[do action=”virtue” virtue=”Self-Respect”/] [do action=”vfdictitem” contents=”self-re·spect”/] [do action=”vfdictitem” contents=”proper esteem or regard for the dignity of one’s character.”/] [do action=”vfdictend”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”They cannot take away our self-respect if we do not give it to them.” author=”Mahatma Gandhi”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Self-respect is the root of discipline; the sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself” author=”Abraham J. Heschel”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”That you may retain your self-respect, it is better to displease the people by doing what you know is right, than to temporarily please them by doing what you know is wrong.” author=”William J. H. Boetcker”/]

Since every human being deserves respect (ourselves included), self-respect becomes obligatory. Self-Respect is required for one to have happiness and to effectively participate in this world. Self-Respect means that we take ourselves seriously as a person with “freedoms and responsibilities to others” as opposed to being merely some animal driven by instincts alone and the desire for pleasure. Having this intellectual freedom and self mastery over ones emotions are a key ingredient in happiness. Self-Respect allows me to participate in “community” as an equal and enables me to enter meaningful balanced relationships with others.

[do action=”vfquote” quote=”To free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves – there lies the great, singular power of self-respect.” author=”Joan Didion”/]

Self-Respect is a foundational element for most of our activities. Without self-respect we do not believe in ourselves enough to be able to contribute effectively on a team or in an organization. Success in the various vocations of life require that we regard ourselves as worthy of contributing to these ventures.

Only if we respect ourselves as worthy of being loved and able to love can true “friendship” develop.

[do action=”vfquote” quote=”In man’s life, the absence of an essential component usually leads to the adoption of a substitute. The substitute is usually embraced with vehemence and extremism, for we have to convince ourselves that what we took as second choice is the best there ever was. Thus blind faith is to a considerable extent a substitute for the lost faith in ourselves; insatiable desire a substitute for hope; accumulation a substitute for growth; fervent hustling a substitute for purposeful action; and pride a substitute for an unattainable self-respect.” author=”Eric Hoffer”/]

Self-Respect honors our true human nature of being endowed with freedom, reason, and free will to be able to think and choose for yourself. By recognizing and valuing these rights in ones self you are then able to pursue intellectual and moral improvement. Simply put….you deserve happiness.

Self-Respect is a pre-requisite for respecting others. Much of disrespectful behavior originates from people who are trying to build themselves up by tearing others down. Self-Respect requires a good understanding of one’s self plus a healthy dose of self-discipline and self-reliance.

Self-Respect is a term used in psychology to reflect a person’s overall evaluation or appraisal of his or her own worth. Self-Respect encompasses beliefs (for example, “I am competent”, “I am worthy”) and emotions such as triumph, despair, pride and shame. Self-Respect can apply specifically to a particular dimension (for example, “I believe I am a good writer and I feel happy about that”) or have global extent (for example, “I believe I am a bad person, and feel bad about myself in general”). Synonyms or near-synonyms of self-respect include: self-worth, self-regard, self-esteem, and self-integrity. According to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, “self-love” is “the instinct or desire to promote one’s well-being”.

The original normal definition presents self-respect as a ratio found by dividing one’s successes in areas of life of importance to a given individual by the failures in them or one’s “success / pretensions”. Problems with this approach come from making self-respect contingent upon success: this implies inherent instability because failure can occur at any moment. In the mid 1960s, Morris Rosenberg and social-learning theorists defined self-respect in terms of a stable sense of personal worth or worthiness. Nathaniel Branden in 1969 defined self-respect as “…the experience of being competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and being worthy of happiness”. According to Branden, self-respect is the sum of self-confidence (a feeling of personal capacity) and self-esteem (a feeling of personal worth). It exists as a consequence of our personal ability to face life’s challenges and our right to achieve happiness.

  • self-respect is a basic human need, i.e., “…it makes an essential contribution to the life process”, “…is indispensable to normal and healthy self-development, and has a value for survival.”
  • To have high self-respect is to feel confidently capable for life, to feel able and worthy, or to feel right as a person.
  • To have low self-respect corresponds to not feeling ready for life, or to feeling wrong as a person.
  • To have middle ground self-respect is to waver between the two states, to feel able and useless, right and wrong as a person, and to show these incongruities in behavior, acting at times wisely, and at rashly others, thus reinforcing insecurity.

People with a healthy level of self-respect:

  • firmly believe in certain values and principles, and are ready to defend them even when finding opposition, feeling secure enough to modify them in light of experience.
  • are able to act according to what they think to be the best choice, trusting their own judgment, and not feeling guilty when others don’t like their choice.
  • do not lose time worrying excessively about what happened in the past, nor about what could happen in the future. They learn from the past and plan for the future, but live in the present intensely.
  • fully trust in their capacity to solve problems, not hesitating after failures and difficulties. They ask others for help when they need it.
  • consider themselves equal in dignity to others, rather than inferior or superior, while accepting differences in certain talents, personal prestige or financial standing.
  • take for granted that they are an interesting and valuable person for others, at least for those with whom they have a friendship with.
  • resist manipulation, collaborate with others only if it seems appropriate and convenient.
  • admit and accept different internal feelings and drives, either positive or negative, revealing those drives to others only when they choose.
  • are able to enjoy a great variety of activities.
  • are sensitive to feelings and needs of others; respect generally accepted social rules, and claim no right or desire to prosper at others’ expense.

People with low self-respect may show some of the following symptoms:

  • Heavy self-criticism, tending to create a habitual state of dissatisfaction with oneself.
  • Hypersensitivity to criticism, which makes oneself feel easily attacked and experience obstinate resentment against critics.
  • Chronic indecision, not so much because of lack of information, but from an exaggerated fear of making a mistake.
  • Excessive will to please: being unwilling to say “no”, out of fear of displeasing the petitioner.
  • Perfectionism, or self-demand to do everything attempted “perfectly” without a single mistake, which can lead to frustration when perfection is not achieved.
  • Neurotic guilt: one is condemned for behaviors which not always are objectively bad, exaggerates the magnitude of mistakes or offenses and complains about them indefinitely, never reaching full forgiveness.
  • Floating hostility, irritability out in the open, always on the verge of exploding even for unimportant things; an attitude characteristic of somebody who feels bad about everything, who is disappointed or unsatisfied with everything.
  • Defensive tendencies, a general negative (one is pessimistic about everything: life, future, and, above all, oneself) and a general lack of will to enjoy life.
[do action=”vfquote” quote=”There are many who find the burdens, the anxiety, and the isolation of an individual existence unbearable. This is particularly true when the opportunities for self-advancement are relatively meager, and one’s individual interests and prospects do not seem worth living for. Such persons sooner or later turn their backs on an individual existence and strive to acquire a sense of worth and a purpose by identifying with a holy cause, a leader, or a movement. The faith and pride they derive from joining this cause serves them as a substitute for their lack of self-confidence and self-respect.” author=”Eric Hoffer”/]

Education and Self-Respect

American schools have had from their inception a moral mandate. Moral authority, once vested firmly in both our schools and teachers, has receded dramatically over the past few decades. While many teachers are valiantly working to promote good character in their classrooms, many are receiving mixed and confusing messages. Attempts made to restore values and ethics to the school curriculum through values clarification, situational ethics, and discussion of moral dilemmas have proven both weak and ephemeral, failing to strengthen the character and behavior of our young people. Still our schools too often champion rights at the expense of responsibility and self-respect at the expense of self-discipline.

