Stress and Self-Esteem

by Jill R.
(OurStressfulLives.com Creator)

Is your stress level affected by your self-esteem? Maybe you think you have low self-esteem and this causes you stress... or maybe you have high self-esteem and your battle to keep it high increases your stress and anxiety?


Self-esteem at its most basic level means "how we feel about ourselves". The battle inside to feel good about ourselves often causes a lot of stress and anxiety (and sometimes even depression).

So how can you win that battle?

Stop fighting. That's right, stop worrying or even thinking about whether or not you feel good or bad about yourself. Is that crazy or even possible?

About a year and a half ago I met a man who challenged much of what I believed about myself and about what was necessary to be happy. One of the biggest lessons he taught me was that self-esteem is not necessary. The more you try to get it, or keep it, or worry about not having it... the more stressed and anxious you will be. There is no winning. Even those with very high self-esteem are constantly fighting inside and out to prove to themselves and others that they have reasons to feel good about themselves. It's a never ending battle.

So how can you break the cycle? And is it even realistic to stop feeling good or bad about yourself?

I've experimented with this theory for the past year. And with conscious effort and determination, yes, it is very realistic to stop worrying about or trying to feel good or bad about yourself. However, we're human and we're taught from a very young age that we should be evaluating ourselves at all times and working on our self-esteem. So changing that is a slow process.

Self-Acceptance vs. Self-Esteem

Learn to accept yourself unconditionally instead of accepting yourself only when you measure up to your (most likely) high expectations, or the expectations of others. Realize that each of us is human. We do the right things sometimes and we do the wrong things sometimes, and that's what makes us human. We're not good or bad... we're different. Not better or worse. Unique.

Now, what you should be measuring and evaluating instead of yourself are your actions and behaviors. If you've done something that you would label as bad, that doesn't mean you should tear down your self-esteem and rate your entire self as bad. It means that your actions or behaviors need to be changed or adjusted. That's all.

You can change your actions and behaviors without wasting time feeling horrible about yourself. It's completely unnecessary and definitely detrimental. You can be successful, happy, unhappy, or unsuccessful whether or not you take the time to worry about feeling good or bad about yourself.

So I want you to take on this experiment. Give yourself a one month pass to forget about self-esteem. Use this month to consciously evaluate your actions and behaviors without making any evaluations on whether or not this makes you a good or bad person. Practice unconditional self-acceptance.

At the end of the month, I'll bet you'll be surprised at how much more efficient you have become, and at how much less stress and anxiety you feel when you no longer worry about measuring yourself and your self-esteem.

And here's the best part... if you like the results, you can keep going, because self-esteem only exists if you create it. And nobody (no matter what anyone says) needs self-esteem to survive, be happy, or successful. If anything, we need to forget about it altogether. I threw out my self-esteem a year ago and I'm much happier and I'm surviving just fine.

Many self-esteem experts believe that self-esteem is the same as self-acceptance. However, I disagree.

Why? Because by definition "esteem" is putting a value on something; rating something (yourself) based on a set criteria. We each set our own criteria that we esteem ourselves by. For example, we say that we'd feel good about ourselves if we were thinner, richer, prettier, taller, smarter, more successful, etc.

If we feel that we meet or exceed this criteria, then we give ourselves permission to feel good about ourselves. However, if we don't meet the criteria, we feel bad.

Feeling good or bad about ourselves based on whether or not we measure up to certain expectations is conditional acceptance. We agree to fully accept and feel good about ourselves only if we meet the conditions we set. However, true self-acceptance is unconditional.

Self-esteem experts will tell you that true self-esteem has nothing to do with measuring yourself, although, they fail to accept or admit that the average person does equate their self-esteem with the measurements of their own personal set criteria. I believe that self-esteem experts mean well and truly want you to unconditionally accept yourself.

