Self-Respect And Self-Esteem

The other day someone mentioned in passing that self-esteem and self-respect were not the same things. The difference was not unpacked, but the challenge stuck in my mind. So how would we distinguish the two?

Without consulting anyone or anything, just off the top of my head, I will give it a brief shot. I would say that self-respect is a means to self-esteem. Self-respect is the limiting factor rather than the desideratum. If you are pushed to do things against your principles, you lose it, and thereby lose self-esteem too, or at least you ought. (I know whereof I speak, as I am under pressure here to do things that offend my values, sense of self, integrity, call it what you will.) Self-respect is thus contingent – on one’s ethic not being violated.

At least as used in modern pop psychology, however, self-esteem is non-contingent, it does not depend on anything being done or not done. It is narcissistic self-love, conjured out of thin air and awarded to oneself free of charge. In Alice’s caucus-race, everyone has won and everyone gets prizes. But nobody really buys this, as having earned the victory or not is something probably all animals are wired to understand. Always being told you are wonderful, however badly you have messed up, erodes self-respect and replaces it with an unstable self-esteem that the experts only now tell us causes aggression, not depression. Come back down that garden path, folks.

Posted on December 31, 2009 at 22:23 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: MONKEY BUSINESS, Therapists And Other Health Hazards

Leave a Reply