Distressed by the increasing rates of violence, adolescent suicide, premature sexual activity, and a host of other pathological and social ills assaulting American youth, we propose that schools and teachers reassert their responsibility as educators of virtue. Schools cannot, however, assume this responsibility alone; families, neighborhoods and faith communities must share in this task together. We maintain that authentic educational reform in this nation begins with our response to the call for virtue. True virtue education is the hinge upon which academic excellence, personal achievement, and true citizenship depends. It calls forth the very best from our students, faculty, staff and parents. We believe the following guiding principles ought to be at the heart of this educational reform:

Principle 1: Education is an Inescapable Moral Enterprise

Education in its fullest sense is inescapably a moral enterprise — a continuous and conscious effort to guide students to know and pursue what is good and what is worthwhile.

Principle 2: Parents

Parents are the primary moral educators of their children and schools should build a partnership with the home. Consequently, all schools have the obligation to foster in their students personal and civic virtues such as integrity, courage, responsibility, diligence, service, and respect for the dignity of all persons.

Principle 3: Virtue

Character education is about developing virtues — good habits and dispositions which lead students to responsible and mature adulthood. Virtue ought to be our foremost concern in educating for character. Character education is not about acquiring the right views — currently accepted attitudes about ecology, prayer in school, gender, school uniforms, politics, or ideologically charged issues.

Principle 4: Teachers, Principals, Staff

The teacher and the school principal are central to this enterprise and must be educated, selected, and encouraged with this mission in mind. In truth, all of the adults in the school must embody and reflect the moral authority (virtues) which have been invested in them by the parents and the community.

Principle 5: Community

Character education is not a single course, a quick-fix program, or a slogan posted on the wall; it is an integral part of school life. The school must become a community of virtue in which responsibility, hard work, honesty, and kindness are modeled, taught, expected, celebrated, and continually practiced. From the classroom to the playground, from the cafeteria to the faculty room, the formation of good character must be the central concern.

Principle 6: Curriculum

The human community has a reservoir of virtue wisdom, much of which exists in our great stories, works of art, literature, history, and biography. Teachers and students must together draw from this reservoir both within and beyond the academic curriculum.

Principle 7: Students

Young people need to realize that forging their own characters is an essential and demanding life task. And the sum of their school experiences — in successes and failures, academic and athletic, intellectual and social — provides much of the raw “virtue” material for this personal undertaking.

Virtue education is not merely an educational trend or the school’s latest fad; it is a fundamental dimension of good teaching, an abiding respect for the intellect and spirit of the individual. We need to re-engage the hearts, minds, and hands of our children in forming their own characters, helping them “to know the good, love the good, and do the good, through virtue.

[do action=”vfquote” quote=”The capacity for getting along with our neighbor depends to a large extent on the capacity for getting along with ourselves. The self-respecting individual will try to be as tolerant of his neighbor’s shortcomings as he is of his own.” author=”Eric Hoffer”/]

Maslow’s Take on Self-Respect

American psychologist Abraham Maslow included self-respect in his hierarchy of needs. He described two different forms of respect: the need for respect from others and the need for self-respect, or inner self-esteem. Respect from others entails recognition, acceptance, status, and appreciation, and was believed to be more fragile and easily lost than inner self-respect. According to Maslow, without the fulfillment of the self-respect need, individuals will be driven to seek it and unable to grow and obtain self-actualization. In the early 1990s many Americans assumed as a matter of course that students’ self-respect acted as a critical factor in the grades that they earn in school, in their relationships with their peers, and in their later success in life. Under this assumption, some educational groups created artificial programs which aimed to increase the self-respect of students. Peer-reviewed research undertaken since then has not validated previous assumptions. Recent research indicates that inflating students’ self-esteem in and of itself has no positive effect on grades. One study has shown that inflating self-esteem by itself can actually decrease grades. The relationship involving self-esteem and academic results does not signify that high self-esteem contributes to high academic results. It simply means that high self-esteem may be accomplished due to high academic performance. “Attempts by pro-esteem advocates to encourage self-pride in students solely by reason of their uniqueness as human beings will fail if feelings of well-being are not accompanied by well-doing. It is only when students engage in personally meaningful endeavors for which they can be justifiably proud that self-confidence grows, and it is this growing self-assurance that in turn triggers further achievement.” High self-esteem correlates highly with self-reported happiness. However, it is not clear which, if either, necessarily leads to the other. Self-esteem has been found to be related to forgiveness in close relationships, in that people with high self-esteem will be more forgiving than people with low self-esteem. Parental habits, whether positive or negative, can influence the development of self-respect in children.

[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Value of a man depends upon his courage; his veracity depends upon his self-respect and his chastity depends upon his sense of honor.” author=”Hazrat Ali”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Self-respect can be a extension of your ego or a priceless virtue.” author=”Anonymous”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Never esteem anything as of advantage to thee that shall make thee break thy word or lose thy self-respect.” author=”Marcus Aurelius”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Self-respect permeates every aspect of your life.” author=”Joe Clark”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life is the source from which self-respect springs.” author=”Joan Didion”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Jealousy is indeed a poor medium to secure love, but it is a secure medium to destroy one’s self-respect. For jealous people, like dope-fiends, stoop to the lowest level and in the end inspire only disgust and loathing.” author=”Emma Goldman”/]

Down But Not Out – Don’t Lose Any Self-Respect

In every part of life—romance, work, family—there are disappointments. And these can indeed set you back. But setbacks actually force us to take risks, learn and grow. So you just got fired? Don’t wallow in misery. You may be the new CEO of the next biggest thing. Licking your wounds over a bitter divorce? You may end up meeting the love of your life—today. So don’t sit around. You may meet him on a plane or even at the grocery store. In fact, a lot of good can come out of a big disappointment. Setbacks actually force us to take risks, learn and grow.

In every part of life—romance, work, family—stuff happens. And these disappointments can indeed set you back, make you feel anxious and fearful. In moving through the recovery process, you may likely feel a range of emotions including anger, anxiety, confusion, low self-esteem and self-doubt. These represent stages of response and cannot be rushed. But over time you will begin to feel acceptance and hopefulness. When you let go of the past, you will experience increased self-respect and renewed optimism.

