Self-esteem vs self-acceptance: Which is more important?


When it comes to discussing mental health, self-esteem and self-acceptance are important topics.  But what’s the difference between self-esteem and self-acceptance?

Self-esteem is a measure of how we think we compare to others. But, because others can change, so too can our self-esteem. Self-acceptance, on the other hand, is timeless and enduring. It is achieved through practices like mindfulness meditation and self-care.

Which is more valuable, self-esteem or self-acceptance?  Well, self-esteem can bring us short-term happiness, but self-acceptance is more satisfying in the long-run.

What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem is a measure of how favourably we think we compare to others in relation to:

  • Wealth
  • Intelligence
  • Strength and fitness
  • Creativity
  • Career success
  • Physical beauty
  • The ability to care for and nurture others
  • Morals and ethics
    ..and more

To understand how high your self-esteem is, ask yourself ‘how does the world see me?’ Your self-esteem is mostly determined by what you think others think about you.

See a problem with that? Well, it’s incredibly difficult to know what others are thinking about you. Added to which, people’s opinions are changing constantly. In this light, self-esteem doesn’t seem like a very useful or reliable measure of self-worth.  

What is healthy self-esteem?

When clinical psychologists talk about ‘healthy self-esteem’, they’re referring to people who have a reasonably positive self-image.

If you’ve got ‘healthy self-esteem’, you believe you can ‘compete’ in at least a couple of the above categories… Perhaps you work harder than most of your colleagues or perhaps you’re a better mum than your peers. Or, perhaps, your creativity is what sets you apart from others…

On the other hand, if you have unhealthy self-esteem, this either means you think too much of yourself, or you underestimate your capabilities. These two polarities are associated with lower levels of emotional intelligence.

How does self-esteem impact our lives?

Self-esteem can have a big impact on the way we live our lives. After all, it is the lens through which we interpret our external world. It also dictates the way we speak to ourselves. In turn, this determines the life-choices we make and the risks we decide to take.

For example, let’s say you have low self-esteem, and you assume that most other people are more intelligent than you. In your day to day life, your brain will seek out evidence to confirm or refute this belief. And, due to confirmation bias, you are more likely to focus on the things that prove rather than disprove that you are unintelligent and unworthy.  

As a result, you’ll dwell on past mistakes and avoid taking risks in the future. You’ll probably choose a job that is not very demanding, and which never forces you to learn new skills. Because of this, you’ll never find any evidence to disprove your self-image, and you’ll spend a lifetime believing you are incapable.

This is the vicious circle that we hear so much about in mental health!

 Is self-esteem fixed?

The other important thing to note about self-esteem is that it often changes throughout the lifespan. Big life events such as losing our job or getting married can impact our self-esteem – for better or worse.

As mentioned, our self-esteem depends on how we think we compare to others, and since others are constantly changing, our self-esteem is also likely to shift, too.

The good news is that, although self-esteem cannot be relied on during times of upheaval, self-acceptance can!

What is self-acceptance?

Whilst a healthy amount of self-esteem can help you to succeed in this world, self-acceptance is the only thing that can bring you pure joy and contentment.

Self-acceptance is constant and timeless; unlike self-esteem, it doesn’t shift depending on what’s happening in your life. Truly accepting yourself means that, even if you lose your job, your spouse or your home – you’ll show yourself compassion. You won’t beat yourself up for being less employable, less lovable, or less wealthy than those around you.

Ironically, once you truly accept yourself, it will appear to the outside world as if you have a ‘healthy level of self-esteem’. But, in fact, you will have gone beyond self-esteem. According to Tolle, once you fully accept yourself, you’ll no longer feel the need to compare yourself to others. In other words, you’ll see that a life guided wholly by self-esteem is ultimately unsatisfying.

Self-acceptance: A refuge from constant change

Self-acceptance is similar to the concept of mindfulness in that it provides refuge from a constantly changing world. We cannot control our external world, but we can gain a sense of peace by fully accepting the world (and ourselves). Eckhart Tolle captures this sentiment perfectly when he says:

“To offer no resistance to life is to be in a state of grace, ease and lightness. This state is then no longer dependent upon things being in a certain way, good or bad.” 

