Can You Have Too Much Self Esteem?
The simple response to this is yes. The longer response continues below:
There is an ongoing psychological debate over the use of the word self-esteem vs self-confidence which I will leave for another article.
Self-esteem is the confidence in one’s own worth or abilities and is important to getting that job, fulfilling our dreams, attracting the right partner and basically getting what we deserve or desire in life.
Too little self-esteem can really affect both how you treat yourself and how you get treated. Much has been written about too little self-esteem but for a moment I would like to talk about the growing enigma of too much self-esteem.
We are living in a culture which seems to have become more and more about being seen, getting noticed and having a voice merely for validation that we matter. Facebook lives are prevalent with gurus on everything, Youtube channels available to anyone to stream opinions, skills, talents and businesses, Twitter allows an opinion on anything and anyone and there are endless talent and reality shows that allow you to get seen on TV.
Many people who want to be seen have a high-level self-esteem based on their self-belief that they can sing, dance, act or have a voice/message that the world just has to hear, they need it to be able to not worry about being criticised in the public domain. Believing you can sing, act or speak is the reason why you show up for the audition. The average person can become an overnight star in their own minds without ever leaving their house.
However, if your image of self (self-concept) has been skewed by too much self-esteem this can be as damaging as too little. There are a number of aspects to this.
Firstly when the self-esteem is based on false information this can really lead to heartache and rejection in a cruel world. We see it constantly on TV talent shows where people turn up having been told by well-meaning parents and friends that their act, or voice, is great only to be told you cannot sing or dance and being booed or ridiculed on national TV. The bewilderment on the faces of these crestfallen individuals is a testament to how a misplaced self-esteem can drive people.
The second element to this is when your self-esteem is not utilised in line with self-respect. Self-respect is pride and confidence in oneself; a feeling that one is behaving with honour and dignity. Many of those who are actually blessed with skills and talents respect their blessings and also utilise them to try to make the world a better place.
If you are in the public eye and using your “celebrity status” to improve the world by showing up to change perceptions on mental health, campaigning to change laws or improve human rights then your self-respect is no longer coming from what you have but from what you do with it.
Oprah Winfrey, for me, is a great example of how her self-esteem coupled with her self-respect and respect for others has not only made her a household name but in turn, has allowed her to touch the lives of many others. Angelina Jodie may have utilised her good looks and acting skills to become a household name but she quickly went on to use her blessings and deployed her fame to make a difference as a humanitarian and Special Envoy to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
However, when your self-esteem drives you to want more and more just to be heard and to utilise your power for your own narcissistic growth, with little regard to others, then too high a self-esteem can corrode both self-respect and the respect of others.
We are seeing more and more examples of where the self-esteem of high profile individuals have turned them into power-hungry individuals with self-esteem now morphing away from self-respect and into self-importance.
Kanye West (self-proclaimed deity), Matthew McConaughey (who in his acceptance speech for best actor at the Oscars spoke of his heroes being future versions of himself) and Kim Kardashian (the selfie queen) are all examples of where self-esteem has become a hungry beast that needs to be constantly fed with no greater purpose than for others to bask in their self-importance.
The UK and USA political arena over the last 12 months has also shown so many examples of narcissistic, over inflated self-esteems that can no way be defined as behaving with the honour and dignity that defines self-respect.
Donald Trump for many has become the epitome of how too much self-esteem can not only damage an individual but actually impact on the world at large. He is not alone on this journey and joins a conveyor belt of self-promoting public leaders whose over-inflated self-esteem has been used to influence this world negatively.
I myself am not a follower of politics or a hero worshipper as I believe those in the public eye are ordinary people who just happen to do extraordinary jobs. Talent, good manners and serving hearts are all aspects of a person that gain my respect and admiration.
Self-esteem is an important quality as I said earlier, it allows us to believe in ourselves enough to stand up and claim that which is waiting for us, too little of it will hold one back from finding peace and happiness.
Self-esteem coupled with self-respect may mean that at times you may have to compromise on opportunities that present in life. but it will mean you never compromise yourself.