After some consideration, I have come to believe that the term self-esteem is a misnomer.
The first half of the expression, "self" would seem to imply that the esteem is derived from one's self. Yet, reality show’s that, very often that self-esteem is actually attained from outside of one's self.
For most individuals, praise or acknowledgement provide an increase in esteem.
Although acknowledgement is understandably positive, it is essential to note that it depends upon things external to one's self. Since the esteem is derived from the outside, we can see how we might be inclined to alter our personality and behavior to achieve more of this reward.
Admittedly being approved of or valued by others is a natural and universal desire, but that is other-esteem not self-esteem.
Authentic self-esteem is not dependent upon others or things external to us; it is a manifestation of our relationship with our self. The essence of self-esteem is that it flows from within.
We modify and mold so much of our behavior and even more, our very personality to achieve other-esteem. When we do this we are abandoning our true self to derive approval or recognition from others. Not only is this a self-deprecating experience, it also sabotages our relationships with those we are seeking approval from.
When we act in this manner we are literally taking our well being and serving it up to other people. It then becomes the other person's to decide if we are worthy. This is not a healthy place to be and it is a soul-defeating exercise. We should never judge ourselves based upon who we think others see us.
Who is the Judge?
The simple truth is that others don't judge us; they may have opinions of us.
With a healthier measure of self-esteem we might more easily tolerate other's opinions without escalating them into judgments.
Esteem must be generated from within and can then radiate outward. When we focus outwardly for approval, we are seeking it in the wrong place. And in so doing, we subordinate our authentic being in a vain attempt at happiness. Such fulfillment must be dependent and superficial and undermines our personal evolution. This process of external gratification is other-esteem. Self-esteem is not contingent upon others.
When we give importance to approval, we create issues in regard to notions of rejection. The issue of rejection can be misleading. With a healthy self-esteem one doesn't consider rejection. It is actually the rejecting of one's self that inclines people to seek approval from others. In such cases, we're not content with ourselves and so we solicit that acceptance from others. If that approval isn't granted, we feel that we were rejected. In truth, we have rejected ourselves when we set others up as judge. The degree to which we are reactive to other's opinions of us in likely inversely correlated to our level of self-esteem.
Self-esteem is the legitimate foundation for a healthy relationship with our selves and others. Genuine self-esteem removes the construct of neediness so prevalent in most relationships. And liberates us to thrive, as issues of rejection and judgment recede. If we seek our esteem from outside, we leave ourselves in a tentative and dependent place.
When the sense of worth emanates from within, life unfolds in a empowered way.