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Rescuing Yourself From White Knight Syndrome (7): Optimal Self-esteem

self-esteem

Unhealthy relationships

Rescuing Yourself From White Knight Syndrome (7): Optimal Self-esteem

What Is Optimal Self-esteem?

Our last blog reviewed the overall concept of self-esteem. White knights tend to overrate or undervalue themselves, which leaves them psychologically vulnerable and in need of frequent reassurance as to their worth. Consequently, they are often attracted to people in need of rescuing, hoping that love and admiration from their rescued partner will repair their self-esteem. However, having self-esteem so contingent upon another’s approval leaves the White Knight in a precarious position and is far from ideal. To enjoy a healthy relationship you must aim for optimal self-esteem.

Self-esteem is an important concept in psychology that, unfortunately, has been trivialized by misconceptions. The notion of promoting self-esteem has become a catchphrase in popular culture, along with the idea that superficial emotional support can augment the self-esteem of others. For example, our child-rearing and educational systems are based on external evaluations of accomplishment and worth. Although children may feel more motivated to learn when they gain the approval of a parent or an admired teacher for performing well, generalized approval that ignores reality may be a deterrent; in fact, it may even promote unhealthy development in children. Providing positive reactions or praise to someone for trivial accomplishments fosters illusion, self-deception, and feelings of fraudulence.

Self-esteem is unhealthy at its extremes. Unjustified and unstable high self-esteem defines narcissism. Whether you have an inflated sense of your own worth or a deflated sense of self-worth, you will be highly sensitive to criticism and slights because you are internally vulnerable. Some people with low self-esteem, and those at the other end of the spectrum with high unrealistic opinions of themselves, are prone to aggressive and controlling behaviors.

Optimal self-esteem is a healthy, balanced sense of inner comfort and security that reflects confidence and satisfaction in your sense of self. At an optimal level, self-esteem can be considered as healthy narcissism. Even so, your self-esteem will vary: there may be times when you experience self-doubt, feel less than satisfied about who you are, overvalue yourself, are subject to inner conflict or stress, or feel insecure if challenged. So, your self-esteem does not always have to be positive or stable for it to be optimal; and brief, periodic fluctuations are quite common. Your self-esteem naturally fluctuates as a result of your moods, experiences, and interactions.

Our next blog will provide some starting points that will help you achieve optimal self-esteem.

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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Dr. Mary Lamia is a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst who works with adults, couples, adolescents, and preteens in her Marin County private practice. She is a professor at the Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. Extending psychological knowledge to the public has been her endeavor for thirty years. Dr. Lamia’s opinion has been sought in hundreds of television, radio, and print media interviews and discussions, and for nearly a decade she hosted a weekly call-in talk show, KidTalk with Dr. Mary, on Radio Disney stations. Her books include: Emotions! Making Sense of Your Feelings; Understanding Myself: A Kid’s Guide to Intense Emotions and Strong Feelings: and, The White Knight Syndrome: Rescuing Yourself From Your Need to Rescue Others.

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