The solution to bad self-esteem is unconditional self-acceptance.
All esteem (good or bad) is a form of situation-specific self-estimation, that is, a form of conditional self-judgment, and, as such, is psychologically self-limiting.
Self-acceptance, on the other hand, is a platform of unconditional wellbeing.
[I have proposed this idea in my 2010 book Present Perfect (Somov, New Harbinger Publications) in Chapter 9 "From Self-Esteem to Self-Acceptance." In my clinical experience, this particular shift (from self-esteem to self-acceptance) has proven to be one of the most powerful ways of breaking through the perfectionistic impasse.]
Karl Krolow, one of the greatest postwar German poets, once wrote:
It is a long time
Since I lay so deep in sleep.
Gradually one learns once more:
Wells dry up.
A state of presence is a shallow well. Mindfulness dries up. Its half life is short. Rarely mindfulness transcends the moment that gave it birth. Therefore, it must be renewed in between the strides of our sleep-walk. The well of presence must too be watered.
And then I say: “To be unique is to be one of a kind, right? Right. If you are one of a kind, then no one is like. Right? Right. If so, then what is the basis of comparison if no one is exactly like you?!”
Here’s U.G. Krishnamurti making a related point:
“If you are freed from the goal [of having to be] perfect, then that which is natural in [you] begins to express itself. Your religious and secular culture has placed before you the ideal man or woman, the perfect human being, and then tries to fit everybody into that mould. It is impossible. [...] Nature is busy creating absolutely unique individuals, whereas culture has invented a single mould to which all must conform. It is grotesque.”
And so I conclude: “Uniqueness is beyond comparison. You are incomparable. That’s not a compliment. That’s a statement of fact.”
related: Present Perfect
Rethink “what is” to rethink perfection: all that can be… is.
As I watch my slavic brothers and sisters about to turn onto each other (not without some geopolitical meddling), I am reminded of a few lines from a poem written in Kiev in 1986 by a prominent Russian dissident Irina Ratushinskaya:
Beasts, people, birds
And voices, and specks of light -
We pass through all like ripples,
And each one disappears.
Which of us will recur?
Who will flow into whom?
What do we need in this world
To quench our thirst?
Yes, we all pass through this reality, and we all pass through all – like ripples from a local stone-skip that eventually become the universe-wide gravitational waves of yet another big bang.
And we pass into each other: yesterday’s fascists become today’s freedom-fighters and today’s freedom-fighters become tomorrow’s fascists. Form passes into Essence and Essence passes into Form.
As I ponder this current cycle of Slavic samsara I find my usual, arguably misguided, sense of peace and acceptance in the following three axioms of living:
2. We are all doing our moment-specific best (the idea of Ordinary Perfection): all that can be – is.
3. That is enough for Oneness of Cosmos (sideless, Oneness takes no sides).
I wish all parts and parties of this seamless oneness well: may we all satisfy our thirst from within.
Perfectionism is a Psychological Liability
Flett and Hewitt (2002) write: “perfectionists are more likely than nonperfectionists to experience various kinds of stress” (p. 257) and list four perfectionism-specific mechanisms that contribute to and exacerbate stress:
Brown and Beck (2002) make a convincing summary of how a perfectionistic cognitive style with its rigid thinking constitutes a vulnerability to depression.
Perfectionists and compulsives are a tormented, unhappy lot. William Reich referred to compulsives as “living machines,” highly productive but not enjoying what they produce (Maxment & Ward, 1995), typically presenting with symptoms of anxiety, worry, depression, and dysthymia.
One of the goals of existential self-rehabilitation is to redefine perfection in a manner that would allow you to leverage an unconditional self-acceptance and to become invulnerable to others’ disapproval of you. Furthermore, an effective existential rehab would help you become more accepting of uncertainty in order to reduce your anxiety about the aspects of your life that you cannot control. Your ultimate challenge is to shift from dichotomous, black-and-white dualistic self-perception (that predisposes you to depression and anxiety) to an emotionally-wiser and reality-congruent platform of nondual and dialectical thinking.
Perfectionism is a Relational Liability
Many a perfectionist is encouraged into therapy by family members and supervisors to address the problem of anger and hypercriticism. As such, if unaddressed, perfectionism is a relational liability that leads to social alienation, loneliness, missed social and professional opportunities. Effective existential rehab will help you realize that you are, have been, and always will be “perfectly imperfect,” which, in turn, will allow you to compassionately identify …
2 thoughts: one for the year that is passing and one for the year that is yet to pass.
Happy New Now to you, all year long!
[Mindstream | pattern interruption series | Somov]
A couple of healthy thoughts for a dualistic mind to choke on:
1. Hope is a mind-killer (hope distracts us from the present; hope makes us wait for some future moment of reality but life is now, always now).
2. An ideal world is a world without idealism (idealism distracts us from the present; ideals make us wait for some future ideal moment of reality but life is now, always now, exactly as it currently, actually is).
3. All that can be (right now), is. Reality doesn’t shortchange. There is no celestial layaway in which the Universe withholds better versions of itself to manifest at a later point in time. All that currently can be, currently is.
These are hard thoughts to swallow for a dualistic mind but let me sweeten this nondual poison with a soundtrack from Sweatshop Union: The Thing About It
Enjoy the ordinary perfection of what currently is!
[Pattern Interruption Series]
Life is like a bubble -
Some eighty years, a spring dream.
Now I’ll throw away this leather sack,
A crimson sun sinks on the west peak!
Life – an illusion? Awakening – a death of an illusion? Death – an awakening from a dream? Awakening – another dream?
Ask yourself these kinds of questions.
And ignore the answers.
“A crimson sun sinks on the west peak!” – ha! T’ageo, as awakened as he was on his deathbed, did, however, fall prey to a favorite illusion of ours: sun neither rises nor sets; sun simply is as we spin around it. There is a model of the mind in this. But I wouldn’t ponder it too much.
[Present Perfect series]
ref: Anthology of Korean Literature (by Peter H. Lee)
This vector of desire makes sense to me.
We (can) go from conditional joy (enjoying ourselves only when conditions are in accordance with our desires) to unconditional joy (enjoying ourselves regardless of the conditions we find ourselves in).
This vector of adaptation makes sense to me.
Others called this “nirvana.” I call this “nondepressive anhedonia” – a loss of desire without the loss of enjoyment.
Related: Ordinary Perfection