Don’t focus on what you lost or what didn’t work. You have to rewrite your script and see yourself differently—such as seeing yourself with another person, or at another job. Easier said than done. Some people flounder in frustration and blame after a disappointment. Worse, some people fall into deep depression. But then again others bounce back quickly and with energy. While you can argue that these people may well be born more resilient, resilience can certainly be learned. Practice and experience help. Most successful people have had their hard knocks, but they recover and move on. They, in fact, see disappointment as a prospect for something new. Big losses provide the biggest opportunities for change. They make a person more open to trying new things.”

Here are a few tips to learn how you can become more resilient and overcome life’s big disappointments:

  • Accept the setback. Know that setbacks happen to everyone. And realize that you may never understand what happened.
  • Face your fears. It’s normal to feel insecure, but don’t cower and avoid uncertainty.
  • Be patient. Reflect and think about what you plan to do; but don’t rush, it will only aggravate the process.
  • Go beyond your comfort zone. Take risks. Go after that job you think you can’t do, doing so will build self-respect and resilience.
  • Find your hero. Think about people who have survived adversity. Use them as your role models.
  • Know what you want. If you have goals, it’s easier to make plans and move forward.
  • Be a problem-solver. Don’t be the victim, instead learn to behave proactively.
  • One step at a time. To move forward, the enormity of the task (such as finding a new job after a lay-off) may seem insurmountable. Focus on each step you must take, not the entire undertaking.
  • Seek support. Talk to friends and family.
  • Be kind to yourself. Disappointments are a source of stress, so exercise, eat right and get rest.
[do action=”vfquote” quote=”In my day, we didn’t have self-esteem, we had self-respect, and no more of it than we had earned.” author=”Jane Haddam”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Humility leads to strength and not to weakness. It is the highest form of self-respect to admit mistakes and to make amends for them.” author=”John McCloy”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Rudeness luxuriates in the absence of self-respect.” author=”Eric Hoffer”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”You punch me, I punch back. I do not believe it’s good for ones self-respect to be a punching bag.” author=”Edward Koch”/]


While there is much controversy about respect for persons and other things, there is surprising agreement among moral and political philosophers about at least this much concerning respect for oneself: self-respect is something of great importance in everyday life. Indeed, it is regarded both as morally required and as essential to the ability to live a satisfying, meaningful, flourishing life—a life worth living—and just as vital to the quality of our lives together. Saying that a person has no self-respect or acts in a way no self-respecting person would act, or that a social institution undermines the self-respect of some people, is generally a strong moral criticism. Nevertheless, as with respect itself, there is philosophical disagreement, both real and merely apparent, about the nature, scope, grounds, and requirements of self-respect. Self-respect is often defined as a sense of worth or as due respect for oneself; it is frequently (but not always correctly) identified with or compared to self-esteem, self-confidence, dignity, self-love, a sense of honor, self-reliance, pride, and it is contrasted (but not always correctly) with servility, shame, humility, self-abnegation, arrogance, self-importance.

[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Never violate the sacredness of your individual self-respect.” author=”Theodore Parker”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Money is your means of survival. The verdict you pronounce upon the source of your livelihood is the verdict you pronounce upon your life. If the source is corrupt, you have damned your own existence. Did you get your money by fraud? By pandering to men’s vices or men’s stupidity? By catering to fools, in the hope of getting more than your ability deserves? By lowering your standards? By doing work you despise for purchasers your scorn? If so, then your money will not give you a moment’s or a penny’s worth of joy. Then all the things you buy will become, not a tribute to you, but a reproach; not an achievement, but a reminder of shame. Then you’ll scream that money is evil. Evil, because it is not a good substitute for your self-respect? Evil, because it would not let you enjoy your depravity? Is this the root of your hatred of money?” author=”Ayn Rand”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”No man who is occupied in doing a very difficult thing, and doing it very well, ever loses his self-respect.” author=”George Bernard Shaw”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”There is a price which is too great to pay for peace, and that price can be put in one word. One cannot pay the price of self-respect.” author=”Woodrow T. Wilson”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Drugs are a waste of time. They destroy your memory and your self-respect and everything that goes along with your self esteem.” author=”Kurt Cobain”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”I have no right, by anything I do or say, to demean a human being in his own eyes. What matters is not what I think of him; it is what he thinks of himself. To undermine a man’s self-respect is a sin.” author=”Antoine de Saint-Exupery”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”I would not send a poor girl into the world, ignorant of the snares that beset her path; nor would I watch and guard her, till, deprived of self-respect and self-reliance, she lost the power or the will to watch and guard herself .” author=”Anne Bronte”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”It is the highest form of self-respect to admit our errors and mistakes and make amends for them. To make a mistake is only an error in judgment, but to adhere to it when it is discovered shows infirmity of character.” author=”Dale Turner”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Never violate the sacredness of your individual self-respect.” author=”Theodore Parker”/]

Self-esteem vs. Self-respect

There’s a big difference between self-respect and self-esteem. Choose self-respect. Our culture is concerned with matters of self-esteem. Self-respect, on the other hand, may hold the key to achieving the peace of mind we seek. The two concepts seem very similar but the differences between them are crucial.

To esteem anything is to evaluate it positively and hold it in high regard, but evaluation gets us into trouble because while we sometimes win, we also sometimes lose. To respect something, on the other hand, is to accept it. The word acceptance suggests to some that our culture does indeed deal with this idea of self-respect; after all, don’t we have the concept that it is important to accept our limitations? Aren’t many of us encouraged “to change the things we can change, accept the things we cannot change and know the difference between the two?”

The person with self-respect simply likes her- or himself. This self-respect is not contingent on success because there are always failures to contend with. Neither is it a result of comparing ourselves with others because there is always someone better. These are tactics usually employed to increase self-esteem. Self-respect, however, is a given. We simply like ourselves or we don’t. With self-respect, we like ourselves because of who we are and not because of what we can or cannot do.

Consider an interesting test of self-respect. If someone compliments us, what is our reaction? If we are very pleased, it would suggest a certain amount of uncertainty about our skill. Imagine that somebody whose opinion we respect told us that we were great at spelling three-letter words, or that our pronunciation of vowels was wonderful. Chances are we would not be moved. We know we can do it in the first case, and we don’t care in the second. Because we were not evaluating ourselves, the compliment was unimportant. The more instances in which we don’t “take the compliment,” the less vulnerable we become to evaluation and insult.

There is a great advantage of self-respect over self-esteem. Compared to those with high self-esteem who are still caught in an evaluative framework, those with self-respect are less prone to blame, guilt, regret, lies, secrets and stress. Choose self-respect over self-esteem and you will be much happier in the long run.

