Have you ever wondered why people with large over-blown egos are more likely to succeed than the reserved I-don’t-think-much-of-myself folks?
Both are indicators of self-esteem and versions of judgment: the former I’m better than you, and the latter You’re better than I. If both of these scenarios are the extremes of self-esteem, then how come the over-blown self-esteem is a better option of the two evils than the low self-esteem?
After a recent conversation with someone very dear to me, I think I’ve figured out why: while the over-blown version is annoying, the low self-esteem actually hurts people.
My friend Mary and I were talking about our childhoods. She was the prodigy child, the one with great hopes and talents. Always the A+ student, always on the podium, always collecting awards and medals. Do you know how someone is just born like that? It happens once in a decade per continent, but it happens.
I had a different childhood – I was the forgotten child, often left alone. I could mind my own business because all eyes were on my sister who was a lot like my friend. Academically, I got by just fine, but the focus of all adults around me was on all the great things my sister was going to do.
And that’s what I told my friend as we sat on a patio of an outdoor café, the setting sun softening the mood.
“You’re a lot like my sister. She had it so easy, too.” I said with admiration (and possibly envy).
She looked at me in silence for a long time, quizzically, smile fading.
Finally, she said, “Do you know how hard of a place that is to be? The crushing weight of those expectations of all the adults around you?”
I was taken aback. I had never thought of it this way. I had always thought how easy it must’ve been for someone so great at everything.
This takes me to my point.
If you have low self-esteem, you have a tendency to think others are better than you are. You put them on a pedestal.
People, of course, are flattered if someone thinks they are awesome and amazing and so much better.
Yet being on a pedestal is a challenging and stressful place to be. Now you have to worry about staying there, being constantly concerned whether you are going to be judged, demoted, or kicked off. The fall is hurtful, and the anticipation of it dreadful.
Thus, by thinking of someone more than you think of yourself, you’re robbing them of the chance of being themselves, regardless of how good or bad they are. Instead, you put them in a position of needing to keep up a role.
The higher the pedestal, the bigger the fear of falling, the heavier the burden of standing there.
But if you put them into the dirt, as the jerks of our world do, people have a chance to be themselves, knowing they can no longer fall. The only way is up. Even though it’s not an ideal place to be, it’s safer.
Thus, if your self-esteem is low, you may be thinking you are complementing others by implying they are better than you. The truth is, you are actually hurting them with unrealistic expectations.
You do this by allowing yourself to be equal to others. Not better and not worse, but equal.
Photo by Chris Curry. Thank you!