Photo by: TRFPhotography

Something I’ve really come to realize is how building “self-esteem” is a waste of time, and actually psychologically detrimental to overcoming issues like social anxiety.

Maybe this has already been talked about here in a thread, but I felt inspired to bring it up in my own way.

The great Albert Ellis who founded REBT (rational emotive behavioral therapy) talks about this. Cognitive-Behavior Therapy heavily incorporates elements of REBT as well.

The problem with the concept of having “self-esteem” is this:

How do you gauge it and how do you know that you have enough self-esteem?

No matter how high your “self-esteem” is, if you come from a mindset of always trying to get more, build more, you’ll never be good enough.

Someone will always be better than you, and you’ll always be better than someone else.

Two sides of the same coin – better than/less than. It’s a complete mental trap.


Albert Ellis talks about how the concept of self-esteem is actually DETRIMENTAL to any real progress of well-being/contentment/happiness.

I completely agree with him. It also has been my experience. Since I have learned self-acceptance, my life has been 100-fold greater.

But when I tried to get more self-esteem, it was a bottomless pit of unhappiness and very tiring.

So what does Ellis suggest?

Universal self-acceptance.

THIS IS VERY SIMPLE, BUT NOT EASY. It is paradoxical, because most of us are brought up to think in dualism (right/wrong, good/bad, either/or).

However I’d like to talk about self-acceptance, which is really where it stems from.

To me, really universal self-acceptance = universal other acceptance when it comes down to it, once you have the mindset that we are all human beings trying to work and live together, no matter how much we resist it.

And even though we live in a society that is based in dualism, what is, is, at the end of the day.

Which is also the beauty of self-acceptance and accepting what is – it is inclusive of dualistic thinking (good/evil, right/wrong). It is inclusive of everything.

We actually do need to use dualism to navigate the world. It is embedded in our language. We cannot get away from it. So we have to learn to get a new perspective on dualism.

With self-esteem you can never get there. You are always comparing yourself to others to know if you have enough or don’t. It is fundamentally flawed by design.

With self-acceptance you are either there or not. But once you flip the switch to self-acceptance, you are there and a new sense of peace comes over you.

So What Does Self-Acceptance Involve?

It involves letting go of “either/or” thinking, yet includes it still. Most of us are taught growing up to think good and evil, right and wrong, better and worse.

This does well to control people and society from a fearful standpoint, but does nothing for well-being and contentment.

Instead of “either-or” thinking, it involves “and-and” thinking.

Now what the hell does that mean?

It means “I am angry and frustrated at my parents for raising me the way they did (or not being there for me) AND I accept myself even though I feel this way.”

“I am so happy and having a fun time with my family right now AND I accept myself.”

“I want to kill my boyfriend/girlfriend right now, because they’ve pissed me off AND I accept myself no matter what I’m feeling.” (The universal other-acceptance piece would be “I accept them even though I feel they’ve treated me wrong.”)

And the kicker of all kickers for most of us here:

“Even though I have this social anxiety, I accept myself completely and know that I can overcome it day-by-day, because if others have overcome it, so can I.”

Does this mean you walk around like a woo-woo floating fake-yoga person, loving everything. Hell no. This is very, very practical and you are allowed to get angry, sad, or whatever.

No matter if you feel what is judged to be good, or judged to be bad, you are constantly accepting. It is like breathing, it is constant.

Acceptance is not just a one time event, it is a constant process that goes on-and-on. it is a practice. For all these years, I’ve heard it over and over and said “yeaaah right, whatever, I need to accept myself.”

I had heard the concept from a very cerebral standpoint, but didn’t feel it in my being.

Understanding in your head is not real knowing, it is just the doorway to knowing. Knowing is feeling it in your emotional state or on a being level.

If you think I’m full of shit, say it. I very much welcome it.

I’m certainly not a buddha, but The Buddha always encouraged his students to question and challenge him, because it is all about what you experience and finding out WHAT IS TRUE FOR YOU and true in your experience.

Compare that to the monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) which are more-often than not fear-based and if you question “the word of god” or a pastor, that shit will get you kicked straight out of the church, or in old times, burned at the stake.

