Are Self-esteem and Self-respect the same?

Our culture is concerned with matters of self-esteem. Self-respect, on the other hand, may hold the key to achieving the peace of mind we seek. The two concepts seem very similar but the differences between them are crucial.

To esteem anything is to evaluate it positively and hold it in high regard, but evaluation gets us into trouble because while we sometimes win, we also sometimes lose. To respect something, on the other hand, is to accept it.

I enjoy singing and do so quite frequently. As those within earshot will attest, I’m not very good but I love to sing anyway. During summer parties I frequently sing solo and play the part of the “moving ball,” trying to stay just ahead of the music to provide the words for those who don’t know the song. I am not saddened by my lack of talent. I accept the way I sing. Because of this acceptance, I am able to sing without being evaluative of myself or concerned with what others think.

The word acceptance suggests to some readers that our culture does indeed deal with this idea of self-respect; after all, don’t we have the concept that it is important to accept our limitations? Aren’t many of us encouraged “to change the things we can change, accept the things we cannot change and know the difference between the two?” I believe I could learn to sing better, so my acceptance is not based on my limitations. Nor is it based on resignation, since I am not resigned to the belief that I cannot sing well and am not committed to any particular belief about my voice in the future.

The person with self-respect simply likes her- or himself. This self-respect is not contingent on success because there are always failures to contend with. Neither is it a result of comparing ourselves with others because there is always someone better. These are tactics usually employed to increase self-esteem. Self-respect, however, is a given. We simply like ourselves or we don’t. With self-respect, we like ourselves because of who we are and not because of what we can or cannot do.

Consider an interesting test of self-respect. If someone compliments us, what is our reaction? If we are very pleased, it would suggest a certain amount of uncertainty about our skill. Imagine that somebody whose opinion we respect told us that we were great at spelling three-letter words, or that our pronunciation of vowels was wonderful. Chances are we would not be moved. We know we can do it in the first case, and we don’t care in the second. Because we were not evaluating ourselves, the compliment was unimportant. The more instances in which we don’t “take the compliment,” the less vulnerable we become to evaluation and insult.

My recent research, with Judith White and Johnny Walsch at Harvard University, points to the advantages of self-respect. Compared to those with high self-esteem who are still caught in an evaluative framework, those with self-respect are less prone to blame, guilt, regret, lies, secrets and stress.

Many people worry whether there is life after death. Just think about it: If we gave up self-evaluation, we could have more life before death.

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This article was written by Ellen J. Langer, a professor of psychology at Harvard University, is author of The Power of Mindful Learning (Perseus, 1997) and Mindfulness (Perseus, 1989).

Is self-love selfish?

This is a question I would like you, my readers, to answer. Here is what some of you have said so far:

