In a recent comment, Alex asks:
“How similar is self-esteem to self-love? As I ponder this, the more I think about the construct of self-esteem the more I see it aligning with the ego. I’m not suggesting this is a bad thing but I can see how high self-esteem could hide some of the symptoms of low self-love. Perhaps there’s a difference between high self-esteem and healthy self-esteem.”
These are great questions! To me, self-esteem is a synonym for self-love, meaning having a positive connection to the Self.Part of the complexity of being human is our ability to be both Subject and Object. You have a relationship with yourself. We talk to ourselves all the time, in a running interior dialogue.
Just as we have positive and negative feelings (we like or we do not like) towards others, we have varying feelings towards ourselves. At times we like ourselves; at other times we do not like ourselves. The summation or average of these fluctuating feelings we call self-esteem, or sometimes self-love.
What does it mean to “like yourself?” Being so concerned about “liking” may seem a bit like middle school. Perhaps the term “acceptance” more accurately conveys the sense of welcome embrace that healthy self esteem implies. When you accept yourself (or someone else), it’s not an uncritical embrace of everything about that person. Rather, it’s a genuine fondness tempered with compassion for one’s ever-present human frailties.
High or healthy self-esteem does not imply perfection or the pretense of perfection. It’s much more about feeling comfortable with yourself, appreciating your strengths while having compassion for your weaknesses. Often it’s easier to imagine feeling this way about someone else – a friend, family member, or a lover – than about yourself. We’re often our own worst critic!