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Achieving a Balanced View of Self-Esteem


April 7, 2018

Addiction recovery requires that you believe in yourself because after all, no one else can force your recovery. 

Hopelessness and entrenched, active addiction go together due to the physiological, psychological, and societal consequences that follow from addiction. Therefore, to do the work of completing rehab and maintaining addiction recovery, it is necessary to believe in your own power to accomplish it.

Self-esteem has long been touted as the key to success, a characteristic with no downside, yet don’t we all know at least one person with an over-inflated ego and a sense of entitlement whom nobody can stand to be around? There is no question that self-esteem is important, but it must be genuine and earned, and it must come from within, and not from the approval of other people.

Relationships Between Self-Esteem, Addiction, and Co-Occurring Disorders

The relationship between self-esteem and addiction has been studied in depth, and the scientific literature suggests that low self-esteem is not a risk factor for drug and alcohol abuse. However, low self-esteem does appear to be a risk factor for depression and suicide, though it is only one among many factors.

Addiction and co-occurring mental illnesses like depression are commonplace, so it is important that someone struggling with one or more of these illnesses understand what self-esteem can and cannot do, and when high self-esteem can actually hinder sustained addiction recovery.

When Does “Good Self-Esteem” Become Toxic?

To perhaps oversimplify, self-esteem can tip over into arrogance and entitlement when it is externally imposed and not earned based on accomplishments. In other words, the person who is repeatedly told he or she is special and wonderful despite neither trying nor accomplishing anything worthwhile can assume a sense of self-esteem that is hollow and not beneficial. 

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Self-esteem becomes arrogance and pomposity when it is unearned or relies upon tearing down others.

It has been argued that low self-esteem can be beneficial in motivating people to make positive changes, while inflated self-esteem can lead to conceited or self-satisfied behavior without accompanying benefits like better self-control, good relationships, or motivation to succeed. After all, if you are constantly told you are “the best” or “special” despite not trying, then why bother to try at all?

How to Distinguish Healthy Self-Esteem from Entitled Arrogance

Healthy self-esteem encompasses others rather than being at the expense of others. Your self-esteem should not focus only on you but should embrace the successes of others. When a person’s sense of accomplishment is somehow lessened by another person’s success, then the self-esteem is not genuine. 

Additionally, healthy self-esteem ultimately comes from within rather than being imposed from the outside. The person who insists on external validation for even the smallest achievement is the person who has not developed confidence organically, from within. No one is arguing that it is bad to be recognized by others for a job well done. In fact, being recognized for authentic accomplishments is a wonderful thing. The key is that it is earned, rather than doled out like cookies at snack time. Addiction recovery will include moments where others recognize the hard work you have done, but the real satisfaction comes from having actually done that work yourself. 

Sometimes addiction recovery can feel like an endless process of treading fine lines, the fine line between self-care and self-indulgence, the fine line between standing up for yourself and tearing others down, and the fine line between self-confidence and arrogance. The right addiction recovery support can help people in recovery do this successfully. If you have any questions about sustained addiction recovery, we invite you to contact us today.

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