Why is self-compassion so hard? Self-compassion sounds similar to self-esteem, but it’s not. They are very different. Let’s see why one is healthy and one is not.
Self-esteem is one of the core elements of Western culture, but 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 shifts the focus from me to “we.” But, it’s not just a matter of semantics. It starts with “self” but focuses on connecting us outward with others and the environment. So, these two philosophies and approaches have vastly different effects on the psyche. We’ll look at the goals, tactics, and elements, and focal points for both so you can see the differences.
Self-Compassion Versus Self-Esteem
Want to know how self-compassion is better than self-esteem? The short answer is self-compassion feeds the soul while self-esteem feeds the Ego. What’s so bad about this? We’ll examine the elements of self-compassion and self-esteem to compare, then you can decide.
The goal of self-esteem is to increase self-confidence and self-value. On the surface, increasing these would seem to be worthwhile objectives, but there is a downside to bolstering self-esteem.
The emphasis on self-esteem magnifies the negative aspects of Ego. People become egocentric, self-centered, and selfish when the focus is on their self-importance. Selfishness is a slippery slope leading to self-indulgence, self-gratification and narcissistic tendencies.
Self-esteem promotes the importance of self-image based on the changing standards of the cultural narrative. We are only valuable to the culture if we are exceptional, different, and better than others. We must strive to be “special” based on this standard instead of authentic. This cultural “ideal” results in several unhealthy cultural obsessions.
Our culture is obsessed with the extraordinary. This obsession drives our interest in superheroes and anthropomorphic beings (1) like vampires, werewolves, etc. By the end of reviewing the facts, we hope you will see how self-compassion is better than self-esteem.
Why is Self-Compassion So Hard?
The culture is obsessed with bolstering Ego and minimizing the virtues of the human spirit. It gratifies the extraordinary and devalues the average human being. Each culture creates acceptable and unacceptable standards. All this programming aims to make us consumers, and we buy everything from soap to ideologies.
It’s hard to spot what’s going on because we are bombarded with negative programming from religion, politics and advertisers. All of these sources tell us we are not enough, we need them to tell us who we are and who we should or should not value. It is easy to see why self-compassion is so hard to cultivate in this unhealthy environment.
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 measuring the retention of data, but they don’t teach students how to learn or think, or how to use memory. So, students learn to pass tests, not learn. Unfortunately, the emphasis on self-esteem produces people who are selfish and self-centered. Why is self-compassion so hard? It’s so hard because this indoctrination bolsters Ego while ignoring our higher intrinsic values.
The emphasis on self-importance produces students who believe they are superior to everyone else, promoting a false a positive attitude based on false confidence. Why does the school system promote this false identity? It is simple, students are easier to handle when they are both positive and confident. The real world does not treat everyone this way. The self-esteem strategy It ignores the statistical fact that most people fall within 95% of the same average distribution. The long-term effects of this kind of Ego magnification don’t matter to the school system.
It’s important to remember that a healthy learning environment promotes inclusive learning of differing levels. We know people learn at different rates, but the educational system ignores this fact, and most public school systems cannot handle students with varying learning abilities. So segregation by learning “ability” is routine to track students’ learning outcomes. This reinforces class distinctions.
A mixed learning classroom would be too much of a challenge in the typical public school system, so they test and segregate students to make it easier on the teachers. They test to prove they are teaching, so the curriculum is based on memorization of things that are easy to test. Students are taught how to pass tests not how to learn or think critically.
Children 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.
“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
“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.
He left and wandered, delighting in the freedom of Northern Italy. 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)
You’ll notice the following elements focus on “your value to the culture.” It 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 emphasis on cultural value alone should help you see how self-compassion is better than self-esteem. Let’s see how self-esteem promotes pretending.
The primary focus is the projection of a positive image while ignoring developmental needs. The emphasis on image creates a slippery slope toward entitlement-oriented and selfish behaviors, precisely why many psychologists say these tactics feed the Ego. These focal point elements are the opposite of the components 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 earning power and return on investment for the corporation
- 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. The magnification of the Ego is why is self-compassion so hard.
