True Self-Esteem 2

True, intrinsic self-esteem is extremely conducive to happiness. But self-esteem that is merely contingent, on the other hand, is not. Following up on a previous post, I want to share a few contrasts between true and contingent self-esteem. Gabor Mate identifies these in Scattered (see chapter 25).

Contingent self-esteem…True self-esteem…
“is fickle, going up and down with a person’s ability to produce results”“is steadfast, not adventitious”
“places great store in what others think”“is independent of others’ opinions”

Contingent self esteem evaluates the worth of the person on the basis of achievements (or lack thereof). This is what makes contingent self-esteem fickle.

True self-esteem accepts the person (as worthy) regardless of achievements. This makes true self-esteem steadfast.

True, intrinsic self-esteem seems a lot more conducive to a life of happiness, and maybe even to a life of great achievement. What do you think?

Besides writing, SeekerFive creates visual art and designs under his Leaf Town brand. Some of these can be seen on Instagram @leaftowndesigns,, and at Currently he is emphasizing face mask designs.

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19 thoughts on “True Self-Esteem 2

  1. I personally think great achievement may be linked more to willingness to work hard for a passion than self esteem. For example, in an interview Arnold Schwarzenegger talked about the way he used to speak to himself as he was working out when he was winning so many awards in the bodybuilding community. That man was tearing himself down mentally with negative self-talk about his appearance. And for decades what he achieved has been put forward as an ideal in that community. I think a lot of brilliant and successful people have felt very tortured on the inside. I will be 45 in less than 2 weeks, so I’m a child of the self-esteem movement. I don’t necessarily think it has made my peers any happier. I think many people land in conditional self-esteem because so often our society rewards people based on accomplishments or conditions. They demonstrate love based on what group a person is in, or withdraw it for the same reasons. I think happiness can be greater if a person can move past conditional self-esteem but it is extremely difficult I think because as social creatures were hardwired on a certain level to seek approval from those we love. Finding a way to self-love for people who are different from the group they are born into is hard I think because we so often internalize the messages of worth we are given from the people around us. I think it is a worthy goal to move past conditional self-esteem, but very hard to put into practice. As I see it, it may add more to happiness to do so than it will add to success. Just my opinion though, and I appreciate your thoughts on the matter. 🙂

    1. Wow! I loved your comment, Ariana. I agree that society has expectations that can influence how we perceive ourselves. It is a balance to cultivate a sense of belonging in a group where one is a “black sheep” without sacrificing our happiness/authenticity for approval! 🙂

      1. I think that is a really good point! One person’s vision of success can seem like a nightmare to another person. Much of our culture seems to have rallied behind a unified vision of celebrity, wealth, and status as being indicators of success. But not everybody wants those things because of the other negative price tags that come with them. And success can be sometimes viewed as relative to a person’s capabilities. People might measure success very differently for someone like my son, who has eight diagnoses and two rare genetic disorders , than they might measure it for somebody who tests gifted but doesn’t apply themselves the way others think they should.

      2. Yes! I recently a conversation about this with my brother and in my head. Depending on one’s life experience, everyone has a different perception of what success means! Can one really compare if earning one million dollars makes one more “successful” than someone who is struggling financially but is living true to their inner calling? Furthermore, what one finds “successful” is dependent on one’s values! That’s what makes understanding our own definition of success so empowering. 🙂

      3. SpiritualFantasia, that is so true, especially the part about the values somebody was raised to or gained by becoming part of a group. I was a member of a church for 19 years, a church that I joined when I was young and in a very vulnerable place and that I didn’t know as much about the history of before I joined. Not trying to attack that church in this comment, just giving a little background. In that church the most successful thing a woman can do is be a stay-at-home mom. In most secular circles of the US, and especially from the vantage of some feminist organizations, that is about one of the least successful things a woman can do. Cultural views and values can really hold a dominant influence in determining success for an individual. And I love that you have conversations in your head, I do that all the time🌷😁

  2. True intrinsic self esteem and true unconditonal love are life goals. I truly beieve the closer we are to these the happier adn healthier we are. Thank you!

  3. Very nice. I see the difference is definitely reflected from an inside out state of consciousness. You can become a master pretender, and that’s fine. But at the end of the day, the true wizardry arrives from a vulnerable place of recognizing the illusionist as it is, and then awakening to the humility that once hid behind its veil, and comes out into the light with authentic self examination. You can see your old selves in others with deeper empathy and compassion and just sit with what is by just being present in the living moment without clinging to a sense of expectation or judgment. Ari

  4. I agree that once self-esteem is unshackled and allowed to thrive devoid of conditions, it can be a beautiful asset. Societies have developed and advanced on theories of achievement and contribution. Every individual is nothing but a commodity, a package of failures and achievements. We seek from others what we cannot give ourselves, acceptance, reassurance, praise, thus allowing others to measure and label our importance. This pressure may lead to great successes but it hollows a person’s assessment of themselves. Thanks for sharing this sensitive thought.

  5. Great explanation. Contingent self-esteem has no resilience. I am still seeking a sturdy source of true self-esteem, and when I get a glimmer, it does seem to be rooted in the belief of my inner worth.

  6. I think I need that true self esteem. For example the last on the grid you listed is a huge factor for me. I value others’ OPINIONS of me—instead of what is true about me sometimes and that is so nasty to do to myself. I appreciate that information. Great stuff you have posted

  7. I see a marked difference in my mental wellbeing when I find myself in the different columns of contingent and true self esteem you have listed here. There is a definite benefit, at least in my own personal experience, to leaning more towards the behaviours in the true self esteem column. Hope is found there, and a sense of peace more often than not.

    Thank you for sharing this.

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