Similarly, you may be familiar with the popular phrase ‘It is what it is’. I experience a sense of calm upon hearing this statement because it reminds me that, although I may not be able to change my life situation, I can fully accept it.

Isn’t self-acceptance just resignation?

Mindfulness and self-acceptance are often criticised because they seem to suggest that people should just accept their life circumstances – even if they’re experiencing something terrible like abuse.

But self-acceptance is not the same as resignation or submission. Rather, it is a willingness to fully embrace (and understand) your situation. Then, from this position of total acceptance, you can decide how to move forward constructively (if necessary).

The alternative to self-acceptance is that you repress emotions that make you feel uncomfortable and which you don’t want to deal with. Later on, these repressed feelings can turn into addictions or other mental health issues.

Can you have strong self-acceptance and low self-esteem?

No, not really. It’s true that you may fully accept yourself and compare unfavourably to others in terms of worldly pursuits (such as wealth, strength, career success etc.). However, the point is that comparing yourself to others wouldn’t be high on your agenda, so your self-esteem would not appear low. Also, people who practise self-acceptance aren’t at the mercy of their inner critic, so they’re unlikely to exhibit the behaviours associated with low self-esteem.

Can you have poor self-acceptance and high self-esteem?

Yes, you can be unaccepting towards yourself, but have seemingly high self-esteem. In fact, inflated self-esteem is often caused by an intense fear of not being good enough. As we’ve already discussed, relying on high self-esteem to give you a sense of satisfaction can cause suffering, because, one day, you’ll no longer be able to ‘compete’ in the areas you once succeeded in.  

How to practise self-acceptance

Self-acceptance is the basis for achieving joy, peace, and contentment. Whilst self-esteem plays a role in the way you interact with the world, self-acceptance is necessary for building a solid relationship with yourself.

So, you might be wondering, ‘how can I truly love and accept myself?’ Surely it should be easy, otherwise, I would have done it by now. First, let go of the belief you ‘should have’ accepted yourself by now, because that in itself is an unaccepting thought.  Then, consider these tips:

  1. Tell the truth

Sometimes, we tell ‘white lies’ about the jobs we have, the neighbourhoods we live in, or the qualifications we’ve earned in order to cover up things we are ashamed of. Telling the truth is the ultimate expression that we have accepted ourselves just as we are. Practise truth-telling daily and see the results.

  • Be quiet and still

To practise acceptance of the present moment (I.e. mindfulness), practise sitting quietly and observing your thoughts. If mindfulness meditation doesn’t appeal to you, other activities like walking in nature, Pilates, running or drawing can help to encourage acceptance.

  • Acknowledge your inner critic

The more mindful you become, the more you will be able to recognise your inner critic. This is the voice inside the head which says things like “You aren’t worthy of that job; you better quit now before you get sacked”.

It’s important to acknowledge this inner dialogue rather than suppress it. In fact, the simple act of acknowledging it will, in some ways, dissolve it.

This is because, if you practise ‘watching’ this inner critic, you’ll realise that it can’t possibly be all of you – there must be something else. And if this critic is only a small part of you, you’re less likely to believe the nasty things it says about you. 

  • Practise accepting others

Accepting others (warts and all) can help you on your journey to self-acceptance. So, when a friend does something to annoy you, resist the urge to point out their flaws. Don’t try to change them, either. Try to love and accept other humans for the people they are. This will have an indescribably positive effect on others as well as yourself.

  • Face your fears  

As mentioned, self-esteem is a measure of how we think we compare to others. So, to protect our self-esteem, we often pick tasks we know we can excel at, and leave those that will expose our perceived weaknesses.

The problem with this type of behaviour is that it can stunt our growth and leave us feeling unfulfilled.

The beauty of self-acceptance is that it encourages us to step out of our comfort zone in pursuit of new experiences. This is because the stakes aren’t particularly high if we don’t ‘succeed’. After all, self-acceptance is more liberating than self-esteem because it removes the need to compare favourably to others.