Test it for yourself. I’ve experienced it and continue to feel it. I continue to test it everyday. If it stops working then I will throw it all away, no qualms about it.

That’s the only way I know it works and continues to.

“Absorb what is useful. Discard what is not.” – Bruce Lee

I hope you can discover how dismantle your social anxiety and learn how to become a socially expressive person.

    8 replies to "Why Self-Esteem Doesn’t Work & Why Self-Acceptance Is the Way"

    • Rym

      This explanation of what self esteem is complete bullshit sorry
      You don’t know what real self esteem is. Actually it’s the most important thing you could ever develop (more than self confidence) and having a good self esteem means accepting yourself with all your flaws and problems,as an imperfect human being. It covers the acceptance part and much more.
      The fact that you read a book doesnt make you an expert on these concepts sorry. People nowadays claim to be experts at something and create blogs with just reading some books and learning some strategies on the internet. (For example the 21 days bullshit stuff to form a new habit was repeated by many self help blogs which was false) there’s no depth and research in that.

      • David Hamilton

        Hi Rym – thanks for your comment.

        I agree with you on the 21 days changing of a habit. I too have seen people claiming there’s scientific evidence for it. But the main reason I don’t agree with it, is because of my EXPERIENCE in trying to change my own habits and helping others, which have often taken far longer than 21 days.

        That’s how I know it’s false.

        This concept I’m talking about here isn’t based just on me reading what Albert Ellis claims. It is based on my experience with it. Of a made up concept called self-acceptance, just like self-esteem is a made up label. They both are. After years of experience of practice, this doesn’t just come from reading something only. I find it useful, and it’s an opinion that some resonate with, and others don’t.

        We can even go to the level that self-esteem and self-acceptance are just made up concepts, they don’t really exist. They can be useful concepts/tools (or not). If you think about it logically, they are just conceptual labels that are intended to help people. Clearly self-esteem is useful to you, and self acceptance not. Vice versa for me. Again, I am claiming what I say from my own experience, not evidence. I never claimed to be a scientist. I find self-acceptance is a far shorter path than self-esteem, and perhaps I’m not as smart as you.

        But let me ask you, what are your results like in social situations? What is working? What isn’t working? What is useful, or what is not? These are the questions to be ask. I had found self-acceptance to be much more useful as a practice.

        It seems to me that having scientific evidence is important for you in whether or not something works for you, then I’d love to hear your explanation of self-esteem and the research behind it. I think everyone here would benefit.

        Care to enlighten us and explain from your scientific viewpoint?

    • Morten

      I understand your point, but have to disagree. In “6 Pillars of Self-Esteem” Nathaniel Brandon lists “Self-Acceptance” as one of the six pillars of self-esteem. I find that the other five pillars is also very useful for self-developement work.

      Also, I think the article contradicts itself. I mean, if you master the art of self-acceptance, WHY would you ever have problems comparing your own level of self-esteem with others in the first place?? I can just ACCEPT that my level of self-esteem is at this point right now, and I still accept myself completely. And I can keep building my self-esteem (working with all the 6 pillars of Self-esteem), accepting myself every step of the way.

      So really (to play the Devil´s advocate for a minute), rejecting the concept of self-esteem could be seen as a symptom of lack of self-acceptance…

    • Latesha

      Real brain power… Thanks for that answer!

    • Tuu

      I agree with your point 100%. Self-esteem is also a way for people to hide too. They can always say “I have low self-esteem” then just give up on trying. Then you will not get better. However, if instead of focusing on self-esteem or confidence we can take small actions to move us forward. Then, eventually, we will get where we want to go.

      • David H.

        Good point about self-esteem being a way to hide. I think it’s important daily to do work around self-acceptance, and also maintain that. So much in society and consumerism is aimed at creating poor self-images for people, which leads to a lack of self-acceptance. Unless one has been self-accepting for years, it’s important to realize and maintain this with practices like affirmations, etc.

    • Nancy

      Much appreciated for the great information on self-acceptance, it really helped me out a lot.

      • SE Man

        Coming back late on this – but thanks for your response Nancy, so glad it helped!

Comments are closed.