When you look in the mirror in the morning, what do you see? Do you see a person full of worth, ready to tackle the day? Do you see a person who needs a bit of work, but still has some wonderful qualities? When I look in the mirror in the morning, I see a person who has soooo much to work on that no one thing can make them worth enough. Given, I have a very low self-esteem. On this site, a very brief self-esteem scale is available, called the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale. A little bit about Dr. Morris Rosenberg, who developed this short inventory, available for free to the public, thanks to his wife:
I score very low on the scale. 3, to be exact, when the threshhold at the lower end of the scale is 0.
Self-esteem is a very important aspect of one's life, and is part of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, a very popularly used tool to gauge where a person stands as far as their needs being met. Unfortunately, in current times, many people have low self esteem, which leads them to further issues down the road. The hierarchy is pictured below:
As one can see, self-esteem is one of the higher levels of needs, after physiological needs, security, and love and belonging, but it is still a step below self-sufficiency, vitality, and meaningfulness, things that all, or at least most, humans want out of life.
How is self-esteem built? Well, in modern times, people have the wrong idea of building self-esteem. Have you ever been to a kid's T-ball game, where they don't keep score and "everybody wins" no matter how much effort they put in? That is no way to build self-esteem. Little Joe out there could have put all his effort into the game while little Bobby was playing with the grass in the outfield, and they receive the same recognition. How does little Joe feel? Obviously, little. His hard work earned the same reward as little Bobby's lack of work. Unfortunately, a lot of people are turning to this model recently because it helps boost the esteem of those who try hard but just don't do well....or so they think.
The reality of it is, these children know they aren't doing well. They know they're only getting the rewards because it makes it "fair". So this is definitely not a way to build self-esteem or self-efficacy. Granted, some kids never receive rewards for this very same reason, and they feel ashamed because they feel like they can accomplish nothing, but when it comes down to it, the prize they receive when they do find their niche will be SO much more rewarding when they finally do get it than the mediocre rewards they receive for "participating".
How can one learn what they're good at when they receive rewards just for participating? For so many years, I received academic award after academic award- but looking back, I had no idea what exactly my interests were, or what I was good at....and these awards didn't help my self esteem, even though they plastered my wall for a good number of years. Awards aren't indicative of success anymore, when given so frequently and randomly.
Subsequently, we must look at the worth of a person. In my opinion, everyone has their own worth. Given, people have different strengths and weaknesses, and they all have their positive and negative attributes, but to me, everyone is "worth" the same. I don't think anyone is more important than anyone else, except myself. That is, everyone else is worth more than myself. I'm willing to pour myself into making people see their own worth, which is a huge factor in their self esteem.
There are a lot of online "quizzes" that a person can take to find out how much they're "worth", but the truth is, they're all worth the world to me, regardless of their attributes. I embrace extremists on both the democratic and republican spectrum, I respect colours, gender, age, everything. There is nothing about a person that can make their worth decrease in my eyes. They are all worthy of the same treatment, the same lifestyle, the same benefits, the same opportunities. I don't mean the same opportunities as in a shower of awards for every little thing they do, but I do mean opportunities regarding access to services, personal treatment, respect, dignity, confidentiality, and so forth. I'd put my life on the line to prove this to anyone.
So what can one do to build their own self esteem, which is something that will take them far in life? After all, if someone doesn't believe in themselves, and doesn't believe that they can do something, are they likely to try as hard? Are they likely to exert the same effort? Probably not.
One of the things I've had hammered into my head from multiple sources is the technique of positive self-talk. This is an intrinsic reinforcer- that is, something that is rewarding in a way that is not material, but rather mental. Something that is rewarding inside, to that person, that makes them feel good. For some, this is an extremely powerful technique. Granted, it doesn't work for everyone, but it's still quite effective.
For some people, extrinsic reinforcers are necessary- things such as clothing or accessories that make them feel better about the way they look, or something positive written on an assignment (because it is a material thing coming from another person), or even just something they purchase for themselves when they feel good. First, though, they have to realise their power and abilities, even if they don't feel confidence from them.
Usually, intrinsic reinforcers are more successful because they are things that tend to stick with people, and are attached strongly to thoughts, feelings, and emotions. When there is even just a tiny ping that raises someone's confidence, or even mood, this can help to raise their self-esteem, realise that they are worthy of more than they thought. This can be a valuable characteristic that can lead them to do extraordinary things in life- success in school, confidence, friendships, good jobs, and success in other areas of life. Success itself is an intrinsic reinforcer- so when a person finds their niche, it would be beneficial to work within that area, build confidence and esteem, and grow as a person.
What can cause low self esteem, such as mine? Well, there can be many causes. Some children grow up being ridiculed by classmates, parents, other family members, or sometimes even authority figures like teachers or principals. In this case, the more the person is ridiculed, the less likely they are to feel good about themselves, no matter what participation or consolation rewards they receive. A person's environment is very powerful, especially in childhood. No matter from whom the ridicule is coming, ridicule is ridicule.
They say "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me"....but how true is this? How many people have been affected by the negative words of those around them? Hundreds of millions of people have experienced the put-down that kind of puts a damper on their day- I'd be willing to bet at least 75% of people have experienced this at some time or another.
When the topic of abuse comes up, it's not physical or even sexual abuse that is the most damaging, but actual VERBAL abuse, psychological abuse, emotional abuse; abuse that you can't see physically, that leaves no physical marks or visible damage. It takes at least 7 positive remarks to counter simply ONE negative remark. Words are much more powerful than people have given them credit for. The kinds of words that can be said can scar someone for life, making environmental feedback one of the number one contributors to self esteem, or lack thereof. Intrinsically, negative words are hard to forget and counter with something positive, especially coming from ones you love, but also when they come from other students/peers, other family, and anyone else with whom a person comes into contact.
Self esteem is such an important aspect of life, and it's very disappointing to see how much it has declined, especially in recent generations, as self-efficacy drops, safety drops, family relationships go down the tubes, socializing becomes an internet activity, and people become more and more isolated. I'm concerned not only about the self-esteem of the current generations, but the self esteem of generations to come, who will be affected by the actions and feelings of our current generation.