Many of us struggle with healthy self-esteem, however not many realize that grandiosity — or thinking that you’re better than others — is actually unhealthy self-esteem.  Many people think that if someone is full of himself or herself that they have an overabundance of self-esteem.  This thinking could not be further from the truth.

Someone who practices healthy self-esteem is very grounded in the premise that they have inherent worth.  They’re also very grounded in the belief that their worth is neither better than the worth of others nor less than the worth of others.  We are all equal — no-one more so, no-one less so.  People who act as if they are better than others struggle with self-esteem to the same degree as people who think they’re less than others.  It just shows up differently. 

When we take a one-up position with someone, we feel toxic to be around.  This is true for bosses, parents, men and women.  The reason we feel so toxic to be around is because we are.  Grandiosity is about looking down our noses at others or feeling entitled to do what we want despite the impact of our behavior on others.  The core energy in grandiosity is contempt.  Trust me — being on the other side of someone’s contempt is not a fun place to be.

Almost every human being slips into a one-up or grandiose position at times in life; this is just our humanity.  In fact, I was acting very one-up with an operator after waiting over two hours for AAA to come start my car.  Even though they were off in how they handled everything, it did not give me the right to talk to the person the way I did.  I was one-up and I knew it.  And yes, I’m sure it was not fun to be on the other side of me — it never is when someone is being grandiose.  I’m sure some of you can relate to the frustrations of talking to a customer service person who is doing anything but providing you with good customer service.  If you’ve ever lost it on one of these calls, then know you went one up and were likely toxic to be in a conversation with.  You were toxic even if they were wrong.

There’s a difference, however, between having a one-up moment versus living comfortably in a grandiose state.  There will be moments when our humanity takes over and we are not at our best, moments where we are judging others, sneering at someone or talking down to a person.  If these moments are few and far between, then learn to repair them and work to make them even less than they are now—and know you will never be perfect.  For those, however, who tend to ride in a one-up position, many moments are filled with entitlement or grandiosity.  It’s common for people who tend to be one-up to judge others, laugh at others’ stupidity or make comments about other people’s “flaws,” etc.  For those who are often in grandiosity, you may tend to be highly reactive and intense.  You may also yell at your employees, make snide comments about people who seem less educated, not dressed as well as you or … (fill in the blank).

I’ve seen too many bosses, parents, men and women ride in a one-up position.  When you are one-up, you are toxic to be around.  It does not matter if the person on the other side of you did the dumbest thing in the world;  if you’re spewing contempt back at them…you are off.  Our world does not need more contempt.  For every person you turn up your nose to there will be ten more who will turn their noses up to you.  Stop the energy of contempt from flowing through our world.  Clean up your energy and refuse to think you are better than anyone or less than anyone.  The truth is…you are not.  Hold yourself in warm regard and know you matter; also know that everyone else in the world matters, too. 

CHALLENGE: For the next week, watch your energy of contempt.  Refuse to yell, look down your nose at someone or make disparaging remarks.  Notice how difficult this is.  Be positive and have humility.

Lisa Merlo-Booth is a relationship coach. She has over 15 years of experience in the field of therapy and coaching and has worked with individuals, families and couples on a variety of life issues.She earned her Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology from Pepperdine University in 1991 and has received her coaching training from Coach University.Lisa is the Director of Training for the Relational Life Institute owned by the renowned author, Terrence Real. Check out Lisa’s blog on relationships at
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