We have updated our Privacy Policy Please take a moment to review it. By continuing to use this site, you agree to the terms of our updated Privacy Policy.

Rethinking Self-Esteem: Busting Myths and Offering Solutions

It is a widely held belief that those who are more successful and higher above the average are happier and more satisfied with themselves and their lives than those below average. But if this were true, then anyone in the lower half of society in terms of intelligence and success is doomed to have low self-esteem. On a mission to bust some of these myths about mental wellness and self-esteem is mental health coach, motivational speaker and author Judith Belmont. Read on to see what she has to say!


In a recent interview on the topic of Self-Esteem, I was recently asked by a journalist why people who are successful and high achievers so often have surprisingly low self-esteem.  Additionally, many of us wonder how people who seem to “have it all” are still plagued by self-doubt. The assumptions that people who have outward success have high self-esteem underlie the myth that many of us erroneously hold to be true: i.e. that the more above average you are, the better you will feel about yourself and your life.  If that was true, then anyone in the lower 50 % percent in society in terms of intelligence and success are doomed to have low self-esteem due to being below average!

Luckily for half of the world who are in the lower half by society’s standards, these outdated notions have been proven false by current psychological research.The following are three common myths of self-esteem that really don’t work, and new researched based findings that do!


Myth #1:

People who are smarter than average and are high achievers have higher self-esteem than their less accomplished counterparts.

The Reality:

Your sense of self-fulfillment, self-esteem and even happiness is not based on comparing yourself with others.  In fact, that is a set-up for misery.  No matter how smart or successful you are, there is always someone smarter and more successful.  Once you play the comparison game, your self-esteem will not be in your hands, but only in comparing yourself with others.

Measuring your worth based on being better than others leads to a lot of insecurity and stress. There are always people who are smarter, thinner, more attractive, wealthier, more popular, more famous, have better kids and better stuff.

The Solution – Gratitude and Self-Acceptance:

Trading jealousy and envy for self-acceptance paves the way to a life of gratitude for what you have rather than bitterness for what you don’t.

Comparing yourself with yourself is the only way to gain self-esteem. Trying to be better than yesterday, learning from your setbacks and mistakes gives the power back to you and not others.

Don’t you deserve to love yourself without using others as a yardstick for your self worth?


Myth #2:

Being hard on yourself makes you “better” and prevents you from “letting up” from doing your best.

The Reality:

The one sure thing that being hard on yourself does is to increase your anxiety and perfectionism.  Many people who are smart enough to go to the most prestigious school and get the highest level jobs are all too often stressed, perfectionistic and notoriously hard on themselves.  Those who are image-obsessed, wanting the perfect body and features, can end up with eating disorders, constant anxiety and even excessive plastic surgery.  Striving for perfection is a self-esteem robber. You are not only as good as your last success – you are good no matter if you succeed or fall short, or if you are 15 pounds overweight or your ideal weight.

The Solution – Heal Self-Recriminations with Self-Compassion:

Try self-compassion instead of conditional self-esteem. Self-compassion allows you to love yourself unconditionally, and accept yourself without any preconditions to being perfect or even above average. When you are self compassionate you are self-loving, forgiving, and kind to yourself even when you fail.

Self-Compassion does not mean the you don’t try to be better and to strive for your goals. It doesn’t mean you let up on yourself and not to try to lose those extra pounds. It’s just that you don’t beat yourself up if things don’t work out the way you expect. Most people – especially high achievers –  are too hard on themselves and say things to themselves that they would never say to a good friend.

Are you willing to talk the way you would to a best friend? Don’t you deserve it? 


Myth #3:

The better your accomplishments, the better you feel about yourself.

The Reality:

It has been often believed that the more you reach your goals, the better you feel about yourself. This belief focuses on outcomes and not effort and commitment. No matter how hard we try, we can not often control our outcomes. No matter how much effort we give, the outcome might fall short of our expectations. This does not mean you are one of life’s losers.

The Solution – Replace a Fixed Mindset to a Growth Mindset:

Research by Carol Dweck has found that those with a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset are happier and more self-loving. She has pioneered research in the field of Mindset Science which focuses on the importance of having a flexible mindset. A growth mindset focuses on effort rather than success.  She has found that those who reward themselves for their efforts rather than measure their worth by their accomplishments will be more resilient in good times and bad.

So isn’t it time to stop evaluating you worth based on your outcomes, shifting your focus instead to your effort and commitment? How about giving yourself an “A” for effort ?

The next time you look “out there” for good feelings about yourself, remind yourself that self-esteem can only be gained from the inside out. It is truly is an inside job. Despite the temporary high that our accomplishments and victories in life can give us, truly the greatest victory of all is to refuse to play the comparison game, to master the art of self-compassion, and have a growth mindset. As you master these three vital elements to self-esteem, you will truly be able to Embrace Your Greatness.


Judith Belmont, MS, LPC is an online mental health coach, motivational speaker and author of Embrace Your Greatness: 50 Ways to Build Unshakeable Self-Esteem.