Our previous blogs have explored some of the challenges white knights must face as they try to rescue themselves from rescuing relationships. Rescuing yourself must also include building or repairing your self-esteem – the emotional and cognitive beliefs about your own value. Optimizing your sense of agency (which we will describe in upcoming blogs) and optimizing your self-esteem will enable you to create a relationship based on mature love rather than one based on a quest to heal or define yourself. Mature love recognizes the reality of your partner; that is, she is a separate individual with her own needs and wishes. Our next several blogs will explore the concept of self-esteem and how white knights can optimize it.
Self-esteem is your estimate or valuation of your own worth, and results from your assessment of your ability to live up to your conscience, as well as your ability to attain your ideals. You are constantly measuring yourself against your ideal self and coming to various conclusions. If you measure up, you feel good, excited, and even elated. If you don’t measure up you may feel depressed, angry, or ashamed. Self-esteem is determined to a great degree by your own comparison of who you believe you are compared to who you would ideally like to be, i.e., your ideal self.
The values by which you judge yourself are likely to change as you mature and as you learn to evaluate potentials and accept limitations. If you have realistic ideals and can generally live up to them, your self-esteem will not be threatened. If your ideals are exaggerated and you cannot reach them, your good feelings from successes may be short lived and you may feel that you are never good enough. The continued hope for the impossible, the expectation that you will or can be unconditionally loved and adored, is not facing reality but rather holding on to an idealized image of yourself and an idealized version of what others can provide. If this is the case, you may be threatened by shame and its resulting depression or feelings of inadequacy for not living up to your unrealistic ideals.
For many white knights, their ideal self involves unrealistic or unattainable goals. Thus when they compare their real self (or their belief about their real self) to their ideal self, they come up lacking. But to lack self-esteem may be just as detrimental as esteeming yourself too highly. Overly empathic white knights tend to underestimate themselves with self-doubt or guilt. Tarnished and terrorizing/terrified white knights falsely inflate their self-esteem by idealizing themselves or diminishing others. At other times, tarnished and terrorizing white knights intensely diminish their self-view which leaves them feeling extreme shame or inadequacy.
White knights, whether they are or over or under valuing themselves, will seek to repair their self esteem by finding romantic partners in need of rescuing – a situation they hope will prove that their real selves match up to their ideal selves. As you have seen from our previous blogs, such a hope is rarely fulfilled and often perpetuates the very feelings about themselves they were trying to fix. Instead, the white knight must find healthy ways to optimize his or her self-esteem, which will be topic of our next blog.
This blog is in no way intended as a substitute for medical or psychological counseling. If expert assistance or counseling is needed, the services of a competent professional should be sought.
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