They just don't know that as long as they use the term "esteem" instead of "acceptance", we'll be trying to feel good about ourselves based on our evaluations of how we measure up... because after all, even the Merriam Webster dictionary defines esteem as worth, value, judgment, and opinion.

Regardless of how you define it, I challenge you to stop measuring yourself. Instead, practice unconditional self-acceptance and only measure your actions and behaviors.

Good Luck! Please use the comment form below to share your thoughts on this topic.

Comments for Stress and Self-Esteem

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I disagree
by: James

While I see your point, I disagree. I think that self-esteem is the same as self-acceptance. Anyone who is basing their self-esteem on rating themselves actually has low self-esteem even if they feel really good about themselves because they are not accepting themselves unconditionally.

To have authentic high self-esteem you have to unconditionally accept yourself.

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Very interesting.
by: Donna

I definitely agree and will try this.

Many people do equate their self-esteem with their self-ratings. That is not unconditional self-acceptance. And it is harmful regardless of whether a person would say that they have high or low self-esteem.

And as you say, having high self-esteem is obviously not necessary to be happy. If you're surviving just fine and are happy without having any self-esteem then it seems to me that you've proved your point.

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I don't get it
by: Anonymous

I don't understand how feeling good about yourself and having high self-esteem can be harmful.

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I agree with James
by: Sandy

I think the "high self-esteem" that you are describing isn't really high self-esteem. People who are defensive don't really have high self-esteem even if they think they feel good about themselves.

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Sounds Good to Me
by: Felicia

I have what most would say is low self-esteem. So I like the idea of forgetting about all of that and forget about trying to feel good about myself and instead work on accepting myself.

Thanks Jill!

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Unconditional Love
by: Lisa

I agree we should strive for unconditional love and self acceptance and not base our feelings of worth on what is showing up in our life. That type of self-esteem seems too conditonal and probably is born from the ego. A good idea to let that go. Keep up the good work Jill, you're doing great. Now while that was nice to hear it doesn't mean you base your whole sense of self on the comments you recieve. There's a difference.

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Ego
by: Todd

I agree with Lisa and I think that without realizing it, many people base their self-esteem on their ego. And with that being said, I also agree with the this article in the fact that it would help many people if we simply removed the phrase "self-esteem" from our lives and replaced it with "self-acceptance" so as to avoid confusion.

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Deep
by: Anonymous

It took me awhile to understand this article. It's pretty deep!

But what I did do was take the basics that you said about measuring actions and behaviors and stop having good or bad feelings about myself as a person and I did challenge myself to do it for a month.

It was harder than I expected. I didn't realize how much I beat myself up over stupid mistakes and how high I would lift myself up when I thought I was better than someone else for whatever stupid reason.

Like most people I know, I was basically on a self-esteem roller coaster. When I did good or felt good, I felt great about myself, felt like I had high-self-esteem and even "rated" myself higher than I "rated" others. But when I would make a mistake or feel like someone else looked down upon me, I felt like I had lower-self-esteem. It may sound crazy but I think a lot of people are the same way.

So for a month, I did notice and stop myself whenever I was in that sort of situation. By making evaluations on my actions and behaviors instead of myself as a whole person actually made me feel a lot less anxious. I honestly can't believe how much free-er I feel now that I don't have to worry about where I stack up in compared to others, etc.

I also do feel like it relieved a ton of my stress and made me realize that I needed to take some positive steps to change some of my actions so that I can be a good productive member of society. Not that I'm a bad person, but this experiment made me look at my actions in a more constructive way.

Thank you for your insight. I am going to keep it up and no longer worry about judging myself or anyone else. It feels good to know that I don't have to beat myself up if I screw up, I just need to learn from my mistakes and take positive steps in the direction I need to go.

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Stress and Self-Esteem NEW
by: Misty Mouhis

Still if you have an insanely stressful profession if you get the little quantity of time you has for yourself and focus on self development. This will assist your stress your self esteem and stress administration.

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