Self-Esteem Vs Self-Acceptance

By Gina V. on 08/30/2005
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Self_love_1 I watch a lot of infomercials – always have. I find them far more entertaining than the regular programming. I particularly enjoy weight-loss focused infomercials, including the next greatest exercise, the next greatest diet, the next greatest supplement, the next greatest way of thinking to-lose-weight-mercials. You could call it an pre-occupational hazard J.

For years (as they’ve been saying the same thing for at least 30 years now), I’ve always marveled at the women that give testimonials on these things – they discuss how “they have so much self-esteem” now that they’ve lost weight, or fit into a certain size, or get “noticed.”  That’s my cue to scream at the TV, “so you’re saying your self-esteem is based on the size of your butt? What if you re-gain the weight?  Does that mean that you will have no self-esteem again?” (My cat doesn’t care for my watching infomercials in her presence, she finds my talking to myself quite disturbing. >^,,^< (don’t turn your head to see the kitty icon, look straight ahead)).

In doing a little research for this post, I was surprised to learn how much I didn’t know about “self-esteem” – like, for example, that you can buy a program, from one of over 7 million websites on the internet and get “it” (self-esteem, that is) from doing the exercises in the program. Or that “self-esteem” is considered the number one thing that kids need.

I do recall that a friend of mine that taught in the worst school, in the worst school district in the country during the 90’s (the decade of baseball wielding principal, Joe Clark, made famous in the movie, Lean on Me) was informed by the school administration that self-esteem should be the primary goal of the lesson plans. Lack of self-esteem was responsible for 11 year olds having babies, 6th graders running stolen car squads (very successfully, I might add), and the violence in the schools and streets. Yes, you heard right, self-esteem, not education, or a safe environment to learn, or enough textbooks, or motivated teachers, but self-esteem (maybe they should have put them all on diets and had them walk by construction sites – that seems to work for adult women).

New lesson plans were passed out to the teachers, and while the principal prowled the halls with a baseball bat (no kidding) the first morning the teachers were supposed to announce to the class, “you are a human being with value.” Then, the second day, the teacher was to announce, “now that we all have self-esteem, let’s move on to….”

So I’ve long wondered exactly what self-esteem is, and how it is monitored. Does it come and go with the size of your thighs? Do you get it when some tells you that you have it? Or can you download a program off the internet, practice for a while, then get it? Do you get it when other people tell you that you look good? What if someone doesn’t comment on your looks on a particular day, does that mean you don’t have any.

I had this reaction long before I was “enlightened” in my thinking about myself – I realized even as a kid that if “self-esteem” is so transitory, what’s the point? After I learned how to eat and move my body for pleasure at Green Mountain at Fox Run, I was able to experience myself without limits. And I soon came to realize that everyone was barking up the wrong psychotherapeutic tree. Holding yourself in high esteem is a fine idea, but accepting yourself is where it’s at experientially.

Self acceptance doesn’t teeter on the brink based on your jeans size, or on your answers to an on-line questionaire, or announcements from your teachers or wolf whistles from strangers.

It is something you do practice and get better at all the time. It does allow you to make mistakes and learn from them instead of being derailed by them.

Self acceptance opens doors, windows, and worlds that you could never have walked, soareButterfly_flowerd through, or explored before.

The road to Self-acceptance is a personal journey, that can’t be scripted by someone else.

However, if you need to visit Size-acceptance as part of your journey to Self- acceptance, I suggest starting your journey here, with the thoughts expressed in Marsha Hudnall’s article, Accepting Your Wonderful Self.

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3 Responses (Add Yours)

  • Karen says:

    I think it’s mistake to set up self esteem as something that is in conflict with self acceptance (as in S.E. VS. S.A. – it would seem to me that one leads to the other. When we practise genuine self acceptance and see and accept ourselves, with all our strengths and weaknesses we have an increased ability to feel capable and confident to navigate the world and I think that’s much much what self esteem is about – not something that comes and go. So when we practise behaviors that are in keeping with our moving forward, eating mindfully, exercising regularily etc. we are doing things that build our sense of self. Two very good books on the subject are The Six Pillars of Self Esteem and A Woman’s Self Esteem, both written by Nathaniel Branden, considered to be the foremost father of the Self Esteem ‘movement’ – I think you’ll find some genuinely useful information there on both subjects and actually great exercises one can do to foster growth in both areas.

  • Cindy says:

    Thanks for your tip on those books, Karen. I enjoyed your post.

  • blackbv says:

    Thanks for your submission to the February edition of the Advice for Women from Women blog carnival.

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