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The Importance of Self-Esteem

Essay by   •  February 13, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  1,676 Words (7 Pages)  •  3,375 Views

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Self Esteem

The Importance of Self-Esteem

"I broke up with my girlfriend last week. She kept saying that she loved me. I thought there must be something wrong with her. How could anyone love somebody like me?"

"Everybody thinks that I'm happy-go-lucky. I put on a false front. I pretend that I haven't got a care in the world. But inside, I feel empty."

"I can't stand success. I get a job. Things are going well. I'm making money. I can get some of the things I want. But then I start feeling anxious. So I go get a bottle and start drinking. Pretty soon, I lose the job. But I don't feel scared anymore."

Through our experience with the world, we human beings, children and adults, form concepts of causal relationships. We become aware of the potentialities and capabilities of things in the world. For example, we learn that we can, with a finger, penetrate the surface of water, but not the surface of a wooden table, that wet snow sticks to itself and makes good snowballs, but dry snow does not, etc. We learn that the neighbor's dog will play fetch the stick for as long as we will throw it. We develop expectations about the behavior of other persons. We learn, for example, that our grandmother cooks our favorite foods when we visit, that our mother gets angry if we track mud into the house, that our best friend is competitive in games, that our teacher is a "neatness freak," etc.

Just as we form concepts regarding the behavior of inanimate objects, animals, and other human beings, we all form a concept of ourselves, of what we are like, of how we will react in various situations. As we make choices and decisions throughout our life, as we think or fail to think in situations where thought is required, as we act according to our judgement, or fail to, in moments of decision, we acquire a certain sense of self, which is the cumulative product of the kind of choices and decisions we have made. These behaviors add up to our self-concept and to our self-evaluation. The concept we form of ourselves, stated positively, is our self-esteem. Self-esteem is the "reputation" a person gets with himself or herself. As defined by psychologist Nathaniel Branden, who is sometimes referred to as "the father of the self-esteem movement," the concept of self-esteem includes two important components: a sense of self-confidence or efficacy and a sense of self-respect or worthiness.

Efficacy

As our minds process the data coming in from the outside and guide us through our physical and social environment, we can experience an inner state of being in control, of efficacy, of an ability to assimilate and handle the incoming data and to appropriately direct ourselves through the environment; or, we can experience a sense of helplessness, of inefficacy, of powerlessness, a sense of being overwhelmed. As children, we encounter these two states very early. It is in our nature as living organisms that we value feelings of efficacy and disvalue feelings of helplessness. In part, this is because feelings of helplessness are often associated with physical or psychological pain, while feelings of efficacy and control are associated with pleasure or at least lack of pain.

Worthiness

As we learn about the world and ourselves, we come to expect that certain types of actions will have certain types of consequences. If we habitually behave in ways that we know to be consistent with reality, life-enhancing, and true to our moral principles, we expect that the consequences of our actions will be positive. We feel worthy. We "deserve" to be happy. On the other hand, if we behave in ways that are contrary to our knowledge of reality, self-destructive, and/or in violation of our moral principles, we experience negative consequences. We feel inappropriate to life. We feel that we don't deserve to be happy.

Self-esteem is the experience of feeling and knowing that we are competent to live and worthy of living and being happy.

What Self-Esteem Is Not

Genuine self-esteem is not primarily dependent upon the approval of other persons in one's social environment. While it is indeed desirable to have the realistic good opinions of others, no one can give us self-esteem except ourselves. The person who ties his self-esteem to the approval of others is already handicapped in self-esteem and is constantly in jeopardy of further loss of self-esteem.

Contrary to what one sometimes hears or reads, self-esteem is not just a synonym for any positive feeling about oneself. Thus, self-esteem is not egotism, arrogance, conceitedness, narcissism, or a desire to feel superior to others. Indeed, these attitudes betray a lack of genuine self-esteem. Self-esteem is not the euphoria that might be temporarily induced by a job promotion or a new love affair. In fact, if one feels incompetent to handle the job or unworthy of love, these experiences can be a challenge to an already impaired sense of self-esteem. One can feel like an "imposter," who might be "found out" at any moment.

The Importance of Self-Esteem

Self-esteem is one of our most basic psychological needs. The degree of our self-esteem (or lack of it) impacts every major aspect of our lives. It has profound effects on our thinking processes, emotions, desires, values, choices, and goals. Deficits in self-esteem contribute to virtually all psychological problems. And psychological problems lead to lowered self-esteem. It is a reciprocal relationship.

What is Self Esteem ?

Self esteem is the opinion you have of yourself. It is based on your attitude to the following:

• Your value as a person

• The job you do

• Your achievements

• How you think others see you

• Your purpose in life

• Your place in the world

• Your potential for success

• Your strengths and weaknesses

• Your social status and how you relate to others

• Your independence or ability to stand on your own feet

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