June Newsletter from Pyxis Counselling Services
We are on the brink of summer at last! I am hoping this newsletter finds you all well at this beautiful time of the year. To get you started on a bit of summer reading (although maybe not quite in the "light reading" category), the article this month is about self-acceptance vs self-esteem, and how striving for self-acceptance will benefit us on our life journey.
Move Over Self-Esteem, How About Self-Acceptance
The picture below came up on a Google search for images of self-esteem. Admittedly it's cute and seems to make sense at one level, but yet the picture implies that we need to see ourselves as something other than what we are. The intent may have been to demonstrate that we ought see the best possible version of ourselves, but an argument could be made that the kitten will fare much better in life if it accepts itself as a cat, not a lion.
The self-esteem movement that began in the 1970's
was based first of all on the belief that low self-esteem was a widespread problem, and secondly, that high self-esteem was a predictor of better grades, better relationships, better work performance, and better success overall in life. Self-esteem building programs were brought into many schools and organizations with the thought that if everyone just had higher self-esteem, everything else would turn out well. Subsequent research showed that many of the claims about self-esteem turned out to be wrong. (This article by Roy Baumeister entitled Rethinking Self-Esteem, summarizes the research findings
This is not to say that it is not important to have good self-esteem
, but simply telling ourselves we are wonderful when we don't feel that way may not be the solution. (Think Stuart Smalley of SNL with his Daily Affirmations
: "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.")
Self-acceptance may be the more authentic and grounded sister to self-esteem
. Self-acceptance is an approach in which we face and make peace with our mistakes and insecurities. We also forgive ourselves for these shortcomings, knowing that it is not possible to be perfect and wonderful all the time. It's about seeing ourselves realistically by appreciating the good qualities we have and acknowledging our capacity for imperfection.
What does self-acceptance look like in real life?
It might be that I forgive myself for being unintentionally hurtful to a friend, and remember that this does not cancel out the fact that I am a good friend to many people in my life. Maybe I value my ability to have compassion for others, and then I notice that I still have the capacity to be judgmental. It might seem that I would not bother to change if I simply accept my flaws, but ironically, I will be more likely to take steps to work on these things if I am open to seeing and accepting that they exist.
Very often the clients that I meet with have lost sight of their good qualities and are only seeing the flaws or mistakes. My work is then to help them recover a balanced view of themselves; seeing their strengths and accepting their imperfections. Rather than using a self-esteem pump to try and inflate a positive sense of self, I hope to hold up a compassionate mirror for clients to look into and make peace with all of who they are, and then to set goals for the ways in which they would like to change. So move over self-esteem, self-acceptance will take us where we need to go.
Please let me know if you have any questions or comments. I am open to feedback and also to any suggestions for other topics to write about. I look forward to connecting with you again next month.
Susie Merz MC, RCC