Self-compassion and self-esteem sound the same, but they are different. Cultivating compassion feeds the soul while cultivating esteem feeds the ego. See why this makes all the difference.
Self-esteem is one of the core elements of Western culture. This focus is the difference between “me and we.” On the surface, this seems inconsequential. However, this focus ensures the Ego is in the driver’s seat. When you focus on bolstering Ego, it makes people easier to control.
Self-compassion is a shift in focus from me to “we”. We’ll look at the goals, tactics, and focal points for both so you can see the differences.
Elements of Self-Esteem
The goal of self-esteem is to bolster self-confidence and self-value. This appears to be a noble and worthwhile goal. However, the strategies of self-esteem promote unhealthy behaviors and traits. They encourage self-promotion and self-identification to the exclusion of everything else.
When you bolster the Ego, you magnify the personality’s unhealthy tendencies. This is a very slippery slope. It encourages people to degenerate downward into unhealthy levels of their personality. It promotes the idea that self-worth is ONLY available if you are extraordinary—the standard for extraordinary changes depending upon social trends.
Self-esteem overemphasizes self-image based on the cultural narrative standard. It promotes the idea that we are only valuable to others and ourselves if we are exceptional, different, and better than others. We must strive to be “special” instead of authentic. However, we reflect this “ideal” in several unhealthy cultural obsessions. This obsession with the extraordinary drives our interest in superheroes and anthropomorphic beings (1) like vampires, werewolves, etc.
Self-Esteem Tactics and Goals
The emphasis on self-esteem begins early in life. The school and religious systems of Western culture reinforce the importance of self-esteem. That’s because confident students are easier to teach, and this is especially true for the tedious task of memorization. In the Western educational system, the primary goal is memorizing data. Unfortunately, the emphasis on self-esteem produces people who are selfish and self-centered.
The emphasis on self-importance produces students who believe they are superior to everyone else. This ignores the statistical fact the most people are average. The idea is students are easier to handle in a classroom setting when they are both positive and confident. We know people learn at different rates; the system ignores this. Adjusting the teaching curriculum to account for this difference would be impossible in a mass classroom setting.
They base the learning process on benchmarks that are easy to measure. This means basing the curriculum on the student’s ability to memorize prioritized data. This does not line up with accepted social learning theory.
It’s important to remember that a healthy learning environment promotes inclusive learning of differing levels. But most public school systems cannot students with different learning abilities. So segregation by learning “ability” is routine to track students’ learning outcomes. This reinforces class distinctions.
We learn quickly that fitting in is essential to success in this learning environment. Therefore, it is common for people who don’t fit in to fail. Take, for instance, people like Albert Einstein.
If you had walked through the pleasant Tuscan countryside in the 1890s, you might have come upon a somewhat long-haired teenage high school dropout on the road to Pavia. His teachers in Germany had told him he would never amount to anything, that his questions destroyed classroom discipline, that he would be better off out of school.
So he left and wandered, delighting in the freedom of Northern Italy, where he could ruminate on matters remote from the subjects he had been force-fed in his highly disciplined Prussian schoolroom. His name was Albert Einstein, and his ruminations changed the world. ― Carl Sagan, Cosmos (2)
It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom. Without this, it goes to wrack and ruin without fail. ― Albert Einstein
Elements of Self-Esteem
You’ll notice the following elements focus on your value to the culture. This makes you a “human doing” rather than a “human being.” Your value as a person is directly proportional to how you stack up in the cultural narrative hierarchy.
The major focus is the projection of a positive image and ignoring developmental needs. This creates a slippery slope toward entitlement oriented and narcissistic behaviors, which is exactly why many psychologists say these tactics feed the Ego. These focal point elements are the opposite of the elements of self-compassion. Read them and see if you identify with them.
- What you believe your value is as a person based on social standards.
- The positive self-image you can project.
- Your employment status and what value to return.
- The value of your purpose in life to the culture.
- Your social and economic status in the culture.
- The potential of your success in the culture.
- Your strengths and your weaknesses as seen by the culture.