So, if you want to practise true self-acceptance, facing your fears (and mindfully embracing the results) is the most powerful step you can take! No matter how ‘healthy’ your self-esteem is, it cannot bring you the same type of deep satisfaction that self-acceptance can.

Mindowl Weekly

Sign up to our free weekly newsletter, to have early access to new articles on Meditation, Psychology and Breathwork.  Enter your email to subscribe – emails are limited to one a week and your address will not be shared with anyone else.

Follow us on Instagram

254 Posts
5668 Followers

Mindowl

Go beyond the meditation app!
Free resources:
👇👇👇

We find ourselves in our own world a lot of the time & lost in thought, even when talking to our loved ones, friends and colleagues. 💭

Mindful communication involves applying the principles of mindfulness to the way we communicate with each other, labelling our thoughts, feelings, and emotions to enhance our awareness. 

By being mindful about how we interact with others, we can become more empathetic, compassionate, and honest. 💗

Find out more ➡️ mindowl.org/mindful-communication/

#meditation #mindfulness #peaceofmind #compassion #selfawareness #wellbeing #mindfulmoment #dailycalm #mindfulcommunication #quietthemind #selfacceptance #practicemindfulness #mindfulmeditation We find ourselves in our own world a lot of the time & lost in thought, even when talking to our loved ones, friends and colleagues. 💭

Mindful communication involves applying the principles of mindfulness to the way we communicate with each other, labelling our thoughts, feelings, and emotions to enhance our awareness. 

By being mindful about how we interact with others, we can become more empathetic, compassionate, and honest. 💗

Find out more ➡️ mindowl.org/mindful-communication/

#meditation #mindfulness #peaceofmind #compassion #selfawareness #wellbeing #mindfulmoment #dailycalm #mindfulcommunication #quietthemind #selfacceptance #practicemindfulness #mindfulmeditation
If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. 😊

If you want to be happy, practice compassion. 🤗

#quote #quoteoftheday #quotestoliveby #motivation #inspiration #inspirationquotes #livinginthemoment #mindfulmoment If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. 😊

If you want to be happy, practice compassion. 🤗

#quote #quoteoftheday #quotestoliveby #motivation #inspiration #inspirationquotes #livinginthemoment #mindfulmoment
One of the first steps you need to take in order to begin enjoying the simple pleasures in life is to slow down. 😊

Take a moment to stop what you are doing. 🚫

1️⃣ Draw your attention to your breath (this will ground you in the current moment).

2️⃣ Notice your breath entering and leaving your body.

3️⃣ Next, firmly plant your feet on the ground and draw your attention to this sensation.

4️⃣ Keep your attention and awareness directed at the breath or your feet on the ground, any time it moves away draw it back with patience.

5️⃣ Continue on with your day. 

This is a great way to introduce mindfulness into your life, you are simply making sure that your awareness is directed at the current moment. 🧘‍♂️

#presentmoment #selfawareness #innerwork #livinginthemoment #mindfulmoment #emotionalintelligence #wellbeing #wanderingmind #quietthemind #meditationsoul #livinginthenow  #calmthemind #livemindfully #practicemindfulness #mindfulmeditation #mindfulness One of the first steps you need to take in order to begin enjoying the simple pleasures in life is to slow down. 😊

Take a moment to stop what you are doing. 🚫

1️⃣ Draw your attention to your breath (this will ground you in the current moment).

2️⃣ Notice your breath entering and leaving your body.

3️⃣ Next, firmly plant your feet on the ground and draw your attention to this sensation.

4️⃣ Keep your attention and awareness directed at the breath or your feet on the ground, any time it moves away draw it back with patience.

5️⃣ Continue on with your day. 

