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Transforming the Mind ~ by Peter Shepherd


Self-Esteem versus Self-Acceptance

A common misconception is that the assessment of a person's competence and ability is equivalent to a value judgment of the worth of the actual person. Any self-esteem that results from such an identification is a house built of cards that may instantly collapse, when the next action is judged as wrong, incompetent or stupid, and the person therefore as "less worthy".

A more logical, realistic and beneficial approach to the individual is an unconditional acceptance of the core Self. The essential worth of an individual is unarguable, but the personality, the adaptive ego, may carry along maladaptive behaviors like tin cans trailing behind it.

The individual and his learned and practiced behavior patterns or beliefs, are not the same thing. Every person is fallible and prone to make mistakes, indeed that is the only way to learn from experience, and every person is trying to achieve goals in life, whilst surrounded by all the difficulties and struggles that survival necessarily entails.

To accept this about oneself is then to be immune to demands upon others' approval, and gives a greater freedom to act in a way that has reason to be right, rather than because a way is approved of by others.

Unconditional self-acceptance is therefore a more realistic and aware form of self-regard, than self-esteem based on peer approval. And this awareness brings with it the corollary: an unconditional acceptance of the essence of others, friend or foe alike.

To consider the essence of a person as "unacceptable" is to insist that somebody should or must be different from the way they actually are, and that is essentially irrational.

The behavior of self and others, as demonstrated by competence and ability, then remains to be criticised or admired and esteemed, according to the ethics and aesthetics manifested, and this judgment may be rational (when it involves preferences) or irrational (when it involves musts and intolerances). When that judgment is rational then it is a valid criteria for esteem and for self-esteem.

“The essential worth of an individual is unarguable, but the personality, the adaptive ego, may carry along maladaptive behaviors like tin cans trailing behind it.”
The following is a list of beliefs that are irrational, superstitious, or "senseless" but which are universally inculcated in Western Society and would seem inevitably to lead to widespread neurosis, when used compulsively and blindly, to make the self right and others wrong, or by projecting, to make the self wrong and others right:

These fallacious ideas are almost universal in our society, unwittingly installed from earliest childhood from parental and other authoritative influences. They are frequently accompanied by traumatic circumstances that empower their imprinting in the mind, and this results in their repression, so that the source of such beliefs becomes hidden and unknown.

When they have been accepted and re-enforced by continual self-indoctrination, throughout life, they lead to emotional disturbance or neurosis, since they cannot be lived up to. People become inhibited, hostile, defensive, guilty, ineffective, inert, afraid and unhappy. All dissatisfaction in life is because individuals cannot life up to their installed unreasonable "shoulds", "oughts" and "musts".

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