- The value of your achievements according to the culture.
- Your independence and ability to be autonomous and self-supporting.
The Long-Term Effects of Self-Esteem
If the above learning environment sounds unhealthy, it is. Thus begins the slippery slope toward narcissistic and anti-social tendencies. The culture reinforces these behaviors where performance and its pinnacle “excellence” is the goal. It’s a strategy that glorifies the workaholic lifestyle and overachiever. This method is addictive for the Ego.
It affects some personality types more than others. For example, the compliant Enneagram types one, two, and six do well with structured memorization. Type three measures self-worth by achievement. It is easy for them to bend the rules to rise above others. And the corporate work culture thrives on this type of motivation. It produces short-term results but has long-term negative health consequences for the individual.
Social media reinforces the idea that only those outside the norms are worthy. The extraordinary is something they can sell. Advertisers target the most susceptible groups. They focus on advertising to make each group feel special. It’s a strategy that ignores the reality of our true skills and abilities. The individual becomes immersed in the cultural narrative. So, even this unhealthy state of mind becomes “normal” and comfortable.
This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inoculated into the student who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career. ― Albert Einstein, Why Socialism? (3)
Elements of Self-Compassion
Compassion for yourself and others is the gateway to the virtues of the spirit. It promotes healthy self-perception while providing a foundation for mental and physical wellness. This is because compassion is one of the basic elements of the heart. Its nature is to grow and extend compassion to others. As our heart grows, so does our conscience. So, our perception turns outward toward others.
The elements of self-compassion grow the individual. Nurturing positive things gives you the courage to share them with others. Some people refer to this as an awakening. As we awaken, our conscience grows. Our hearts will not allow us to ignore injustice, inequity, and prejudices. It is a beautiful thing when we experience the joy of a heart filled with compassion. This process starts with the individual. This shows how Self-Compassion is superior to Self-Esteem.
It’s the idea you hear whenever you travel by airplane. The flight attendant tells you that a mask will drop from the ceiling if we need oxygen. We are to put ours on first before attempting to help others. If we are to help others, we must learn to nurture ourselves first.
Self-Compassion Tactics and Goals
True compassion of the self extends to caring for others. We learn to be good to ourselves and others. This is how to make people think about inclusion rather than exclusion. It makes us mindful of our effects on others and the environment.
If we learn to do this, then we think healthier thoughts. We open the door to the virtues of the spirit. Therefore, many people say tactics like these feed the soul.
Gratitude, Joyfulness, Happiness, Love, Thankfulness, Blissfulness, Appreciation, Mindfulness, and Serenity; these are the virtues of the spirit. With these tools, we can conquer… not the world, but ourselves. And so then… the world does not need to be conquered. — Guru Tua
The Elements of Self-Compassion Focus Points
Compassion for yourself and others promotes positive behaviors and habits instead of the magnification of the Ego. Focusing on these simple tactics can change your whole outlook on life. They promote healthy thinking and behaviors that will provide immediate benefits. The benefits have a positive ripple effect. Our thoughts become actions, and positive actions make the world a better place. Here they are:
1. Learn to Schedule what’s important
Setting alarms to monitor times to go to bed and wake up. This practice can make you more rested and effective. And it is an important aspect of self-care. Otherwise, we can fall into the unhealthy practice of running our batteries too low.
2. Personal Appearance and Wellbeing
Attempt to look good. This means looking good on your terms, not on the cultural narrative expects us to project. The difference here could be very drastic. What you feel makes you look “good” could differ from the projections of the culture based on religious bias and consumerism. This is one element of self-compassion that runs contrary to the culture. It is immediately obvious. So it takes courage.
So, one needs to “learn” their style and look. This requires time for the next practice. When you feel you look good, then you feel better about life. A positive outlook is important to your health and wellbeing. Find out who you are apart from the cultural narrative.