[do action=”vfquote” quote=”No man who is occupied in doing a very difficult thing, and doing it very well, ever loses his self-respect. ” author=”George Bernard Shaw“/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Perhaps the surest test of an individual’s integrity is his refusal to do or say anything that would damage his self-respect.” author=”Thomas S. Monson”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Punishment may make us obey the orders we are given, but at best it will only teach an obedience to authority, not a self-control which enhances our self-respect.” author=”Bruno Bettelheim”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Respect your efforts, respect yourself. Self-respect leads to self-discipline. When you have both firmly under your belt, that’s real power.” author=”Clint Eastwood”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Self-respect is the cornerstone of all virtue.” author=”John Herschel”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”The great thing in the world is not so much to seek happiness as to earn peace and self-respect.” author=”Thomas Huxley”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life is the source from which self-respect springs.” author=”Joan Didion”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Would that there were an award for people who come to understand the concept of enough. Good enough. Successful enough. Thin enough. Rich enough. Socially responsible enough. When you have self-respect, you have enough.” author=”Gail Sheehy”/]

Mirror, Mirror Syndrome

We welcome truth-telling, American Idol-style. The first ads announcing next year’s American Idol season have just started showing on TV. The dazzling lights, shots of Randy Jackson, Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez scowling, smiling, staring … and footage from those amazing auditions during which folks without of a ghost of a chance, and that’s putting it nicely, react with shock and rage when Cowell and his fellow judges reject them. Arguably the most popular aspect of one of the world’s most popular shows, the American Idol auditions are striking because they reveal the total disconnect between the singers’ talent and their perceptions of their talent. They think they’re good enough to record chart-topping CDs. They think they’re good enough to be assessed by industry professionals on national TV. They enter the audition room unaware that their performances will be aired not as art but as comedy. And millions of snickering viewers wonder: Can these people not hear themselves? Who encouraged them to sing in public, much less to believe they had a shot at stardom? Because somehow, somewhere, sometime in their lives, these auditioners were told things that filled them with impossible pipe dreams. This is called the “Mirror, Mirror Syndrome.”

In the fairy tale “Snow White,” the vain queen gazes expectantly into her looking-glass and intones: “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” Obediently, the mirror tells the queen that it is she. For years and years it says so, until one day the mirror replies that the queen’s seven-year-old stepdaughter Snow White is fairer. The queen flies into a homicidal rage.

These days, the mirrors are parents and teachers who think they are helping us, raising our self-esteem, by saying: You are a star. And anything’s possible. In her book Generation Me, psychology professor Jean Twenge calls “anything’s possible” our era’s new mantra. She grew up hearing it herself. “Can little girls grow up to be mathematicians who are also supermodels who are also astronauts?” Twenge writes, mimicking the wishful thinking. “Of course! Anything’s possible!” Barraged with praise, the young are blinded, hypnotized and paralyzed.

Twenge’s book includes an anecdote about a young man fresh out of college who, almost immediately after being hired for an entry-level position at a large firm, “told a startled manager that he expected to be a vice president at the company within three years. When the manager told him this was not realistic (most vice presidents were in their sixties), the young man got angry with him and said, ‘You should encourage me and help me fulfill my expectations.'” What mirror on what wall gave him that idea?

In a 2007 Pew Research Center survey, 81 percent of 18-to-25-year-olds declared that their “top goal” is “to get rich”; 51 percent asserted that their top goal is “to be famous.” Some respondents marked both “rich” and “famous” as their top priority. Those who seriously, not just in fairytale fantasies but seriously, believe that they are meant to be rich and famous will feel devastated if they become not stars or even executives but, say, stagehands or sound engineers. Social engineers have experimented on generations of children with the anything’s-possible mantra. The results, both at their best and worst extremes, are what fuel American Idol. What makes this show so popular is that it forces its participants to recognize their own strengths and weaknesses. As a singing competition judged by music-industry professionals on national TV, it promises blunt honesty. And — hypnotized by Mirror, Mirror Syndrome — we have as a society become so used to avoiding and denying blunt honesty that we are, as a society, muzzled and gagged. And deep down we resent this. Because at some level we realize that accurate judgment is crucial. It reveals our strengths and weaknesses, and until we see these clearly we will forever flail and wander, lost.

Honest self-awareness leading to honest self-respect forced upon us American Idol-style, is a magnificent even if unwelcome gift.

[do action=”vfquote” quote=”I think the reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself.” author=”Rita Mae Brown”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”You think because he doesn’t love you that you are worthless. You think that because he doesn’t want you anymore that he is right — that his judgement and opinion of you are correct. If he throws you out, then you are garbage. You think he belongs to you because you want to belong to him. Don’t. It’s a bad word, ‘belong.’ Especially when you put it with somebody you love. Love shouldn’t be like that. Did you ever see the way the clouds love a mountain? They circle all around it; sometimes you can’t even see the mountain for the clouds. But you know what? You go up top and what do you see? His head. The clouds never cover the head. His head pokes through, because the clouds let him; they don’t wrap him up. They let him keep his head up high, free, with nothing to hide him or bind him. You can’t own a human being. You can’t lose what you don’t own. Suppose you did own him. Could you really love somebody who was absolutely nobody without you? You really want somebody like that? Somebody who falls apart when you walk out the door? You don’t, do you? And neither does he. You’re turning over your whole life to him. Your whole life, girl. And if it means so little to you that you can just give it away, hand it to him, then why should it mean any more to him? He can’t value you more than you value yourself.” author=”Toni Morrison”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself.” author=”Charlotte Brontë”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everyone will respect you.” author=”Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”They cannot take away our self-respect if we do not give it to them.” author=”Mahatma Gandhi”/]

“In youth, it was a way I had,
To do my best to please.
And change, with every passing lad
To suit his theories.

But now I know the things I know
And do the things I do,
And if you do not like me so,
To hell, my love, with you.”

[do action=”vfauthor” author=”Dorothy Parker”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Respect yourself and others will respect you.” author=”Confucius”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.” author=”Michel de Montaigne”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Respect for self is the beginning of cultivating virtue in men and women.” author=”Gordon B. Hinckley”/]

Overcoming “Self-Esteem”

by David Mills

Twenty years ago, when a person complained of depression or unhappiness, helpful friends or therapists might have offered the following counsel: “Don’t dwell on your own misfortune. Try instead to become creatively absorbed in outside interests and external activities. Stop obsessively contemplating your own navel. Develop rewarding interpersonal relationships. Get your mind off yourself. If you merely focus attention elsewhere, your self-centered emotional problems will die of neglect.”

Today, however, the same individual, suffering the same depression or unhappiness, would likely hear radically different and quite contradictory suggestions and guidance, such as this: “Stop worrying about other people. Try instead to build up your own sense of self-worth. Take pride in yourself! Work toward elevating your own self-respect and enhancing your self-image. Your feelings of unhappiness and depression will surely evaporate if you only esteem yourself more highly!”

