“Who Am I Without You” 5 Reasons Self-Esteem is a Myth
IPPY Award-Winning Author of This is How We Grow, Dr. Christina Hibbert and I have been close friends for over 8 years. We’ve seen each other through many ups and downs, through stresses and successes, and I am thrilled to get to share one of Christina’s latest successes—her brand new, just-released book, “Who Am I Without You!” A fabulous guide to overcoming a breakup, divorce, or any life transition or loss, “Who Am I Without You” shares 52 short lessons and tools for overcoming, becoming and flourishing! I received an advanced copy of the book and here’s what I had to say about it:
“With just the right blend of empathy for the reader’s pain and encouragement to move forward, Christina Hibbert has written an accessible, practical, and compassionate guidebook for reclaiming self-worth after a breakup. I’ve seen hundreds of women in my psychotherapy practice who feel unworthy of love, and whose self-esteem has taken a blow after a failed relationship—and I wish I’d had this book to recommend to them! Who Am I Without You? is a much-needed companion on the road to resolving emotional barriers, reclaiming your worth, and re-envisioning a life of love after loss.”
—Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW, psychotherapist, author of The Burnout Cure, and owner and executive director of Wasatch Family Therapy
Check out this excerpt from one of Dr. Hibbert’s favorite chapters and then check out the book! If you don’t need it, then you probably know someone who does.
5 Reasons Self-Esteem is a Myth & It’s Really About Self-Worth
Guest post by Dr. Christina Hibbert
Over the years, it’s become clear that almost everyone who walks through my private practice door is really dealing with the same core issue: poor self-esteem. Whether struggling through a breakup, divorce, depression, anxiety, addiction, parenting challenges, or even life stress, when we get to the core of the issue, it almost always has to do with some false feeling or belief about oneself.
This has had me wondering over the years: Why is it so hard to feel self-esteem? Certainly, it’s a hot topic; a Google search will return around 60 million results! There is plenty of advice out there on how to “understand,” “evaluate,” and “improve” self-esteem, on teaching self-esteem to kids, teens, women, couples. As one major psychology site said, “Perhaps no other self-help topic has spawned so much advice and so many (often conflicting) theories” (Psychology Today, 2013). I agree.
The problem with “self-esteem”
So, if we know self-esteem is a problem and we know there’s plenty out there to teach us how to overcome the problem, then why does the problem of self-esteem so strongly persist? I see people all the time who have read these books and articles and have really tried; yet they still don’t feel self-esteem. They don’t believe they’re of worth. Could the fact that so many people are struggling to feel self-esteem be a clue that something isn’t right?
I can tell you, something isn’t right. In fact, I’ve come to see that the entire concept of “self-esteem” is not right. And that is the real problem: The very thing we are trying to pursue is all wrong.
You may be thinking, “But wait?! Aren’t we supposed to pursue self-esteem? Isn’t it the way we learn to love ourselves? Isn’t that what this book is about?” Certainly, we’ve been taught to pursue self-esteem, and certainly we are working on self-esteem in this book. But what we’ve been taught is wrong; the pursuit of self-esteem alone is a myth, and we need a paradigm shift to get it right. Allow me to explain.
The “myth” of self-esteem
First, let’s define “self-esteem.” Some common definitions I have gathered over the years include:
1) Positive or negative evaluations of the self, and how one feels about one’s self.
2) Encompasses beliefs, emotions, thoughts, and power of conviction about oneself.
3) One’s overall evaluation or appraisal of his or her own worth.
Reading these definitions, it’s easy to see that “self-esteem,” while it sounds like a valuable and worthy goal, is based on one’s own thinking, perceptions, and emotions related to one’s performance and behavior. That’s where the problem lies.
Five reasons the pursuit of “self-esteem” is a myth.
