Some basics about Self-Esteem
It is pretty common to confound self-esteem with arrogance, egotism, narcissism, self-worship, even selfishness. But all these are negative traits, and will eventually hurt you or those around you, while self-esteem is positive, constructive, propositional and healthy, for you and those around you.
The Oxford Dictionary defines Self-Esteem as following: “Confidence in one’s own worth or abilities; self-respect.”
In the Merriam-Webster you can read: “A confidence and satisfaction in oneself: self-respect.”
Kendra Cherry, in About.com, says, “In psychology, the term Self-Esteem is used to describe a person’s overall sense of self-worth or personal value. Self-esteem is often seen as a personality trait, which means that it tends to be stable and enduring. Self-esteem can involve a variety of beliefs about the self, such as the appraisal of one’s own appearance, beliefs, emotions and behaviors.”
I like the one from Mr. Nathaniel Branden, “The experience of being competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and being worthy of happiness.” It is simple, straight to the point, and encompassing.
Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) included self-esteem in his hierarchy of needs. He described two different forms of self-esteem: the need for respect from others, and the need for self-respect, or inner self-esteem.
Someone suffering low self-esteem does not feel worthy, he sabotages himself everytime, and set excuses for everything that may give him a better quality of life. He feels bad about himself everyday. Well, we all might feel bad about ourselves every now and then, but when there are too many days feeling bad, then it is better to see what is going on.
People with low self-esteem are worried about other people’s opinions, they are always trying to fit in, and they are even willing to change the real way they are just to feel accepted by others, and it makes no difference whether they like themselves, as long as they are accepted by someone they consider worthy to look up.
He does not see himself worthy of respect from others, so he may let other people disrespect him, and take advantage of him, and since he lives by the opinion of other people he will not respect himself either. Kind of like the wife whose husband beats up, she may as well say, "beat me, but don't leave me!" They rather being mistreated than being alone, because they think they are not worthy by themselves. That is the reason it is so normal to hear someone saying, "I love you! I need you", as if they were synonyms. "I can't live without you!" "If you leave me I'll kill myself, and it will be your responsibility!" All the previous sentences are examples of low-self-esteem talking. They measure their own value by being with other person, and since they don't love themselves they think no one else will want to be with them, so they rather being in this harmful situation than being alone.
The previous can also happen in a parent-child relationship. The child is always looking for his parents approval and recognition, and if he does not get it he feels unaccepted, therefore he suffers, so he will look for that acceptance some place else, and he will do anything to feel accepted, and he will feel everytime more rejection from his parents.
He will not consider himself capable of taking challenges, consequently will not grow, and a person who is not growing feels dissatisfied, unhappy, even miserable. Sooner than later that person is going to lose the will to live, and is going to hate himself.
Dr. Joe Rubino puts it like this, “We often see low self-esteem associated with criminal activities, drug and alcohol addiction, poverty, violent behavior, eating disorders, educational dropouts and low socio-economic status.”
Low self-esteem is going to trick you into thinking that you are a victim of the life you got. You are going to believe that your situation is the worst; and you will honestly feel it that way, but it will not mean it is true. Maybe my situation is really bad, but I would rather to think that everybody has different struggles, and they are difficult in different ways for everyone, instead of thinking that I get the worst from life. Why would I want to see it like this? Because when I think my situation is the worst, I go back to the starting point, where I think I am a victim. I will repeat over and over that life is not fair, that I got the worst of it, and sooner than later the message of me being worthy of the worst will print in my mind.
The Environment Effect
Kids in school can be very cruel, and they can make worse a self-image that was already bad. The friends we choose might have a positive or negative effect over us. Too many times the environment —including television, beauty magazines, and so on— promotes a false sense beauty.
This is a personal story. When I was a little boy I was in a class at school and the teacher started talking about beauty. He said, “Beauty is everything, it is what you first see, it is what calls your attention, and it is what makes you fall in love with someone.” A classmate of mine got really angry because of what the teacher was saying, so she replied right away, “That is so not true! You can fall in love with someone when you get to know how he is like inside.” The teacher quickly answered back, “I never said what kind of beauty I was talking about, there are different kinds of beauty, there is the external one, and there is also the internal one. You heard me saying ‘beauty’ and you just assumed I was referring to the physical one. We all tend to do that (talking to the whole class now); we think beauty is what meets the eye, but the external beauty is nothing without the inner one.” Those words made quite an impression on me. He was right, so many times we hear something about beauty and we tend to think about the external one, and we forget the internal one is maybe even more important, but we just don’t pay it much attention that often.
If we do not meet the stereotype of beauty (the external one), the misconception in our environment could lead us to think that we are ugly, and “ugly” is not desirable, so the “ugly one” will have to settle for leftovers, and that is exactly what the “ugly one” is going to get, and he/she will grow up believing he/she is only worthy of that. Whilst the “beauty one” will grow up feeling everything belongs to him/her just because of his/her looks, and eventually will feel empty.
What happened here? Simple, we lost our balance just because we did not understand what is truly important, so we paid too much attention to one, and no attention to the other one. Is it important the way somebody looks? Yes! Of course! It is really important (That is why we must take care of our appearance). But is it more important than what is in the interior? No, the way somebody looks is not more important than what is inside. We must take care of our “inner me” just like we take care of our looks. Every morning before going out we take a shower, brush our teeth, comb our hair, put on clothes and shoes carefully chosen, and put on some nice perfume, and we don’t leave the house until we feel fully satisfied with the way we look. We should pay even more attention than that to our interior beauty.
We must remind ourselves that it is ok to make mistakes, it is ok not to be perfect, and that my real value is what I have inside of me. I can't change the way I look (meaning the color of my skin, hair and eyes, or make myself taller or shorter), but I can do whatever I decide to do with my inner me, and there is my real value. Nobody can take that away from me.
What About The Inheritance?
Parents have a whole lot to do when it comes to develop a healthy self-esteem. The possible fact that our parents did not do a great job building a high self-esteem in us is not an impediment for the actual fact that we can grow more love towards ourselves. This task will be easier to achieve if they did a good job, but what if they just did not even know how important it was for them to love themselves? In this case it will be harder, but still doable, and the reward will be even greater for you. And in consequence, now you will be able to pass a healthy self-esteem to your children. It is about breaking the cycle.
According to Dr. Nathaniel Branden, “…the higher the level of self-esteem, the more likely one will be to treat others with respect, kindness, and generosity”.
“A healthy self-esteem will lead to live a life marked by competence, fulfillment, contentment and accomplishment. It sets a foundation for developing respect and empathy for others. It gives us the basis for accepting responsibility for our actions and for gaining satisfaction from our achievements. Those possessing healthy self-esteem are more likely to both create dreams and pursue them intentionally. By believing in their ability to accomplish these ideas, people with high self-esteem motivate and challenge themselves to grow and risk as they fully experience life. They don’t allow the inevitable challenges and criticisms to discourage them from pursuing their worthwhile goals. People with healthy esteem possess the ability to love themselves –a prerequisite to love and be loved by others. In every way, a healthy sense of self-worth is a necessary requirement to leading an empowered life marked by positive self-direction, trust, responsibility and accomplishment.” –Dr. Joe Rubino.
To Think About
A healthy self-esteem is crucial for living a happy life. There is no way to love others if I do not love myself in the first place. Using the words of John Lennon, “All you need is Love”. Once again, Love is the cure.