Clearly, something has changed in the kind of popular advice being given to the forlorn. Instead of espousing that mental health be realized through more objective appraisal of the external world, we now seem preoccupied with the wholly internal effort to elevate our own self-appraisal or “self-worth.” Forget our former effort to perceive the universe objectively; today we simply want to feel good about ourselves. It has become increasingly irrelevant whether or not an individual’s critical reasoning accurately maps external reality. All that matters, it seems, is his or her internal self-image. Because of this shift in popular emphasis from external preoccupation to internal self-contemplation, we find our libraries and bookstores stacked with radically different self-help texts from those published a few decades ago. Each new volume proclaims a “breakthrough technique” or “revolutionary method” for conquering our ever-present doubts about our “true” value. Best-selling books, such as I’m OK, You’re OK, have sought to instill within the doubtful individual a belief that, although he may not be perfect, he is at least okay and can thus bestow upon himself a modest allotment of self-respect and happiness.

Yet despite the wide distribution of such popular texts, and despite our tireless efforts to build within ourselves and our children a sense of self-worth, it seems that the average person today is as confused as ever (perhaps more so!) about her so-called “self-worth.” Our lofty sermons deifying self-esteem have produced few, if any, tangible results. In practical terms, the average person doesn’t know what to believe about her “self” nor how she is supposed to establish such a “positive self-image.” The entire concept of “personal worth” has become hopelessly ill-defined and philosophically empty. It is my contention that the promotion of “self-esteem” has done demonstrably more harm than good, and that the prudent individual will resist the arrogant and childish temptation to “esteem himself.” Put another way, we shall learn in this article why an individual would enjoy increased emotional stability and contentment, and suffer far less anxiety and inhibition by abandoning his drive for self-esteem.

Unfortunately, the entire discussion in many psychological circles has now focused on how best to teach self-esteem, rather than on whether self-valuation or self-rating is emotionally healthy. Our blind devotion to self-esteem has become a virtual religion, a religion in which the worshiper and the worshiped are the same individual! The nobility of self-esteem has become a sacred, unchallenged article of faith. And just as the non-Christian is perceived as immoral by the fundamentalist believer, so too the proposal to abandon self-esteem must appear a dangerous and obscene heresy to those preaching the self-esteeming gospel.

We tend to ascribe many of our social maladies, such as drug abuse, to a lack of self-esteem among teenagers. Criminals, we say, have little self-respect; otherwise they would not behave as they do. Religious institutions especially have proposed an inextricable link between morality and self-respect: a person without self-respect is thought to be a person without ethical standards. It is popularly believed that the poor, the downtrodden, and the homeless individual put herself in her sorry condition through a lack of self-pride. “Pride goes before a fall.” We harbor no doubt that a fallen person, completely unaided, can pick herself up by the bootstraps, if she only regains her self-esteem.

Dale Carnegie, the genius of human relations, observed over fifty years ago that each person craves a “feeling of importance” and longs to be recognized, praised, and appreciated by his peers. Freud himself proposed that virtually all human behavior can be traced ultimately to two basic instincts: the sex drive, and the “desire to be great.” The contemporary psychotherapist, Nathaniel Branden, along with his mentor, the late philosopher, Ayn Rand, hammers home one point repeatedly: that the “psychology of self-esteem” is indispensable to an individual’s intellectual growth and overall psychological well-being.

Why, then, would we want to abandon self-esteem? Isn’t such an idea fundamentally flawed, if not downright immoral? Wouldn’t society soon wither and decay if such a twisted suggestion were adopted? How could a person conceivably enjoy his life without some measure of self-esteem?

Let’s begin with a precise definition of terms. When we say that an individual has self-esteem or self-respect, self-love, self-admiration, or self-worth, we do not mean that he values himself without any proposed justification. People do tend to view themselves positively for a reason, the basis for which is usually that they perceive, correctly or incorrectly, that they possess admirable personal traits (e.g., high intelligence, creative talent, physical attractiveness) or have accomplished some outstanding personal achievement (e.g., graduated from medical school, married well, landed a prestigious job). Self-esteem, it appears, is conditional; it comes through perceived individual accomplishment or through supposed possession of desirable personal characteristics. A businessman may enjoy self-esteem because, from his viewpoint, he is professionally successful and treats his family well. A teenage girl boasts self-esteem because she earned straight A’s on her report card and made the varsity cheerleading squad. A politician may feel self-esteem because she won a lopsided victory in the last election and sponsored a popular congressional bill to help her constituents. Nearly always, people rate or esteem themselves on the basis of certain achievements.

Remember Key Point #1: Most people unfortunately believe that self-esteem must, in some way, be earned through accomplishments.

Not only do most individuals believe that self-esteem must be earned, but also that it must be reinforced repeatedly and tirelessly if it is to survive within their psychological framework. As an illustration, think for a moment about your own personal achievements. Select three lifetime accomplishments of which you are most proud. Take ample time; give this question careful reflection before continuing. Now, after recalling your three most celebrated successes, ask yourself this question: “How long did I esteem myself following each of these achievements?” Your probable answer is “Not very long.” Regardless of how magnificent our performance at any specific endeavor, our feelings of increased self-worth following such an accomplishment are almost invariably short-lived.

No feat of bravery, act of heroism, or display of superior intellectual acumen will bless the individual with permanent self-esteem. He must savor the moment: for soon his expanded ego will deflate and, once again, he will feel driven to prove himself worthy of life and happiness. A majority of people seem to believe that, if they could gloriously achieve X or Y in their lifetime, such an accomplishment would forever rid them of intermittent feelings of inadequacy. They might aspire to be chief executive officer of their corporation. They might envision themselves discovering a cure for cancer. Or they might fantasize about marrying a highly desirable person of the opposite sex. But whatever the objective, it is folly to believe that this “ultimate” triumph will provide more than a temporary, fleeting sensation of self-esteem.

It is no surprise, for example, that many long-retired boxers feel compelled to reenter the spotlight (e.g., Mohammed Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Sugar Ray Leonard). Financial compensation, however important, was not the primary motivation inspiring their return to the ring. These champions sought to resurrect within themselves that former feeling of self-pride, which came through defeating a weaker opponent and through being the focus of public adoration. Not only the champion boxer, but many of us find it disheartening, or even depressing, when forced to retire from a job, the performance of which is integral to our self-esteem.

Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan all disclosed in their respective memoirs that even becoming President of the United States soon became a routine, often boring affair. All four Presidents wrote that despite being at the pinnacle of power, they sometimes lacked full confidence in their executive decisions and, as a result, suffered occasional feelings of insecurity and self-doubt. So even famous and powerful individuals become discontent quickly if future goals are not continually established, pursued, and realized. Accomplishing X or Y, even when X or Y literally means winning the U.S. Presidency, will provide only a temporary emotional glow. President Nixon, in fact, described his disillusionment when, on the night of his 1972 re-election landslide, he inexplicably felt no pleasure or emotional excitement of any kind. By 1972, Nixon had already been President for four years and no longer derived self-esteem merely through being chief executive. Famous individuals, whether they are politicians, movie stars, athletes or whatever, do not permanently feel their fame in the way imagined by the factory worker or the housewife. Even the Queen of England would probably soon feel despondent if separated from relationships and challenging activities essential to her self-esteem. Likewise for us commoners.

