As a therapist, I saw many people who evaluated themselves in very negative ways. Seeking ways to help them re-evaluate their perceptions, take corrective action where needed and develop “healthier self-esteem” was part of treatment.
An approach being advocated by Kristin Neff, PhD, emphasizes increasing self-compassion instead of focusing on building self-esteem: “The self-worth from self-compassion is much more stable over time than the self-worth that comes from self esteem because it’s not a judgment of good or bad. It’s just being kind to yourself.”
In my therapeutic role, I often gave handouts of “My Declaration of Self-Esteem” by the late Virginia Satir. But I think her document could accurately be titled “My Declaration of Self-Compasssion.” She wrote:
“In all the world there is no-one else exactly like me.
Everything that comes out of me is authentically mine because I alone chose it.
I own everything about me; my body, my feelings, my mouth, my voice, all my actions, whether they be to others or to myself – I own all my triumphs and successes, all my failures and mistakes, because I own all of me.
I can become intimately acquainted with me. By so doing I can love me and be friendly with me in all my parts. I know there are aspects about myself that puzzle me and other aspects that I do not know, but as long as I am friendly and loving to myself, I can courageously and hopefully look for solutions to the puzzles and for ways to find out more about me.
However I look and sound, whatever I say and do, and whatever I think and feel at a given moment in time is authentically me. If later some parts of how I looked, sounded, thought and felt turn out to be unfitting, I can discard that which is unfitting, keep the rest, and invent something new for that which I discarded. I can see, hear, feel, think, say and do – I have the tools to survive, to be close to others, to be productive, and to make sense and order out of the world of people and things outside of me.
I own me, and therefore I can engineer me – I am me and I am okay.”
We are often encouraged in these divisive times to be kind to others. May we remember as well to offer kindness to ourselves.
May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter. Shalom, Kate
Hope’s Café Bonus: Perhaps you recall the Saturday Night Live Skit of “Stuart Smalley” played by Al Franken. Franken published a book in 1992 of Stuart Smalley Daily Affirmations full of the humor of that character, humor being one of those life-giving qualities that can help us stay grounded and kind towards our own humanity.