The Danger of High-Self Esteem!

Often we have clients who ‘suffer’ from low self-esteem, or want to develop a ‘higher’ self-esteem. Doubts plague them: Am I good enough to …(fill in the blanks). At the other end are those who have high self-esteem; the rest of us almost always envy them. Even COACHES struggle with self-esteem: Can I work with this client who is so senior, more qualified, has such a high designation…? So, let’s understand self-esteem and explore the myth that high self-esteem is a worthy goal.

Self-esteem is just thoughts about what sort of a person one is. It’s a mental program that runs in the background. A program that is often based on value judgments, others’ opinions, fears, expectations and so on. The key is that it is often just an opinion one has about oneself – just thinking! Not facts! So, self-esteem is one’s thinking about oneself, a judgment – not necessarily grounded in reality.

High self-esteem is a positive self-opinion and a low self-esteem is a negative one. But it’s just an opinion! There’s a voice in our head (a program that runs) that says: I’m not good enough, inadequate, unworthy, unlovable, incompetent, unintelligent, unattractive…This program or thinking or voice is low self-esteem; it is a judgment that is made about oneself. And, it can limit one’s potential, prevent good risk-taking, stop learning opportunities, and disrupt being in the present moment.

The problem with high-self esteem is that it too is one’s opinion – and it need not be based on facts! Those with this voice or program constantly have to prove that they are as good as they think they are. They continually have to challenge the ‘not good enough’ stories to prove that they are a good person. High self-esteem can easily lead to arrogance, righteousness, selfishness, egotism, narcissism or a false sense of superiority. A lot of challenges in teams can be traced to someone with this high self-esteem behaving in ways to maintain his/her opinion of how good they are. What an exhausting overhead!

Therefore, rather than focus on self-esteem, a better way might be to develop self-acceptance – and then self-compassion…(more on this next week!)

(We’d be happy to work with you as your coach /coaching supervisor – for a couple of pro bono sessions – to help you move from the pressures of self-esteem to self-acceptance and to self-compassion! Connect with us on

Check out details of our ICF accredited 125 hour ACTP Executive Coach training program being held in October and December in Bangalore, on this website’s ACTP/ACSTH page. Why not use this as an opportunity to visit India / Bangalore?

 Reference: The Happiness Trap: Stop Struggling, Start Living by Dr Russ Harris

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