As we discussed in the previous chapter, we can never know who we really are or build a strong sense of self-worth if we base it on things that are bound to change. The following reasons demonstrate why the pursuit of self-esteem is a myth:
1) Self-esteem is based on what we do and how we behave. If our worth is based on our performance or behavior, then we are bound to feel poorly about ourselves when our performance or behavior drops; and it will drop—it’s human nature. We are more than what we do and how we behave.
2) Self-esteem is based on how we feel about ourselves. As we already discussed, basing our worth on our emotions can never succeed, because emotions are fickle and often, false. We can feel like a “bad” person when that’s absolutely not the case. We are more than how we feel about ourselves.
3) Self-esteem is based on what we think about ourselves. We’ve already made this case in previous chapters. We are definitely more than what we think about ourselves.
4) Self-esteem is based on how we’re doing compared to others. Instead of evaluating ourselves on how we’re doing compared to our own potential, which is healthy, pursuing self-esteem teaches us to compare ourselves to others. It’s fine to compare to others at times if it helps us see something to work on or inspires us to grow, but usually comparing to others just makes us feel worse. No matter how great we are at any given thing, there will always be somebody smarter, faster, skinnier, braver, kinder, and more “talented.” That’s when the identity crisis hits. We absolutely cannot base our own worth on what others do or don’t do.
5) Self-esteem is based entirely on judgments, whether from others or from ourselves. Nothing good can come of that. We are certainly more than we or anyone else judges us to be.
If not self-esteem, then what?
I hope it’s easy to understand now why self-esteem is so hard to obtain, why, like a sand castle, it’s so hard to maintain and so easy to destroy. It looks beautiful and sturdy, but one shift of the wind or tide and down it crashes.
Yes, we need to feel good about ourselves. Yes, we need to love ourselves. Yes, we deserve both of these, but when we base our worth and love for ourselves on anything external, we will always fail.
Yes, the pursuit of self-esteem alone is a myth. What we really need is a paradigm shift; what we really need is to uncover, discover, and build self-worth.
1) The pursuit of self-esteem alone is a myth because it is based on external things that are bound to change.
2) Instead, we need a paradigm shift: We need to uncover, discover and build self-worth.
Tool: Move from “self-esteem” to self-worth.
1) Think of an instance when someone else was wrong about your value. Think of a time when you underestimated your own value. Write about how these made you feel. How did you know you/they were wrong? Keep this as proof in the future that there is more to you than your own or others’ evaluations.
2) Search for proof that you’re more than how you think, feel, behave, or who you are judged to be. Keep a growing list of evidence to support what you are not and who you truly are.
~Excerpt from Dr. Christina Hibbert’s NEW book, “Who Am I Without You: 52 Ways to Rebuild Self-Esteem After a Breakup,” Chapter 23.
AUTHOR BIO: Dr. Christina Hibbert is the author of Who Am I Without You and the IPPY Award-winning, Amazon bestselling memoir, This Is How We Grow. She is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Flagstaff, AZ, specializing in women’s mental health, grief/loss, motherhood, parenting, pregnancy/postpartum, self-esteem/self-worth, and personal growth. Dr. Hibbert is the Founder of the Arizona Postpartum Wellness Coalition, producer of the DVD “Postpartum Couples,” and a favorite, dynamic speaker. Her third book on “8 Keys to Mental Health Through Exercise” will be released late 2015. Mostly, though, “Christi” is a wife and full-time mother of six children, ages 18 to 7. “Choose to Grow” with Dr. Hibbert by joining her free “This is How We Grow” Personal Growth Group and visit her popular blog, “The Psychologist, The Mom, & Me,” at www.DrChristinaHibbert.com.
Dynamic self & relationship expert Dr. Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW loves to make a difference for women. She owns Wasatch Family Therapy and regularly contributes to TV Shows and her advice has been featured nationally including Wall Street Journal, Parenting, Fox News, and others. Connect on Instagram, Facebook & Twitter. Her books The Burnout Cure and The Assertiveness Guide are now available. Dr. Hanks is currently accepting coaching clients.