Self-esteem is a person’s overall evaluation or appraisal of her or his own self worth. The definition seems to be a pretty simple given that it is such an important, complex part of a person’s psyche.
I’m not a psychiatrist; in fact I really didn’t like psychology in school. However as a mother, friend, boss, employee, I see the effects of the different levels of self-esteem every day.
• The teenage girls who don’t like to eat because their thighs are “too fat”.
• The boy who won’t go out for the football team because he doesn’t think he’s good enough.
• The bully who is always picking on others to make himself/herself feel better about themselves.
• The mother who won’t join the PTA or MOPS or whatever other organization you can think of because she thinks she won’t be accepted by the other moms.
• The man who won’t apply for the promotion because he’s sure he won’t get it.
• The woman who is stuck in an abusive relationship because “no one else will want her” or “she’s too stupid to support herself”
Every single one of those thoughts is rooted in low self-esteem. Low self-esteem is a destructive force that can lead to depression, self-destructive behaviors (drugs, alcohol), lost opportunities, poor relationship choices and more. A person with low self-esteem may show the following behaviors:
• Overly willing to please
Abraham Maslow was a noted professor of psychology (don’t be too impressed that I know that, I did some research) who believed that healthy self-esteem allowed people to live life more confidently, widen their capacity to be happy, treat others with respect and show benevolence to others.
While observing monkeys, Maslow noticed that some needs took precedence over others thus creating his “hierarchy of needs”. Just as we have a need to breathe, eat and feel safe we also have a need to have a positive view ourselves.
A person with healthy self-esteem may exhibit the following behaviors:
• Sensitivity to other’s needs
• Trust in their abilities to solve problems and work through difficult situations
• Don’t worry excessively about what happened in the past
• Stand up for their convictions
• Enjoy a variety of activities
• Know that they are “just as good” as everyone else even though their talents may lie in different areas
“Why”, you may be asking yourself “is she writing this?” There are two reasons I’ve chosen this topic. This first of which is because many of us are parents and there is an epidemic in this country of young people committing suicide. A beautiful, young girl in our city recently committed suicide. As a mother, my heart breaks for her mother. Losing your child is horrible enough; I can’t imagine the additional pain of knowing that your child was in so much pain that they thought death was the better option over living. I’m acutely aware of my daughter’s self-esteem and do everything that I can to give her a positive view of herself. We need to make sure we are doing everything in our power to make sure that the children in our lives, whether ours or not, have environment where they can grow and thrive.
The second of which is that many of us adults suffer from poor self-esteem, at least occasionally. Most people would tell you that I have a fairly healthy level of self-esteem and exhibit confidence, I would agree with them most of the time. However, I think at times all of us are wracked with doubts. Doubts about how successful we are in our relationships, how well we’re doing at work, our physical appearance, etc. Need I go on? When I’m in the grips of self-doubt, trying to overcome my negativity, I reflect upon how someone who doesn’t have a fairly healthy self-esteem deals with it. I can only imagine how overwhelming it can be.
The good news is that there are ways to instill a healthy self-esteem in our children and to improve our own self-esteem. It doesn’t happen overnight, but consistent messaging will have the desired effect over a period of time.
In my next post I’ll talk about ways that we can build a healthy self-esteem in our children.
What are your thoughts on the topic?
I'll be linking this up at We are THAT Family