Be True!

True and false self-esteem

True self-esteem denotes a sound, stable sense of self, founded on the belief in your worth as a human being. It goes together with a well-developed true self in which intrinsic motivation has been maintained, extrinsic limits and regulations have been well integrated, and the ability to manage your emotions has been developed. True self-esteem accompanies freedom and responsibility.

People with true self-esteem have a sense of right or wrong because true self-esteem is accompanied by integrated values and regulations. Such people evaluate their behaviours, but their feelings of self-worth are not contingent on those evaluations. If they make a mistake, it becomes the basis for doing better next time, not a source for guilt and self-blame.

This is equivalent to operating always in the blue zone.

There is a second type of self-esteem that is less stable, less securely based in a fundamental sense of worth. This form of self-esteem is not permanent, it is present under some conditions but not others, and when gone it leaves people deflated and self-critical. This is contingent self-esteem. When people are pressured and controlled to achieve particular outcomes, their self-esteem is often dependent on how things turn out.


A student would feel good about herself if her self-esteem depended on continually doing well at school and she was, in fact, pretty good at her work. But those feelings would be more transient than real. They would also likely take the form of feelings of being better than others rather than simply being good and worthy, which feelings would be based on a more solid sense of self.

This is equivalent to operating with an active red zone, ready to trigger when something goes wrong.

People with true self-esteem can esteem others and accept others' failings rather than judging and deprecating them.

It is the practice of encounter that helps us build true self-esteem in ourselves and in others.

John Corrigan is an expert in helping individuals to bring their whole of mind to their daily life and increase their effectiveness and the effectiveness of those around them. This expertise scales from the individual to the team to the organisation. At the core of this work is the practice of encounter.

John Corrigan