What we call self-esteem is, in fact, other-esteem

I have come to believe that the way the term self-esteem is used is actually a misnomer. The first half of the expression, self, would seem to indicate that esteem, the second half of the expression, is derived from one’s self. Yet if we look closer, we find that most people seek a sense of worthiness from that which lies outside of them. For a student, it might come from good grades; for a businessperson or worker, it’s derived from a promotion or a raise; and for most individuals, praise or acknowledgement provide a temporary increase in esteem.

…being approved of or valued by others may make us feel good, but if we betray our authentic self in order to achieve these results, we decimate genuine self-worth. Some individuals become people pleasers and go to great lengths to keep the peace or avoid displeasing others. In such cases, they are not invested in properly valuing their own sense of self. The self becomes subordinate to others’ considerations. 

We modify and mold so much of our behavior and, even more, our personality to achieve other-esteem. We actually create personality masks through this harmful endeavor, many of us presenting to others the person we think they would approve of.

…these masks that we now wear impact them. When we act in this manner, we are truly taking our well being and serving it up to other people…We should never judge ourselves based upon how we think others see us. Yet many people are so sensitive to the judgment of others that they alter their behavior in the drive for other-esteem.

SOURCE Mel Schwartz