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Healthy Self Esteem Notes

Creating Healthy Self-Esteem:

Discussion Summary

From a workshop at "It's Their Life:  Supporting Adults with Developmental Disabilities and Autism," April 30, 2011. Elizabeth Batson, moderator. Sally A. and Mark S. panelists


1.    Self esteem comes from a combination of worthiness (self-respect, I am as good as other people) and competence (I can make things happen, I am good at the things that I care about.)

Low self-esteem – missing the sense of worthiness

Fragile high self-esteem – inflated sense of competence

Healthy self-esteem – realistic and positive assessment of self

I am doing the best I can with the tools that I have and I am OK.

2.    Why a diagnosis can be positive

      It gives a specific, limited explanation of the problems already encountered. (“I have auditory processing and memory problems” instead of “I must be stupid.”)

      It creates the potential for reducing or accommodating the impact of the disability.

      Get documentation for the diagnosis – it can help explain the problem to others (family, doctors, employers).

3.    Disability acceptance: Healthy self-esteem is related to awareness and acceptance of the handicap as a part of the self. “I am not my disability.” Instead, self-description is based on strengths. Aware of the challenges but emphasizes own assets and abilities.

4.    Self-acceptance also lets you admit that there are challenges and ask for help without feeling diminished.

5.    Disability pride – accepting all of oneself, not excluding the disability makes it easier to handle discrimination. (It’s their ignorance, not something wrong with me). Being around others who share this perspective makes it easier. (To find others, check out the Silicon Valley Independent Living Center –