Psychology Today - Develop Radical Self-Value


The age of entitlement is, not coincidentally, the age of high self-esteem. Self-esteem, as defined by standard measures, is a function of how we feel about ourselves, based mostly on comparison to others. It often has a hierarchical bias—we’re better than some and, by implication, not as good as others. It has a dark side, as indicated by the research of Roy Baumeister and colleagues, summarized in the book, Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty. High self-esteem tends to create a sense of entitlement. When the world does not meet their entitlement needs, many with high self-esteem feel wronged and retaliate with manipulation, abuse, or violence.

Now here’s the tricky part. In contrast to high self-esteem, with its tendency toward entitlement, people with high self-value necessarily value others. Where self-esteem is hierarchical, self-value is about equality. Here’s why. When we value others, we value ourselves more, i.e., we elevate our sense of well-being and facilitate our health, growth, and development. (Think of how you feel when you’re loving and compassionate to those you love.) When we devalue someone else, we devalue ourselves—our sense of well being deteriorates, we violate our basic humanity to some degree, and become more narrow and rigid in perspective, all of which impair growth and development. (Think of how you feel when you devalue loved ones.) In other words, when you value someone else you experience a state of value—vitality, meaning, and purpose—and when you devalue someone else, you experience a devalued state, wherein the will to live well becomes less important than the will to control or dominate or at least be seen as right.