The quest for excellence 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 of attention—the extraordinary sells. 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 natural 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)
How Self-Compassion is Better Than Self-Esteem
Compassion for yourself and others is the gateway to the “virtues of the spirit” as it promotes healthy self-perception while providing a foundation for mental and physical wellness. Being compassionate and empathetic are expressions of a healthy heart. Its nature is to grow and extend to others. As our heart expands, so does our conscience. So, our perception turns outward toward others instead of inward toward selfishness—what a difference from self-esteem.
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 authentic compassion. This process starts with the individual and shows us how self-compassion is better than Self-Esteem.
You hear the self-compassion strategy when you board a commercial airline, the flight attendant tells you if the cabin loses air pressure, a mask will drop from the ceiling. Then, we are to put our mask on first before attempting to help others. If we are to help others, we must learn to nurture ourselves first.
The Elements of Self-Compassion
Genuine compassion for the self extends to caring for others. We learn to be good to ourselves and others. It’s the first step of inclusion. 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
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
Set reminders to monitor the time you go to bed and wake up. This practice can make you more rested and effective. And it is an essential aspect of self-care. Otherwise, we can fall into the unhealthy practice of running our batteries too low.
2. Personal Appearance and Wellbeing
Learn to be authentic, which means looking good on your terms, not what the cultural narrative expects. 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. It’s another element of self-compassion that runs contrary to the culture.
It is immediately apparent because you will stand out from the crowd. So it takes courage. When you feel you look good, then you feel better about life. A positive outlook is vital 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. So, it’s essential to schedule time for yourself to be alone. Solitude is necessary to normalize.
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. Make sure what you read and listen to do not reinforce the negative aspects of 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. Instead of reinforcing self-hypnosis and group hypnosis manipulation programming, you want to engage your intuition—it’s the preventative medicine for religious ideology.
4. Embrace Nature
Spend time outdoors. Learn the essential practices for moving and seated mindfulness meditation. Learn the Japanese technique for using the mindfulness waking technique called “Forest Bathing,” It’s the cornerstone of their health and wellness program. Dig deeper into other grounding techniques like the tree grounding process.
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 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. Improving your critical thinking skills helps us determine fact from fiction. The culture discourages these skills because you are less susceptible to political and religious propaganda if you 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; critical thinking affects our 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 can see 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.
When the Ego is in control, it will pull us toward the negative aspects of our nature. These are to opposite values of the virtues.
1) The opposite of gratitude is ungratefulness. It feeds thanklessness, or ingratitude, which leads to greed and gluttony.
2) The negative of joyfulness is dissatisfaction, unhappiness, and joylessness. It leads to inertia or slothfulness.
3) Happiness is lost, and we feel misery and sadness.
4) The opposite of love is hatred and envy (wrath).
5) Instead of thankfulness, we have a lack of appreciation.
6) The opposite of blissfulness, we have numbness, even calamity.
7) When we lose appreciation, we become prideful.
8) Selfishness replaces mindfulness
9) 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 everything from ideas and ideologies to things we don’t need.
It is essential 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 is Self-Compassion so Hard — Ego Focus
This discussion should help you see how the elements of self-esteem differ from the elements of self-compassion. A compassionate heart promotes inclusive values. It presents an opposing force between selfishness pointing inward and selflessness pointing outward. As we cultivate this virtue, 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. 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 discussion should make you cultural narrative. The tactics of self-esteem promote unhealthy narcissistic thinking. It 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.
We need to learn not to listen to the culture. It’s hard, but it is necessary. If you get caught up in the value system presented by the popular culture is easy to slide down the slope to unhealthy thinking. The programming from religion, politics and advertising all contribute to collective delusion that makes self-esteem the focus of selfishness. Whereas, self-compassion promotes a healthy sense of self in relation to others and the environment. That is how self-compassion is better than self-esteem.
(1) Anthropomorphism: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropomorphism
(2) Carl Sagan: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Sagan
(3) Albert Einstein, Why Socialism? : https://www.openculture.com/2017/06/albert-einstein-writes-the-1949-essay-why-socialism.html