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Mindful : December 2014
don’t fall into the self-esteem trap try a little self-kindness Striving for self-esteem is about trying hard to feel special, above average. It’s absurd. We don’t need to feel extra-special or over the top. We need to touch who we really are in any given moment. By Kristin Neff The great angst of modern life is this: No matter how hard we try, no matter how successful we are, no mat ter how good a parent, worker, or spouse we are—it’s never enough. There is always someone richer, thinner, smarter, or more powerful than we are, someone who makes us feel like a failure in comparison. And failure of any kind is unacceptable. What to do? One response has come in the form of the self- esteem movement. Over the years there have been thousands of books and maga zine a rticles promot- ing self-esteem—how to get it, how to raise it, and how to keep it. It has almost become a truism in our culture that we need to have high self-esteem in order to be happy and healthy. We are told to think positively of ourselves at all costs, like Al Fra nken’s Saturday Night Live character Stuart Smalley who proclaims, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!” But the need to continually evaluate ourselves positively comes at a high price. For instance, high self-esteem usually requires feeling special and above average. To be called average is considered an insult. (“How did you like my performance → Kristin Neff, Ph.D is an associate professor in Human Development and Culture in the Educational Psychology Department, at the University of Texas at Austin and is the author of Self-Compassion and, cofounder of the eight-week Mindful Self-Compassion training program. in practice insight December 2014 mindful 75