Self Esteem or Self Love – Which Do You Choose?


Recently, I was listening to the audiobook version of  “Self-Compassion” by Kristin Neff. She was talking about some research around self-esteem and how high self-esteem can actually be a false goal. The research she cited did not surprise me because we’ve all met the person whose opinion of themselves far outshines their ability, the person who blames the circumstance or others for their mis-steps, the person who never takes responsibility for any of the mistakes but is more than happy to jump in and grab all of the praise.

She writes “Self-esteem is an evaluation of our worthiness, a judgement that we are good, valuable people. Research shows that self-esteem is more strongly influenced by the perceived judgments of strangers than close friends and family. We tend to give more weight to what nameless, faceless, “other people” think of us. The big hole in this line of reasoning, of course, is that the thread on which we’re hanging our self-esteem is incredibly thin.”

As I listened, I began to think about the intersection between self-esteem and self-love. As I work with coaching clients, my personal goal for each person is to love themselves. I weave in ways to introduce them to their physical being, to help them begin to see how their body is constantly communicating with them and has always wanted to be an ally, a support, a loving and trusting best friend. Ultimately my wish for them is to reach a state of self-love. Yet, I am often asked, how do I do I love myself when I weigh more than I should? When I am not working out everyday? When I ate too many carbs or too much sugar? I think what they are really asking is

“How do I love myself when I am not perfect?”

My answer is always the same.

Right now, in your imperfection, is the very best time to love yourself.

Think about those people in your life that you already love. When they are vulnerable, when they make mistakes, when they do something that you would really prefer that they didn’t do, do you love them less? Do you look them in the eye and tell them that they aren’t quite good enough? Do you withhold your kindness and compassion waiting for the day that they will be perfect? Of course not, you pull them closer to you, you remind them that they are amazing despite their momentary evidence to the contrary. You love them more for their vulnerability and for their realness.

What would it be like if we began to turn just a bit of that love toward ourselves?

What if each time we looked into the mirror we reminded ourselves of our innate worthiness and goodness? What if we reminded ourselves that we are valuable just as we are? What if we just loved ourselves for simply being?

Everyone’s journey back to loving themselves is separate and different but I truly believe that it is necessary and vital. As I continue to walk farther down my path of self-love, I find that what others think doesn’t matter as much. I don’t feel the need to defend my choices or seek praise for my successes because I know that when I get home and look into the mirror, the woman looking back at me will think that I am alright just as I am.