This is a great way to introduce mindfulness into your life, you are simply making sure that your awareness is directed at the current moment. 🧘‍♂️

#presentmoment #selfawareness #innerwork #livinginthemoment #mindfulmoment #emotionalintelligence #wellbeing #wanderingmind #quietthemind #meditationsoul #livinginthenow  #calmthemind #livemindfully #practicemindfulness #mindfulmeditation #mindfulness
Flow states are moments when you are deeply connected & engaged in an activity, and therefore living in the present moment. 🧘

Whether it's sport, writing, drawing or even cleaning, flow states are a great reminder that mindful living doesn't always mean regular deep meditation - mindfulness is everywhere. 🍃

Read more ➡️ mindowl.org/effortless-meditation

#mindfulness #meditation #selfawareness #selfcompassion #innerwork #practicemindfulness #livinginthemoment #selflove #selfcare #mindfulmeditation #mindfulliving Flow states are moments when you are deeply connected & engaged in an activity, and therefore living in the present moment. 🧘

Whether it's sport, writing, drawing or even cleaning, flow states are a great reminder that mindful living doesn't always mean regular deep meditation - mindfulness is everywhere. 🍃

Read more ➡️ mindowl.org/effortless-meditation

#mindfulness #meditation #selfawareness #selfcompassion #innerwork #practicemindfulness #livinginthemoment #selflove #selfcare #mindfulmeditation #mindfulliving
There are a number of breathwork exercises that aim to make you feel more energised. 🏃

These types of breathwork include the Wim Hof Method, the 5-3-3 technique, and ‘Breath of Fire’. 🔥

Energising breathwork practice is far more healthy than using caffeine or sugar to liven yourself up. 🥤

So put down that cup of coffee, and give the incredible power of breathwork for energy a go. 💪

🔴 mindowl.org/breathwork-for-energy

#breathingexercise #breathing #mediation #exercise #mindbody #motivation #happiness #meditationsoul #selfcareseries #inspiration #mindfulnessteacher #wellbeing #mindfulmoment #wellness #mindfulmeditation #practicemindfulness #mindbodysoul #groundyourself #learn #breathworkmeditation #breathdeeply #yoga #zen
Putting in the maximum amount of continuous effort isn't always the answer, besides what society tells us. 💭

The art of effortless meditation is about stopping the search for "more" and instead focusing on what you already have. Stop worrying or waiting for something greater than what's happening right now. 💗

Wu Wei closely relates to the goal of effortless action. ✨

Find out more ➡️ mindowl.org/effortless-meditation

#mindfulness #meditation #innerwork #selflove #practicemindfulness #livinginthemoment #selfcare #mindfulmeditation #quietthemind #effortlessaction #artofdoingnothing
We understand selfishness as lacking consideration for others and being concerned only with personal gain and pleasure, yet doing the things which contribute towards a genuinely happy and meaningful life, can be intelligently selfish. 

Doing what's best for others is the same as doing what's best for yourself. ✨

This can be practiced through Tonglen Meditation, which helps cultivate an inner peace of mind by extending compassion towards others. 🙏

Find out more ➡️ mindowl.org/tonglen-meditation/

#meditation #mindfulness #peaceofmind #compassion #selfawareness #wellbeing #mindfulmoment #tonglenmeditation #quietthemind #selfacceptance #practicemindfulness #mindfulmeditation #dailycalm We understand selfishness as lacking consideration for others and being concerned only with personal gain and pleasure, yet doing the things which contribute towards a genuinely happy and meaningful life, can be intelligently selfish. 

Doing what's best for others is the same as doing what's best for yourself. ✨

This can be practiced through Tonglen Meditation, which helps cultivate an inner peace of mind by extending compassion towards others. 🙏

Find out more ➡️ mindowl.org/tonglen-meditation/

#meditation #mindfulness #peaceofmind #compassion #selfawareness #wellbeing #mindfulmoment #tonglenmeditation #quietthemind #selfacceptance #practicemindfulness #mindfulmeditation #dailycalm
Change is inevitable. It is important to focus on our relationship to change, one of the certain elements of life. 💭

To move with the fluctuation of life, change has to be embraced. We can choose to swim with the tide, or against it. 🧘

#mindfulness #meditation #selfawareness #selfcompassion #innerwork #practicemindfulness #livinginthemoment #selflove #selfcare #mindfulmeditation #inevitablechange Change is inevitable. It is important to focus on our relationship to change, one of the certain elements of life. 💭

To move with the fluctuation of life, change has to be embraced. We can choose to swim with the tide, or against it. 🧘

