In some research, I came across an interesting pair of lists for evaluating whether one is crafting a healthy or a harmful way of being in the world, particularly in terms of one’s own self-relation. I will reproduce these lists here, as I think they may be especially helpful for those of us working our way up in the academy and subjecting ourselves to evaluation based on intellectual self-presentation and reputation. These words are taken directly from Terry D. Cooper, Sin, Pride, and Self-Acceptance, 2003, p. 142, although I have combined the lists for ease of presentation. I am presupposing that there is an acceptable, substantive use of the term “self-esteem.”
1.) Neurotic pride is based on the creation of an imaginary self with glorified characteristics one “ought” to have. Healthy self-esteem is based on a realistic assessment of oneself.
2.) Neurotic pride creates a false self that searches relentlessly for glory and triumph. Healthy self-esteem pursues goals in harmony with one’s true being and potential.
3.) Neurotic pride rests primarily on accomplishments, attainments or relationships that have prestige value. Healthy self-esteem rests primarily on qualities of character.
4.) Neurotic pride claims unbounded virtues but needs constant affirmation, is easily hurt and is self-deprecating. Healthy self-esteem acknowledges and accepts personal faults and liabilities without losing self-respect and self-love.
5.) Neurotic pride feels entitled to special favor, privilege and immunity. Healthy self-esteem accepts reality as it is.
6.) Neurotic pride minimizes actual moral flaws and magnifies the value of mere intellectual assent to high ideals. Healthy self-esteem recognizes and accepts moral limitations and fallibility.
7.) Neurotic pride denies, suppress or ignores [the activities of one’s personal “dark side,”], projects them onto others or justifies them as necessary for survival. Healthy self-esteem recognizes [these issues].
8.) Neurotic pride wallows in shame, humiliation and self-contempt when one falls short. Healthy self-esteem may suffer a temporary sense of guilt and regret when one does not live up to his or her ideals.
9.) Neurotic pride is concerned more about image than reality. Healthy self-esteem is concerned more about reality than image.
10.) Neurotic pride cannot endure anything less than perfection without extreme self-recrimination. Healthy self-esteem can embrace personal failure without feeling panic or rage.
11.) Neurotic pride despises vulnerability and lashes back vindictively when pride is wounded. Healthy self-esteem accepts vulnerability.
12.) Neurotic pride forgets, justifies, explains away or blames others for personal failure. Healthy self-esteem accepts responsibility for oneself.
In the spirit of trying to speak from a place of healthy self-esteem about this post, I’ll admit that this list isn’t everything…but it certainly is something. Academics, take heed.