In considering that self-esteem doesn't make better people of us, we came to understand that, based on extensive empirical evidence (Baumeister, 2005; Twenge, 2007), the vast majority of popular beliefs about self-esteem were untrue. It would then appear that we need to develop a new model for encouraging positive self-perception based on the gathering of evidence, rather than on empty statements. More to the point, we come to a place that I often do in my conversations with clients -- "OK, so you've deconstructed my entire belief system ...now what, Doc?" [sic].
I have actually been reframing self-esteem as self-worth with my clients for several years. Frankly, I had no idea that I was taking a progressive position regarding human potential that took into account flaws regarding the modern notion of self esteem. It would appear, however, that I have been doing just that, and quite unwittingly. That said here are my thoughts on the subject.
Self-esteem is self-referential, and does not take into account the social and interactive aspects of self-development. Self-worth, on the other hand, considers the manner in which we perceive ourselves, the manner in which we perceive our social environment, and the manner in which we perceive the social environment perceiving us. It also recognizes how we interact with our social environment with respect to our self-perception, as well as how we then interact with ourselves -- also based on that self-perception. This dynamic is something the concept of self-esteem does not take into account because the notion of self-esteem largely does not acknowledge the transactional nature of human culture, society and relationship.