When people base their self-esteem on specific behaviors or accomplishments, they must constantly strive for, and perpetually achieve, new goals if their ego intoxication is to continue.

Remember Key Point #2: When self-esteem is based on accomplishments, it must be earned repeatedly. It is never permanent.

If self-esteem is realized through the successful completion of a particular task or goal, and if additional achievement must be eternally forthcoming, then it follows logically that all of us mortal human beings live in constant peril of losing our self-esteem: for at any moment we may fail to perform adequately our exalted task. Worse yet, we may neglect to maintain those character traits or the desired physical appearance which we have so thoroughly incorporated into our personal tabulation of self-worth. The football player, esteeming himself for his athletic ability, feels humiliated and self-loathing after repeatedly fumbling the ball. The college professor, priding herself on her eloquence in public debate, feels disgraced when her opponent’s arguments are clearly superior to her own. The teenage boy, deriving self-esteem exclusively through his girlfriend’s adoration, suffers the tortures of the damned when rejected by his beloved.

It appears that the only theoretical means by which an individual could enjoy consistent self-esteem would be for him to become incapable of failure. He would, in addition, have to live in an environment where disappointment is impossible. He must, in other words, transcend his mortal limitations and become a godlike being, immune from innate human fallibility, and possessing virtual omniscience and omnipotence. He must reside in some kind of heaven, where no rejection or behavioral inadequacies can occur. Otherwise, his fragile self-esteem is vulnerable to human failure and weakness and to the terrestrial terrors impinging upon him from without. Dr. Albert Ellis, the innovative creator of Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), has suggested that “self-esteem” is simply a manifestation of what he calls a “Jehovah complex.” According to Ellis, a person may observe that she has performed a certain task well, or that she possesses some desirable character trait; and these self-perceptions may be quite realistic and accurate. But the “Jehovah complex” rears its grandiose head when the individual follows up her flattering conclusions with an arrogant non sequitur or “magical leap” in her thinking. Instead of believing (accurately) that she is simply a person whose performance excelled or whose traits are commendable, she will globally rate herself as a superior person. She sees no distinction whatever between herself and her behavior; to her, they are one and the same. If her performance is good, then she becomes good. Since her achievement was superior, she considers herself a superior, godlike individual, far above the lowly slobs she defeated. She will, for a time, revel in self-esteem and feel much happier than if she concluded merely that her external behavior was superior.

Unfortunately for the individual who is globally rating her entire worth on the basis of the behavior, her self-esteem will not be sustained for long. The person who feels noble and godlike today for succeeding, will feel equally hellish and self-despising tomorrow for the slightest failure. Her entire self-perceived “value” as a human being is determined by satisfying some external goal. And when she fails to achieve this majestic external goal (as she invariably will do from time to time), her life seems worthless and pointless to her.

The successful individual concluded not only that she performed well, but also that she was transformed thereby into a superior human being. Likewise, the individual failing to achieve her goal may conclude not only that her performance was inadequate, but also that she herself is a failure as a human being. Instead of feeling moderately disappointed that she failed at her task, she feels utterly devastated that she is an “inferior” person. Sooner or later, the self-esteeming individual will pay the price for making her self-worth contingent upon outstanding achievement. Metaphorically at least, the universe will serve justice upon the sin of pride.

There is a curious theory circulating that self-rating and striving for “self-respect” encourage moral behavior; and that unless a person condemns his entire self for any immoral acts, he soon becomes decadent. In fact, however, a person’s “self-respect,” far from promoting ethical standards, may actually predispose the offending individual to deny the immorality of his acts: for example, the preschooler he beat “learned a good lesson.” The cab driver he murdered “deserved to die.” The coed he raped “enjoyed it.” The convenience store he robbed “didn’t need the money.” To preserve his own “self-respect,” even the most heinous criminal can quickly rationalize excuses for his deplorable conduct. A philosophy of self-esteem, therefore, does not guarantee moral behavior. On the contrary, self-rating often encourages the individual to redefine morality in self-serving ways, to guarantee the survival of his self-respect.

The opposite of self-esteem is not self-hatred. In actuality, self-esteem and self-hatred are twin incarnations of the same underlying philosophy: that one must appraise himself in relation to his achievements. Self-esteem and self-hatred therefore are two sides of the same self-appraising coin. If you view yourself as exalted and lordly for your successes, then you will automatically view yourself as paltry and worthless when failing. It is a package deal: you cannot enjoy self-worship without very soon suffering self-damnation. The tacit logic upholding your self-esteem can just as easily document your abject worthlessness. The individual who lusts after self-esteem will forever ride an unstable emotional roller coaster, up and down, up and down. He may indeed soar quickly to great heights. But he will inevitably sink rapidly into the depths of despair and dejection, because it is a single philosophy, his philosophy of contingent self-rating, that produces both his positive and his negative self-image.

Remember Key Point #3: The concept of self-esteem leads intermittently to self-damnation.

Even if we grant that a compulsion for self-esteem occasionally produces adverse side effects, doesn’t the average individual still derive much more benefit than harm from pursuing a positive self-image? Isn’t the small price worth paying? The short answer to this question is no: the price usually is not worth paying. The expense we incur for esteeming ourselves is by no means limited to feelings of humiliation when we fail at something. If that were the case (that is, if the only unpleasant consequence of self-esteem were an occasional feeling of disgrace when failing), then one could legitimately argue that self-esteem often benefits individuals who are exceptionally successful, attractive, or talented. Artistic individuals, we say, are motivated by pride in their creative projects. If a person paints a breathtaking masterpiece or writes a poignant novel, then surely she will esteem herself; and it is this sought-for feeling of glorification and achievement that seems to inspire many creative pursuits.

To a limited extent, the drive for self-esteem probably does spur some individuals to productive and creative activity. This reality, in fact, seems to be a popular “selling point” for self-esteem. Unfortunately, however, instead of stimulating genius and creativity, the theology of self-esteem more often results in severe behavioral inhibition and debilitating anxiety. With his entire self-worth at stake, the average individual will desperately avoid all “dangerous” situations in which his self-esteem is perceived to be at risk.

Take, for example, the average-looking, average-intelligence single male, who feels romantically and sexually attracted to a woman of extraordinary brilliance. This gentleman may fantasize vividly about dating or marrying such a desirable woman, and his self-esteem would no doubt be temporarily elevated if his fantasies were realized. But this man’s self-rating philosophy (i.e., his belief that self-worth flows from success) virtually guarantees that he will never befriend the woman he considers most desirable. Why? Because his precious self-esteem would be destroyed if he were rejected openly by such an accomplished female. He cannot risk the “danger.” He will play it safe, asking out a less intelligent woman. This way, the likelihood of rejection will decline, and the threat to his self-esteem will diminish.

