Self-esteem and Individuation 

From the Latinate root “to appraise; to estimate”, self-”esteem” may be defined as the way we hold or estimate our value in relation to others and the world.  Healthy self-esteem is developed through familial acceptance and respect.  Appropriate parental limit setting promotes safety as well as flexibility, and an early environment that is supportive of individual exploration, experimentation and individuation.

Healthy individuation is indicated by having a clear understanding of one’s own knowledge, values and beliefs, and the ability to 'stand' for them. More individuated people are fully aware of the particular set of principals by which they live that define them as unique and distinct among others in the world. So:

    • They are able to retain a healthy sense of their identify, in the presence of those who are most important to them
    • They know how to nurture themselves well, and so are more capable of tolerating temporary emotional discomfort in order to grow with, and among others
    • They are able to make mistakes and learn from them, without “bashing” themselves
    • They have a sensitivity, an empathy for others, because of their sense of interrelatedness between themselves, and others in the world

The less individuated we are the less autonomous we tend to be.  The lower our self-esteem, the more we tend to rely on the positive reflections of others, for a definition of who we are.  We are by nature, social creatures.  So at the deepest level, there is the longing to feel connected to others, and the fear that we’re not.  Do you tend to be over-accommodating or over-compliant and a ‘people pleaser’ or approval seeker?  Is it easy for you to internalize and believe critical ‘others’ and so hate to get into confrontations and arguments?  The issues of Self-esteem and individuation are such familiar themes in therapy because of their intimate connection to how we relate to others, and the ease with which we cope with the world at large. Michael Meade writes: "At all meaningful turning points in life, issues of self worth becomes crucial..."  The higher our self esteem, the greater our ability to participate well in the world.  The goal of therapy of course is become more aligned with our ‘natural Self’, prior to our domestication: to realize a solidly grounded, competent, individuated Self that feels the freedom to be spontaneously and appropriately ‘real’ in any given moment.

In the Lansing, Michigan area feel free to email or call me with any questions or comments at the address below.

Peter Roseman Psy.S.
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