#mindfulness #meditation #selfawareness #selfcompassion #innerwork #practicemindfulness #livinginthemoment #selflove #selfcare #mindfulmeditation #inevitablechange
There is so much more to life, so much to experience when we simply notice. Don't let life pass you by, be present and be human. 💗

#quoteoftheday #quote #quotestoliveby #mindfulness #meditation #mindfulmeditation #livinginthemoment #quietthemind #mindfulmoment #livinginthenow #selfawareness #inspirationquotes #inspiration #innerpeace There is so much more to life, so much to experience when we simply notice. Don't let life pass you by, be present and be human. 💗

#quoteoftheday #quote #quotestoliveby #mindfulness #meditation #mindfulmeditation #livinginthemoment #quietthemind #mindfulmoment #livinginthenow #selfawareness #inspirationquotes #inspiration #innerpeace
We live in such a busy and fast pace environment, that we look past the beauty around us. In every moment of life there is something to be grateful for, you just need to look to find it. 🌞

Slow down and appreciate the small things in life. This can lead to an overall feeling of contentment day-to-day. 

Write down three things you are grateful for every night before bed, and watch your life transform as you train your mind to see the positive in each moment. ☕️

#mindfulness #selfcareseries #meditation #gratitude #practicegratitude #mindfulsoul #mindfulmoment #peacefulness #selflove #selfcare #presentmoment #groundyourself #livinginthemoment #mindfulmeditation #reflection
It’s important to follow some practical steps when seeking to achieve an intentional life. 🏃‍♀️

Start by making more Towards moves, and less Away moves. Towards moves are healthy habits that align with the sort of person we want to be. 🤸‍♂️

Away moves are ineffective and unhelpful; they hook us to difficult thoughts, emotions and behaviours. 😔

Consciously implementing intentional living can help reproduce more towards moves. 🧘‍♀️

🔴 mindowl.org/intentional-living

#mindfulness #happiness #inspiration #intentionalliving #lifestyle #wellbeing #selfcare #mindfulmoment #presentmoment #innerwork #learn #practice #calmthemind #peacefulness #groundyourself It’s important to follow some practical steps when seeking to achieve an intentional life. 🏃‍♀️

Start by making more Towards moves, and less Away moves. Towards moves are healthy habits that align with the sort of person we want to be. 🤸‍♂️

Away moves are ineffective and unhelpful; they hook us to difficult thoughts, emotions and behaviours. 😔

Consciously implementing intentional living can help reproduce more towards moves. 🧘‍♀️

🔴 mindowl.org/intentional-living

#mindfulness #happiness #inspiration #intentionalliving #lifestyle #wellbeing #selfcare #mindfulmoment #presentmoment #innerwork #learn #practice #calmthemind #peacefulness #groundyourself
Tonglen meditation is a type of ancient practice focused on compassion. It is a type of visualisation that enhances feelings of compassion towards others. 😌

The word Tonglen is Tibetan for "sending and taking" which is exactly what this practice aims to do. It allows you to focus on the wellbeing of others, stepping away from the usual self-centred approach of our busy daily lives. 🧘‍♂️

Follow this exercise to cultivate the power of Tonglen Meditation. 

Find out more ➡️ mindowl.org/tonglen-meditation/

#meditation #mindfulness #compassion #selfawareness #meditationexercise #tonglenmeditation #innerpeace #quietthemind #meditationmoment #healing #wellbeing

MORE FROM THE BLOG

Keep on reading

Effortless meditation? Can meditation ever be effortless? The title of today’s article may seem like a welcome break from society’s rhetoric that in order to be successful we must be willing “to give 110%”. This phrase sums up the unrealistic standards that exist around the subject of effort; but is

Read More

In today’s hectic modern world, in which excess and selfishness are often encouraged, it can take great time and effort to develop a simple life based around your core values and needs. Our lives are full of personal and professional tasks that swallow up our energy and time, without giving

Read More

Meditation vs Mindfulness. So – what is the difference between meditation and mindfulness? That is a question that we get from our students here frequently. With the increased popularity of mindfulness around the world, these two words get used almost interchangeably, when in fact they do not mean the same

Read More
{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}
>