Healthy, Balanced Self-Worth
The third “commandment” of sound character challenges us to achieve and keep a healthy, balanced sense of self worth. (Because of various internet protocols, you will not generally find self-worth hyphenated in this article.) To refresh, here again is the full command:
You are neither an insignificant speck nor are you so precious or essential to the universe that it simply cannot do without you. Keep a balanced perspective on your sense of worth.
This command is straightforward. But how do we accomplish it? And what does it mean to secure and maintain a balanced sense of self worth? It’s difficult to discern what this task is all about and how to master it. That’s especially true because for many years many pop psychology books told us some very unhelpful things. For example, they insisted that you can never have too much self-esteem. Some even claimed that most people’s problems stemmed from impaired self-esteem. Moreover, many promoted as gospel the notion that whenever we see what appears to be ego-inflation on the surface, insecurity and poor self-image surely lurks underneath. (See also: Ego Inflation and Narcissism.)
These days, all too many among us think far too much of themselves. And many of these folks aren’t struggling with inner feelings of low worth. The reasons a person can develop an unhealthily unbalanced sense of personal worth are many. I’ll talk about some of them in just a bit. But whatever the reason, any imbalance in one’s sense of self worth always reflects an impaired relationship with one’s higher power. A skewed sense of self is not merely a psychological matter. As the stories in The Judas Syndrome illustrate, it’s a deeply spiritual one.
Plenty of individuals I know came from backgrounds that made them feel horribly about themselves. And some of these folks developed compensatory personas. That is, they outwardly acted important because they were unconsciously desperate to prove their worth. But people can come to an inflated sense of self in other ways, too. For example, I’ve known individuals who at a very early age had every reason to believe they were the highest functioning member of their family. When your parents are absent, dysfunctional, strung out on drugs, etc. that can easily happen. I’ve also know folks who were quite gifted and knew just how gifted they were. And the reason they came to feel so great about themselves was because they had no appreciation for where their gifts came from.
Striking the Right Balance
As is true for so many things in life balance is the key. Plenty of folks get into dysfunctional relationships and subject themselves to abuse because they lack a healthy sense of self worth. But those who abuse are most often those who think far too much of themselves. True, some folks try to build themselves up by demeaning and/or oppressing others. But there many others who simply feel entitled to do as they please, to whomever they please, whenever they please. Why? Because they just know how special, important, and superior they are.
It’s hard to develop a balanced sense of self worth in a culture that promotes and rewards egomaniacal thinking and a sense of entitlement. For more on these important topics see:
- The Egomaniacal Thinking of the Disturbed Character
- PP. 140-141 in Character Disturbance
- Living in the Age of Entitlement
- Our Culture of Entitlement Impedes Character Growth
- Keeping a Balanced Sense of Self-Worth
But securing and maintaining a balanced sense of self is crucial to sound character. So, in the coming weeks I’ll have much more to say about this important commandment.
My Seattle workshop is reaching capacity for the in-person audience. But there’s no limit to the live-streaming audience. Find details at PESI.
Look for more information on the new Character Matters program in a few weeks.