threat to your self-esteem – thus when focused on your ego, you won’t admit to your shortcomings without losing self-esteem. Self-compassion and self-acceptance meanwhile doesn’t view failures as reflections of the ego but as things that happen, to even the best, and as opportunities to learn and improve.
Either a lack of self-esteem, self-confidence or self-compassion will affect your chances of success if this stops you trying something though.
So having self-esteem is still crucial for our well-being. Self-esteem still relates to the value we place on ourselves. It affects our confidence in our own self-worth, capabilities and morals. It means recognising what we’ve done well and what we can potentially do. A healthy dose of self-esteem gives us the power to believe in ourselves and therefore helps us to build the courage to try new things. The key is to have an accurate and balanced self-perception – neither feeling superior nor inferior to others. We don’t want hubris, self-indulgence or feelings of self-entitlement.
Low self-esteem can express in many guises like seeking popularity, defensiveness or vanity. But know that you don’t need the approval of others to feel valuable – be individual, be different, and love it! Don’t hate yourself – it’s about being yourself and respecting that.
Recognise your achievements. Don’t take for granted those good things you have and have done. (Don’t take for granted all the good things that happen to you, or take for granted not having all the difficulties others face that you don’t either e.g. if you’re not living in a war or famine zone.) Remember your positives and positive experiences. Don’t twist praise or positivity into negativity.
When ambiguous, assume the best thoughts and intentions from others. Be less self-conscious – everybody else is so self-conscious and their attention is on themselves that they aren’t staring at your bad hair day anyway. People might notice something more prominent like your posture or gait but you can control how confidently you walk – with good or bad hair! If you encounter someone who isn’t self-conscious then they’re not vain or consequently going to be judgemental if they notice you. Or if a self-conscious person manages to notice you and judges something superficial about you harshly then it’d speak about their vanity and insecurities.
Laugh off any minor blunders or faults. No one is psychic or perfect. Past misfortunes don’t always repeat. Try your best to foresee future problems, act to prevent or mitigate them as best as you can, then stop worrying and get on with your life. Trust yourself.
Don’t always compare yourself to others like it’s a competition. Competition is often another mask of insecurity so be content with yourself as you are without needing to look down on others to feel good about yourself. Relatedly, when we know we have got or can do something, we don’t have to flaunt it. Other people don’t have to know it. Just improve yourself with your own goals – with this attitude you’ll have the ability to take on any challenge and overcome it. If a situation is within your control to improve then aim to improve it; otherwise learn to accept that it doesn’t matter.
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