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Why You Shouldn't Build Your Self-Esteem
Why You Shouldn't Build Your Self-Esteem

Sometimes it is better to leave it as it is, or even deliberately reduce it.

Why You Shouldn't Build Your Self-Esteem
Why You Shouldn't Build Your Self-Esteem

It is difficult to imagine how many offers on the market of psychological services are associated with increasing self-esteem. Lectures, seminars, trainings, groups - thousands of them. People are encouraged to remember achievements, write annual reports on a busy life, set high goals, praise themselves in front of a mirror, and love themselves whole. However, as Zarathustra said, the symbol of life is the scales, and this hype around the topic of high self-esteem creates an unhealthy bias.

Why building self-esteem isn't always good for you

This makes it difficult to recognize the existence of problems and their responsibility for them

Everyone decides for himself whether his figure, social status, financial situation and the state of his personal life are a problem for him. A person can be quite happy with life and not consider being overweight, lack of relationships, or low incomes as a reason to get upset. But if a person decides that the current state of affairs does not suit him, and he wants to live differently, perhaps he should stay away from self-esteem training. After all, one of the most common tools for overcoming low self-esteem is changing the value system.

The easiest way to avoid feeling bad about a quality of yours is to stop seeing that quality as harmful.

Whatever lowers self-esteem, whatever is perceived as a disadvantage, there is a subculture that presents this trait as a virtue.

"Fat", "beggar" and "lonely" easily becomes a "real man", "an honest proletarian" and "a bachelor in life." Well, or in a modern manner: “activist of the fat-acceptance of movement”, “downshifter” and “hikikomori”.

If a person wants to get to know someone, to start a relationship, and for this he tries to raise his self-esteem, he least of all expects that as a result of the increase in self-esteem it will be more difficult for him or not to want to get to know more. Increasing self-esteem for him is a tool, not a goal. But if he is asked to increase his self-esteem through “self-acceptance” and “overcoming the imposed views on the need for relationships,” it is quite possible that by the end of this process he will really treat himself better, only he will not have a relationship. The goal of increasing self-esteem will replace the goal of building relationships.

“Unconditional acceptance of yourself as you are” is a beautiful slogan, but a poor foundation for growth and development.

Of course, it is worth mentioning that there is a reasonable grain in these movements. Creating cultures and spaces in which people take a break from the pressures of publicly approved scales is good and rewarding. But such anesthesia can be greatly abused. Having got used to the problem "to solve" not through the recognition of shortcomings and work on oneself, but through the selection of a pleasant name for what is happening, a person loses contact with reality. Aggravates old problems and creates new ones. In turn, this reinforces the desire to avoid responsibility for solving problems and declare that these are not problems at all, but a newfangled lifestyle.

It creates high expectations of yourself and life

High self-esteem is often accompanied by proportionately high expectations. It is even used as one of the methods to increase it: think about what you want, feel that you are worthy of it. An unpleasant dissonance arises: the idea of what I deserve and how I want to live inside my head has already changed. And life outside is in no hurry to change. And now the same old life, which up to now suited, begins to seem terrible. I deserve more! Where is it, is it more?

The situation is aggravated by the prevalence of the myth that high self-esteem works magically. It is worth growing it - and career growth, personal life, sex appeal, financial well-being will flock like a magnet. When this does not happen, the person suffers greatly. Sometimes this suffering can be used as a motivator. And then another success story is born. More often than not, suffering exhausts a person. Leaving the now unpleasant life, the lack of long-awaited successes and the self-esteem that has collapsed below the plinth at the trough.

Because of this, there is a "debt to oneself"

According to the laws of the psychological genre, where there is power, there is responsibility. If a person wants to feel that he manages everything in his life himself, all of himself cool and independent, then along with high self-esteem, he receives a sense of duty. In the tradition of the principle "if you are so smart, why are you so poor?" people feel they must maintain or pursue a lifestyle that is consistent with their stated self-esteem.

The logic is this: as a person with high self-esteem, I cannot afford to wear cheap and poor clothes. Of course, I should also eat in elite restaurants. Well, where can a respectable person do without luxury fitness with a personal trainer? Whether the money will remain after conforming to this idea of oneself is an open question. There are more people who take out loans to maintain a lifestyle than you might think.

When is it better to lower self-esteem

Okay, boosting self-esteem is a double-edged sword. It has hidden dangers and disadvantages. But what, then, is the lowering of self-esteem? And why is it needed? It sounds unpleasant. What is it, to think badly of yourself?

No, of course, it's not about thinking bad things about yourself. The point is that it is sometimes more useful to admit your shortcomings, limitations and the influence of external circumstances, including other people, on your life. Let's look at an example.

The classic problem of low self-esteem is the inability to refuse. Like, if you raise your self-esteem, you will have the skill to defend boundaries. Sounds logical. Exactly until the moment when you ask a person who does not know how to refuse what he feels when he tries to refuse. Because he will tell you that he is afraid of offending another, he is afraid that something bad will happen if he refuses, he is afraid that they will start to pressure him and force him to agree.

Wait, does this person have low self-esteem? He believes that he is so important to those around him, his words are so destructive, and his work is so necessary that if you refuse him once, and that's it, the world will collapse.

Everyone will start to take offense, grieve, get angry, break off relations, work will crumble, agreements will fall apart. And is this low self-esteem? Does this person also need to raise it? So that he decides that if he refuses, the heat death of the Universe will come?

It might be much more beneficial to lower your self-esteem. Of course, admitting that you are not so important to others so that they react sharply to your refusal can be unpleasant. But on the other hand, the realization that you do not have special power over the people around you also relieves you of responsibility for their emotional state. If I really am not so important that my words crumble to dust, then I can say what I want and I think is necessary. Isn't it a much less tense picture of the world?

The discoverer of learned helplessness and the author of How to Learn Optimism, Martin Seligman, distinguishes two styles of perception of the world around us. One is pessimistic, associated with ascribing responsibility for everything that happens to oneself. The second - optimistic, is associated with the ability to blame the people around and circumstances. It has been shown on a large number of experimental data that an optimistic explanatory style makes a person's life better, not only in psychological categories and social arrangement, but even in terms of health.

Is it safe to build self-esteem this way?

The advice to blame others seems counterintuitive, dangerous, even harmful. The concept of shifting responsibility is as familiar to people as the concept of self-esteem. Therefore, it is important to draw a distinction: of course, shifting responsibility for all troubles to something external and never feeling influencing your life is bad and harmful. This is not at all about getting rid of responsibility completely, and under the motto of your own insignificance, wasting your life blaming others.

The point is that the best self-esteem is adequate.

And in the modern world, full of ideas on how to increase it, it is especially useful to sometimes remember that many problems are solved not through increasing, but through a decrease in self-esteem. Through the humble acknowledgment of one's sensitivity to other people's words and actions. Its dependence on some kind of relationship. Not only by accepting yourself, but also by giving people around you responsibility for how they affect you. Through realizing the finiteness of your resources and reevaluating your life and success in the light of the fact that you are not a superman, not a god, or even a rabbit with an Energizer battery. You have weaknesses, needs, and a finite supply of strength, and you are accountable to yourself to take care of yourself.

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