Tag Archives: compassion

Why is it so hard to build self-esteem?

Self-esteem, self-worth are so important to mental health. And, so many of us struggle with improving our self-esteem. We never feel good enough. We find it difficult to love ourselves, to be proud, to feel satisfied in our own shoes. Why? 

Why is it so hard to build self-esteem? We live in a society where we have long been taught to tie our self-esteem, or self-worth, to personal achievement. We have goals we want to meet, jobs we want to get, and we work hard to achieve them. Once we get there we feel good, yes, but for how long? That one achievement is never enough. It is a dangerous cycle. It feels good to achieve a goal, and we do experience an increase in endorphin levels—and we like it. That feeling, that feel-good rush becomes our baseline as people. 

We always want to feel that good. We always want to achieve the next big thing. So, we continue to strive for more and more. Always looking to get higher and higher. I am not saying this kind of motivation is all bad. Of course, we want to be motivated to do well, to try hard, to achieve our personal best. But at some point, we have to be satisfied. The problem with tying our self-worth to achievement is we are never satiable and therefore never feel good enough. We never achieve a stable level of positive self-esteem because things are not all roses and butterflies all the time. There will be moments when you can’t go any higher.

Rather than tying our self-esteem to achievement, let’s switch gears. Connect your self-esteem to your personal qualities, the things that make you YOU. Maybe you are a compassionate person, a good friend, hard-working, loving, easy to talk to, open-minded. Maybe you are the one always willing to help a neighbor. Maybe you are good at making others laugh. We all have special things deep inside us that make us wonderful, beautiful people. Maybe you have been through a whole lot of hell in life and you are stronger than ever. Embrace that strength, look in that mirror, and love yourself. You are worthy. You deserve personal respect. You deserve to feel good about the person you are deep down inside. So what if you didn’t become an Olympic swimmer, or you didn’t get that job you tried so hard for, you are still wonderful, beautiful, unique YOU. 

Teaching our kids healthy compassion

The other day I came across a blog post on the popular parenting website Scary Mommy. The post titled “Why I no longer tell my child to be inclusive and kind” is written by a mom who taught her child to always be inclusive especially to the child that was disruptive, had problems at home and was the child no one else wanted to include. The mother instructed the child to be “compassionate” because you don’t know what other people might be going through. In the end, the mother got a call from the school counselor who informed her that same child that her daughter was trying to have compassion for was now stalking her. The mother, as any mother would be, was upset by this news and decided to no longer tell her child to be all-inclusive. 

As a counselor, this post stopped me in my tracks. It raised some good questions and presented a topic I feel needs to be discussed. Rather than instructing our children to stay away or avoid compassion and empathy for others because of fear that the person might be a danger, or might not be a good person to associate with, we need to practice healthy compassion. 

Healthy Compassion

There is a difference between practicing discernment and boundaries with compassion. Being kind and having compassion for another does not mean letting that person do whatever they want. It does not mean condoning the bad or uncomfortable behavior. There is what we call blind compassion, which establishes no boundaries, and healthy compassion with boundaries. It is important that we teach our children to have an open mind about others and practice compassion because as the mom wrote: “we don’t know what other people are going through.” However, we need to make sure our children learn how to establish healthy boundaries with others. 

Being kind to others does not give them a free pass to walk all over us, or to treat us in ways that make us feel wrong or bad in some way. We can be kind but also let that person know that they can’t treat us that way. Teach your children it is ok to say “no,” and walk away or to tell an adult if an uncomfortable situation is present. Teach your children rules go both ways, it is not ok for them to hit or push or for them to be hit or pushed. These are important life lessons for all.