This single male’s ego, therefore, inhibited, rather than abetted, his search for cultured female companionship. If he simply forgot the “danger” to his pride (which of course is completely in his head and represents no actual danger in the empirical world), then he could telephone the woman he strongly desires and might indeed make her acquaintance. Should she rebuff his advances, he would naturally feel disappointed, but because his entire value as a human being is not in jeopardy, he would not feel ashamed or humiliated. When a person views herself as “worthless” and feels humiliated, she is then inclined to view herself as incapable of correcting her poor performances. She will then tend to give up and to rationalize her withdrawal from outside activities or interpersonal relationships. After all, she reasons, how could a worthless bum such as I succeed at anything truly significant? On the other hand, if an individual views her current behavior, rather than herself, as deficient, she will likely have the view that “through more practice and effort, I may in the future rectify my previously deficient behavior.”

Pause to ask yourself this question: Does your long nose or your poor complexion really prevent you from asking out potentially desirable partners? Or rather is it your fear of ego-deflation that deters you from asking? It would be beneficial for women, especially, to give careful thought to similar questions because, in our silly society, it is still considered more “risky” for a woman to ask out a man than vice versa. Likewise, our “self-esteem” inhibits us from participating in any activity in which failure is deemed disgraceful. And because failure in virtually any endeavor is deemed disgraceful by the self-esteeming individual, he becomes distinctly afraid to try anything unfamiliar. He passively goes through life doing what he’s always done, rarely involving himself in enterprises and human relationships whose success is not guaranteed in advance. Far from inspiring productive behavior and social interaction, the concept of self-esteem is the most inhibiting philosophy imaginable. That “most men lead lives of quiet desperation” can perhaps be traced to our chilling fear of losing self-esteem and to our resulting tendency toward a mundane, routine, “safe” existence.

Remember Key Point #4: The concept of self-esteem usually promotes social and behavioral inhibition.

I don’t mean to suggest that a philosophy of self-esteem inevitably leads to passive behavior; for clearly such an assertion would be absurd. Even the most timid person occasionally throws caution to the wind and accepts the challenge of new adventure. Tragically, however, this person’s actual enjoyment of her bold adventure will usually be minimal. Her anxieties, moreover, will often be intense, for she still believes devoutly that her entire value as a human being depends upon her success at this new activity or relationship. And with so much at stake (i.e., her entire worth as a person), she cannot possibly enjoy the intrinsic pleasures of the moment. She lives in constant terror of “making a fool out of herself.” Returning to our previous illustration: The average-looking, average-intelligence bachelor may indeed build up enough courage to telephone the beautiful and brilliant woman. But he will clutch the telephone nervously as he dials. His hands and forehead will sweat profusely as her number rings. And his heart will palpitate uncontrollably as she picks up the receiver. Regardless of how smoothly the conversation flows, he will derive little intrinsic pleasure from the experience, because he fears that at any moment he might say the wrong thing and his self-esteem would surely die a tortured death.

Perversely, an individual’s self-esteem-related anxiety usually hinders, rather than enhances, her progress toward her chosen goal, the goal which, ironically, she seeks to accomplish in order to merit self-esteem! So she thoroughly defeats herself by maintaining this silly ego-bolstering philosophy. Her anxieties sabotage her objectives, because she concentrates principally on how she is doing, rather than on what she is doing. Her drive for self-esteem can be described accurately as a built-in self-destruct mechanism.

The inexperienced public speaker also suffers self-esteem-related anxieties. She imagines herself becoming tongue-tied or failing to recall her memorized text. She sees ghastly images of the audience laughing at her and ridiculing her dismal performance. She foresees her face becoming red and her voice quivering. She thus concentrates, not on the content of her speech, but on the need to preserve her self-esteem by avoiding such embarrassments. She suffers anxiety because her self-esteem is in danger of being lost. And this same disquieting anxiety will render almost impossible a smooth, professional delivery of her speech.

Remember Key Point #5: A compulsive drive for self-esteem leads to frequent anxiety. And self-esteem-related anxiety is an obstacle to achieving those goals essential to our self-esteem!

We now find ourselves boxed in completely. If our self-worth depends upon external achievement, then naturally we believe that we must achieve. But if we must achieve, then our anxiety becomes so distressing and burdensome that we often withdraw from the activities and relationships that we might enjoy the most. We withdraw in dreadful fear of an ego-crushing failure or rejection. If, however, we do not withdraw, our self-esteem related anxiety often makes our behavior inept and our social relations inelegant; and when we perceive these behaviors and relationships to be faltering, we bestow upon ourselves, not self-esteem, but self-damnation. The self-damnation, in turn, makes us feel unworthy and incapable of future success. And since we are “therefore” incapable of ever achieving our chosen goal, we lose hope and withdraw once again from a potentially enjoyable part of living.

Quite a pickle indeed! But can we somehow escape our boxed-in predicament? Is there an alternative to this self-defeating philosophy? Yes! We can help ourselves immeasurably toward greater happiness and emotional stability. We can fairly rapidly overcome our needless anxieties, while profoundly enriching our enjoyment of life. We can conquer our social and behavioral inhibitions with surprisingly meager effort. Yes, we can indeed annihilate our self-sabotaging philosophy, but only if we are willing to pay the price. That is the all-important point, so I’m going to say it twice. We definitely can prevail over anxiety and inhibition, but only if we are willing to make a sacrifice: surrendering our compulsive drive for self-esteem. There is no other way to help ourselves in this regard. We are easily misled, however. We simplemindedly think that we can get something for nothing: that somewhere there is a Garden of Eden, where bountiful fruit may be harvested without corresponding work or sacrifice. Through the physical sciences, we learn that energy cannot be created out of nothing. In economic theory, we know there is no “free lunch.” It is therefore somewhat naïve to propose that genuine emotional or psychological benefit may be realized without some expenditure of work or sacrifice. In my opinion, this is why the “positive self-image” manuals usually fail to help the reader. These books claim to remedy self-condemnation without extracting the corresponding sacrifice of self-esteem. The reader, in other words, is promised something for nothing. Since an individual temporarily enjoys an exhilarating euphoria when “esteeming himself,” he may understandably be reluctant to sacrifice this intoxicating, positive self-image. On the other hand, he will probably be quite eager to rid himself as quickly as possible of inhibition, anxiety, and feelings of self-deprecation when he fails or is rejected. He must therefore make a choice: His choice, however, is not a choice between self-esteem and self-condemnation, for both attitudes are inseparable manifestations of the same self-rating philosophy. Rather, his choice is whether he will (or will not) rate himself at all, positively or negatively. He must choose between having a self-image and having no self-image. Instead of labeling herself as honorable or as foolish, an individual can more accurately and specifically rate the efficiency or inefficiency of her external actions, a subtle yet critical difference in perception. Instead of speculating emptily that she is intrinsically noble or that she is intrinsically worthless, she can more scientifically view her outside behavior as advantageous or as disadvantageous to her chosen goals. She can, in other words, refuse to entertain any self-image. She can restrict herself to observing and evaluating the empirical universe, of which her behavior is a part, and forget about inventing and perpetuating any kind of self-image, which exists only as an egocentric vapor in her head. There is no law of science nor of psychology that requires an individual habitually to calculate her “self-value.” She does not have to continually monitor her “worth.” She can simply refuse to go along with the anxious, inhibited, self-appraising crowd.