Spend time alone. Don’t wait until you feel resentful because you are always putting the needs of others first. Schedule time for yourself to be alone. During this time, you may be drawn to other self-compassion actions. Be careful. Don’t get distracted. That means shutting off social media. It’s okay to read or listen to music as these activities engage your mind while allowing your intuition to function. That is so long as what you read and listen to doesn’t simply reinforce the cultural narrative.
Also, be careful of social media, as it often contains both politics and religion. These subjects are divisive and lead to emotional turmoil. You want your alone time to be peaceful. You want to engage your intuition instead of reinforcing groupthink manipulation programming. This programming a major part of religious ideology.
4. Embrace Nature
Spend time outdoors. Learn the basic practices for moving and seated mindfulness meditation. Learn the Japanese technique for using the mindfulness waking technique called “Forest Bathing.” This is the cornerstone of their health and wellness program. If you are so inclined, dig deeper into other grounding techniques like the tree grounding process we recommend.
5. Foster Your Creativity
Find an outlet for your creativity. If you do the above practices, you’ll probably find yourself drawn to some creative outlet. You can coax this out by creating and using a spiritual journal. Here you’ll simply start writing ideas, goals, and thoughts. You’ll find that we each have access to our unique inner voice. We recommend using a paper-based journal because your handwriting has a way of encouraging your inner creative voice.
6. Enhance Your Critical Thinking Ability
Interestingly enough, one of the best ways to enhance our self-care is learning to think logically. Enhancing your critical thinking skills is very important. It helps us determine fact from fiction. The culture discourages these skills because you are less susceptible to political and religious propaganda if you can think for yourself. Enhancing your critical thinking protects you from the harmful effects of groupthink manipulation.
We don’t associate logical thinking with the elements of self-compassion. But critical thinking is an important aspect of perception. And the clarity of thought and perception gives us direction for our actions.
Enneagram and Compassion For Self and Others
The Enneagram of Personality Profile enables us to learn about our personality. We learn how each of the nine personality types relates to the virtues of the spirit. We all have access to these nine virtues, regardless of our personality.
Similarly, we can also be drawn to the negative aspects of the Ego. The opposite of gratitude is ungratefulness, thanklessness leading to greed and gluttony. The negative of joyfulness is dissatisfaction, unhappiness, and joyless. This leads to inertia or slothfulness. Happiness becomes misery and sadness. The opposite of love is hatred and envy (wrath). Instead of thankfulness, we have a lack of appreciation. The opposite of blissfulness, we have numbness, even calamity. When we lose appreciation, we become prideful. Mindfulness is replaced by selfishness. Serenity turns into anxiety and discomfort.
We see how self-compassion is often in opposition to the dominant culture. Our culture drives us to the Ego for several reasons. If we fixate on the negative, we are easier to control. They sell us things to fix the negative things we fixate upon. They sell everything from ideas and ideologies to things we don’t need.
It is important to learn to question the cultural narrative. We need to enhance our critical thinking skills and observe our internal dialogue. The Enneagram Personality Profile is a tool that helps us see our programming. We can then see unhealthy self-talk and behaviors.
Why Self-Compassion is Superior
This discussion should help you see how self-esteem differs from the compassion of self. The elements of compassion promote inclusive values. It presents a contrasting force between selfishness pointing inward and selflessness pointing outward. As we cultivate compassion, others will see the changes in our life. You’ll find more and more opportunities to share your positive energy and knowledge.
So, what’s holding you back. This is something you can do. You can reverse the programming of the cultural narrative. Start with one of the focus points. You’ll add more when you see the results.
This should make you question the cultural narrative. The tactics of self-esteem promote unhealthy narcissistic thinking. This affects the individual and the culture. In contrast, self-compassion is a gateway to the virtues of the spirit.
Although they sound similar, the short-term and long-term effects are very different. It is a behavioral modality that opens us to the virtues of the spirit. While on the other hand, self-esteem is the pathway to unhealthy tendencies of narcissistic behavior. Besides, you may find some relief through proper self-care practices.
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(1) anthropomorphic beings, Wikipedia
(2) Carl Sagan, Cosmos
(3) Albert Einstein, Why Socialism?
(4) Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia