Too much or Too little Self-Esteem: The Balancing Act

Coral Gables Counseling Center - Wednesday, February 15, 2017
By Mirta Pont, LCSW,

February is designated as the month of love. When I think of love, I automatically think of all the people that I love and care for. Today, however, I’d like to focus on the concept of self-love. Self-esteem or self-regard is something we are all told we should have or strive for. It is a good thing to have but how much do we need and when is it too much? In order to love ourselves and others in a healthy way, it is good to strike a balance.

Self-esteem can be an elusive concept. What is it exactly and why is it so important? The word self-esteem implies: “to esteem, like or regard oneself”. From a survival instinct perspective, having a good dose of self-respect or self-esteem is important in order to function, but much more can be said.

Growing up, many children are given the message to share with others, to think about others first and not be selfish. Talking too much about ourselves and our accomplishments at times was discouraged because it could be seen as bragging (leave the boasting to our parents). In other households another extreme was true, such as, not being good enough, being bad or selfish. While some of their emotional needs went unmet, they developed a skewed and unrealistic sense of self.

For many individuals, therapy has been the lifesaver that has brought them some semblance of a realistic “self”. They now know that it’s not only okay, but necessary to have a positive self-regard. This concept helps also in the “loving others” department. In relationships, people don’t have to depend excessively on their partner to fulfill or define them. They allow the other person to be who they are and don’t see every act on the part of the other as a negative reflection on them or something they need to control.

What is a healthy self-esteem? Knowing that you’re not perfect and that it’s okay. Take an inventory, sort of speak, as to what your strengths and weaknesses are. Everyone has both. In fact, most people that do this realize that their positives outweigh their negatives. At this point, rejoice in your strengths and be brave enough to look at your character defects and where they come from. If some present (or repeated) situations have left you feeling bad about yourself or how you behaved, it is worth working through some of those emotions, beliefs or behaviors in therapy or perhaps with a trusted safe person.

By building self-esteem, a person may be able to behave in a way that may change outcomes to situations he or she has felt powerless over in the past. This is very empowering. Acceptance of positive and negative characteristics that make up the unique personality you are also increases self-esteem. Whenever you hear yourself giving a friend advice to be kinder to himself, take that same advice. Why do they deserve it and you don’t? This simple process of questioning a belief and replacing it with a more adaptive one is a cognitive behavioral technique therapists use.

People who feel good about who they are don’t need to compare themselves to others, or much less, put others down. That’s another reason why self-esteem is important because of the trickle down effect. It’s easier to accept, encourage, and like others when you do this for yourself. It’s also being authentic. Who you see is who you get – and that’s ok.

Community Men’s Group
Led by Carolina Pataky
February 20, 2017 8PM – 9:30PM

Often in collaboration with other experts, Carolina’s mission for this group is to create a place where men can not only openly discuss their concerns, but adopt a new, richer understanding of the world around them. It’s a place for building trust, unity and authenticity. A place to break free and understand the limiting societal beliefs imposed on men. Through the sharing of ideas and experiences, we explore topics surrounding relationships, careers, transitions, life events, dating and sex. Complimentary.

Meets every other Monday at our offices.