Let us go back to our illustration of the average-looking, average-intelligence male attracted to the brilliant and accomplished female. So long as he abstains from consciously rating himself, he can pursue the relationship even though success is far from guaranteed. If he is rejected, then his “ego” suffers no agony, though his romantic and sexual desires will, of course, be frustrated. If, on the contrary, he does consciously rate himself as a human being, then a rejection will be viewed as painful humiliation and as incontrovertible evidence of his essential worthlessness.

So, remember Key Point #6: To overcome self-esteem-related anxiety and inhibition, recognize that your choice is not between self-esteem and self-condemnation. Your choice, rather, is between establishing an overall self-image and establishing no self-image. That is, you can choose to view your external actions and traits as desirable or undesirable, but abstain from esteeming or damning yourself as a whole.

In practice, the average person appears to spend only a scant few moments each day consciously tabulating her “self-worth” (though these brief periods of self-appraisal are quite sufficient to establish and reinforce an overall psychological inclination toward self-rating.) She spends most of her hours, however, observing her external environment and trying to do something interesting or productive within that environment. If, then, she already spends most of her time not contemplating her self-worth, why can she not, through resolution and industry, eliminate virtually all of her self-rating? The answer, of course, is that she can eliminate her self-rating, once she recognizes that such an absence of self-image is possible and is, in fact, preferable to her frequent anxiety and inhibition. Other members of the animal kingdom do not seem to ruminate much over their “self-worth.” One rarely sees a self-esteeming alligator or a self-despising kangaroo. Animals other than man seem completely content as egoless creatures, simply observing the outside world. They seem entirely free from the anxieties and hang-ups suffered so often by their self-centered human cousins. It may be convincingly argued that other animals are intellectually inferior to man and thus possess no capacity for self-esteem. Perhaps so, but the “dumb” animals also possess no capacity for astrology, for superstition, nor for bigotry. So it is amply apparent that the superior human intellect often invents and adheres to unhealthy philosophical systems. It is just possible that the philosophy of self-esteem fits neatly and properly into that category.

[do action=”vfquote” quote=”If you want to be respected by others, the great thing is to respect yourself. Only by that, only by self-respect will you compel others to respect you.” author=”Fyodor Dostoyevsky”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”It’s easy to run to others. It’s so hard to stand on one’s own record. You can fake virtue for an audience. You can’t fake it in your own eyes. Your ego is your strictest judge. They run from it. They spend their lives running. It’s easier to donate a few thousand to charity and think oneself noble than to base self-respect on personal standards of personal achievement. It’s simple to seek substitutes for competence–such easy substitutes: love, charm, kindness, charity. But there is no substitute for competence.” author=”Ayn Rand”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Self-respect is the root of discipline: The sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself.” author=”Abraham Joshua Heschel”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”People can have their opinions about everything in the world, but people’s opinions end where the tip of my nose begins. Your opinions of others can only go so far as to where their own shoreline is. The world is for your taking, but other people are not. One is only allowed to have an opinion of me, if that person is done educating him/herself on everything about me. Before people educate themselves on everything about you, they’re not allowed to open their venomous mouths and have an opinion about you.” author=”C. JoyBell C.”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”There is only one real misfortune: to forfeit one’s own good opinion of oneself. Lose your complacency, once betray your own self-contempt and the world will unhesitatingly endorse it.” author=”Thomas Mann”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Within a system which denies the existence of basic human rights, fear tends to be the order of the day. Fear of imprisonment, fear of torture, fear of death, fear of losing friends, family, property or means of livelihood, fear of poverty, fear of isolation, fear of failure. A most insidious form of fear is that which masquerades as common sense or even wisdom, condemning as foolish, reckless, insignificant or futile the small, daily acts of courage which help to preserve man’s self-respect and inherent human dignity. It is not easy for a people conditioned by fear under the iron rule of the principle that might is right to free themselves from the enervating miasma of fear. Yet even under the most crushing state machinery courage rises up again and again, for fear is not the natural state of civilized man.” author=”Aung San Suu Kyi”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”You’d be surprised how easy some things can be, things you never thought you’d do, when you take self-respect out of the equation.” author=”Sarah Addison Allen”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”It is necessary to the happiness of man that he be mentally faithful to himself.” author=”Thomas Paine”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”I guessed life was like that. You gained and you lost, and if you saved anything from the ruins, even if only a shred of self-respect, it was enough to take you through the next bit.” author=”Dick Francis”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Our thinking will automatically improve when we remember the words of Paul: ‘know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and the spirit of God dwelleth in you?” author=”Thomas S. Monson”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”A quest for self-respect is proof of its lack” author=”Ayn Rand”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”But I think that because they trusted themselves and respected themselves as individuals, because they knew beyond doubt that they were valuable and potentially moral units — because of this they could give God their own courage and dignity and then receive it back. Such things have disappeared perhaps because men do not trust themselves anymore, and when that happens there is nothing left except perhaps to find some strong sure man, even though he may be wrong, and to dangle from his coattails.” author=”John Steinbeck”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Many people lack the basic self-respect to be in a relationship and there’s nothing you can do to change it. You can’t take a skunk and dip it in perfume and hope it becomes a puppy. Eventually, the perfume will wear off and you’ll still have a skunk on your hands.” author=”Sherry Argov”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”When you express ”purity” which is the truth about yourself, you feel a love for yourself that is expressed by self-respect, self-esteem, and self-confidence!” author=”Tae Yun Kim”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Happiness is the highest form of self-respect. A person who allows himself to be happy shows his self-respect.” author=”Maery Rubin”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”You got nothin’ to lose but your self-respect.” author=”Wendelin Van Draanen”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”We are not here to match and homogenize and agree on every point. One size of spirituality does not fit all. We are here to be our divine selves, boldly, passionately, respectfully, to the absolute best of our ability — and this, this is more than enough.” author=”Sera Break”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Most of our platitudes notwithstanding, self-deception remains the most difficult deception. The tricks that work on others count for nothing in that very well-lit back alley where one keeps assignation with oneself: no winning smiles will do here, no prettily drawn lists of good intentions. One shuffles flashily but in vain through one’s marked cards- the kindness done for the wrong reason, the apparent triumph which involved no real effort, the seemingly heroic act into which one had been shamed.” author=”Joan Didion”/]