Gabor Maté

“What are some of the markers of low self-esteem, besides consciously harsh self-judgment? An inflated, grandiose view of oneself — frequently seen in politicians, for example. Craving the good opinion of others. Frustration with failure. A tendency to blame oneself excessively when things go wrong, or, on the other hand, an insistence on blaming others: in other words, the propensity to blame someone. Mistreating those who are weaker or subordinate, or accepting mistreatment without resistance.

Argumentativeness — having to be in the right or, obversely, assuming that one is always in the wrong. Trying to impose one’s opinion on others or, on the contrary, being afraid to say what one thinks for fear of being judged. Allowing the judgments of others to influence one’s emotions or, its mirror opposite, rigidly rejecting what others may have to say about one’s work or behavior.

Other traits of low self-esteem are an overwrought sense of responsibility for other people in relationships and, an inability to say no. The need to achieve in order to feel good about oneself. How one treats one’s body and psyche speaks volumes about one’s self-esteem: abusing body or soul with harmful chemicals, behaviors, work overload, lack of personal time and space all denote poor self-regard. All of these behaviors and attitudes reveal a fundamental stance towards the self that is conditional and devoid of true self-respect.

Self-esteem based on achievement has been called contingent self-esteem or acquired self-esteem. Unlike contingent self-esteem, true self-esteem has nothing to do with a self-evaluation on the basis of achievement or the lack of it. A person truly comfortable in his own skin doesn’t say, “I am a worthy human being because I can do such and such,” but says, “I am a worthy human being whether or not I can do such and such.”

Contingent self-esteem evaluates; true self-esteem accepts. Contingent self-esteem is fickle, going up and down with a person’s ability to produce results. True self-esteem is steadfast, not adventitious. Contingent self-esteem places great store in what others think. True self-esteem is independent of others’ opinions. Acquired self-esteem is a false imitation of true self-esteem: however good it makes one feel in the moment, it does not esteem the self. It esteems only the achievement, without which the self in its own right would be rejected. True self-esteem is who one is; contingent self-esteem is only what one does.”


Gabor Maté, Scattered: How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates and What You Can Do About It
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Scattered: How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates and What You Can Do About It Scattered: How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates and What You Can Do About It by Gabor Maté
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