  • Robin Green I think there is a saying… In order to be loved, one has to love oneself.
  • Damien Thomas I don’t think it is selfish. I think self-love is to have a strong sense of respect for and confidence in oneself.
  • Moni Ka To love yourself is like to love a little part of God living in you. Since God is unconditional love, everything with this feeling cant be selfish.
  • Barbara Hofmeister Thanks. I totally agree with all 3 of you. Self love is essential. If we can see and respect the uniqueness in us, we might feel the unconditional love we are meant to feel. Keep the comments coming please. I am working on a new workshop with this title and need lots of ideas, techniques etc.
  • Tami Roberts-Principe You cannot constantly give to others without rejuvenating yourself. You have to love yourself first, and then others. It’s the selfish people that try to attach guilt to it.
  • Susan Jewett Reid Walsh I think if you are not giving love from a place of self-love overflowing, than there is a good chance your love is not pure and unconditional. You cannot give away what you don’t have – it’s just the way it is.
  • Barbara Hofmeister yes and way too many people do not feel unconditional self love. How would you help them discover it?
  • Victor Onochie Anumba You have to love yourself 2 love others.u can help them by letting know that they should appreciate God first & every other thing follows
  • Barbara Hofmeister A good point Victor. The question is how can I make them EXPERIENCE SELF LOVE? Just telling is not anywhere near enough
  • Lillian Ogbogoh You can’t give what you don’t have, if you don’t love you how can you love anyone else?
  • Victor Onochie Anumba Firstly,its team work, you need the help of a personal coach,it takes time,but you do need to convince them that people like them for who they are. Encourage them to interact with like minds. Finally they should consider Rebranding their personality. Remember Leaders are made not born. Cheers
  • Rebeca Orozco Self love is essential since you cannot give what you do not possess although it could also be a double edged sword. A perfect example is the story of Narcisus in Greek Mythology
  • Barbara Hofmeister Rebeca, unconditional self love has nothing to do with conceit (hope that is the right word). My experience with unconditional self love is love of ALL there is and narzism doesn’t have any room in that
  • Bala Padmanabhan
    Barbara, I just saw this post now. I wanna say ‘superb’. I always thought of it this way. For me, there is no difference between self love and loving ‘others’. After all ‘others’ are just a figment of your (soul) own imagination, then how can you share any form of energy within this ‘illusion’ when you have none. First cultivate it within yourself. Love everything about ‘you’. Nourish this energy, enrich it as much as you can before sending it out within this abundance around us! Beautiful stuff, Barbara! Sorry I saw this late!
  • Barbara Hofmeister There is no such thing as late Bala as long as we keep sharing. Keep it coming please
  • WOMENSRECREATION.COM Barbara, there is nothing wrong with Self-love. You have to have it in order to maintain balance. You can’t just keep giving of yourself, there would be nothing left. You have to love yourself first and then others. It is the selfish people that try and attach a guilt trip with it.
  • Teresa Caliendo I personaly think that unless a person has self love, he or she, can not be whole, and can not have the feeling of self worth! We need to walk with our head held high and self love, leads to pride in one’s self!
  • Barbara Thank you, Teresa!! This is so very true! Unfortunately many do not have self love. How can we re-discover it?
  • WOMENSRECREATION.COM Aloneness, rediscovering ourselves, going within. Taking time for ourselves, doing the things that make us happy.
  • Lydia Proschinger Much of it is unlearning of old script, and reintroducing the emotional vibration of self-love by realizing that you are a magnificent human being, a dear child of God and unique. “Being YOU means there is no other with the same thoughts, the same voice, the same feelings, the same DNA. You are unique, and that is how you perceive your world. Just like everyone else, your pair of eyes sees what you want to see.This makes you special and equal to all others who all have this intrinsic freedom also. We all are as unique as you. The fact that we all live together and die alone eventually makes us all the same, dependent on taking a new breath every sparkling NOW of the day, an oxygenesis in co-creation. If we look more at the ONEderful beings we are, we would never have a reason to feel alone or misunderstood.” (this quote is from a note I wrote this morning).
  • Roxanne Riedeman How can you help an “other person” the only way is to show them…you dont need words …although i believe we are still in 3d and therefor the spoken word is verry important…Metaphors, Songs, Poetry, Positive Coaching….if every one focus on themselfe to keep the energy high and clean the whole world can be transformd in Love in a heartbeat???
  • Tami Principe You can re-discover unconditional self love by knowing exactly who you are. Self love starts from the inside, it means understanding the good and the bad, and dealing with all the emotions, fears etc. To unconditionally love yourself. Facing all issues that you may not want to face. Allowing yourself the freedom to feel it.

    Barbara Hofmeister that’s great Tami. Thanks. We need to accept our imperfections as part of an exciting and versatile life
  • WOMENSRECREATION.COM …meditation,and the art of breathing alone can do wonders!

Don’t bargain your Life away

In Napoleon Hill’s book “Think and Grow Rich” I read the following poem by an unknown author that hits the nail about us not believing in our dreams and therefore not asking for them fully. It is sad how little so many of us value ourselves.

I bargained my life for a penny

And life would not pay more,

However I begged at evening

when I counted my scanty store.

For life is a just employer;

He gives you what you ask,

But once you have set the wages,

Why, you must bear the task.

I worked for a menial’s hire,

Only to learn, dismayed,

That any wage I had asked of life,

Life would have willingly paid.

Please, don’t limit yourself in any way. Don’t just ask for a penny. Write down your wildest dreams in as much detail as possible and start living the possibilities and opportunities that will come your way.

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