What is self-esteem? We hear people talking about having low self-esteem: they are depressed, reluctant, or, in the extreme, pitiful! We see people with high self-esteem as being confident, self-assured, or even jerks! We know what high and low self-esteem look like, but how many of us know what it is?
Self-esteem, as defined by the Encarta Dictionary, “confidence in your own merit as an individual person.” Continuing, the word, esteem, “is a judgment of the worth of someone or something.” The “worth of someone?” It sounds callous. Based on that, I suppose if someone were, for instance, to have low self-esteem, that person would have low self-worth. When you think of attributing that characteristic to someone else, it seems heartless. No one should have low self-worth. Though, at times throughout our lives, we have all felt this way.
There is a very fine line in the boundary between healthy and unhealthy self-esteem. In our society, people with low self-esteem are weak; yet others criticize for being overly confident, or having high self-esteem. There is the exact problem—others. It is called self-esteem, because it is your own view of yourself. Who else but you can determine what your self-esteem is? Don’t you have control over how you view yourself? That is an obstacle many people face—basing their definition of their own esteem on how others view them. They judge themselves based upon what they think someone else is thinking. That’s problematic: viewing ourselves based on our assumptions of how others view us. Hope you have a psychic on hand, because that will be a lot of mind reading.
The cycle continues. Those with low self-esteem believe others see them in a negative view, and they internalize outside influences (because of their low self-esteem), thus, creating lower self-esteem. Lower self-esteem gives the impression that they don’t care about themselves, which permits others to have a lower opinion of them. Starting to see a pattern?
A colleague of mine once said that self-esteem is internal, but has external influences. That makes sense; an individual can still have high self-esteem even when things don’t go their way, such as in getting a divorce—a person is not ‘horrible’ because their marriage is dissolving; it is circumstance. One way to look at this is that if you have healthy self-esteem, regardless of your external circumstances, it should stay at the same level.
Having unconditional love and respect for your self is the beginning of a beautiful relationship—with yourself. Have you heard the saying, “in order to love someone else, you have to love yourself”? Who wants to be with someone who doesn’t have self-respect? If that person doesn’t respect themself, why should I? I don’t mean that in a cruel way; my point is this: we show people how to treat us by how we treat ourselves. If we have a low self-esteem, it shows. If you do have low self-esteem and you know it…clap your hands! Just kidding, that was an old ‘hokey pokey’ reference. But, if you know you have low self-esteem, get some self-help books or go to a seminar and learn how to improve it (this is some tried and true personal advice, by the way).
ILWAD readers, have you had low self-esteem? How did/ does that affect your life? How do you achieve high self-esteem?