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SELF-ESTEEM

What it is, Where it Comes From, and Why we Need it.


Copyright 1996, 1998 Steve Hein
Pre-publication Manuscript

Copyright Notice

Feel free to copy material in this book, but if you like the ideas in this book enough to copy
them, please acknowledge me in the copy and let me know how the ideas were useful to you.


Introduction

Many great writers, educators, philosophers, and psychologists agree that the single most
important element in a healthy, happy, successful person is high self-esteem. High self-esteem
gives people the realistic confidence in themselves and in their abilities to handle life's
adversities. High self-esteem allows people to perform successfully at work, school and in
personal relationships.

High self-esteem allows people to handle conflict, challenges and difficulties as learning
opportunities. High self-esteem people are constantly growing and improving. Low self-esteem
people consider themselves failures, and thus are always either giving up or trying to prove
themselves. They avoid confronting their problems because they don't really believe they can
solve them. So they turn to drugs, alcohol, work, exercise, academics, religion, self-righteousness,
parenting, relationships, or some other outlet which provides them an opportunity to distract
themselves from their own issues.

As the single most important ingredient in happiness, the issue of self-esteem deserves close
study. There are still very few complete courses on self-esteem available in traditional public
schools. And recently the term self-esteem has been criticized partly as a result of
misunderstandings of what it actually is and partly as a result of ineffective program designs and
implementattions.

Additionally, to the great detriment of society, there are no widespread courses to train parents
how to develop their children's self-esteem. Of course, it is difficult to teach any subject which
one is not proficient in, so it would first be necessary to raise the parentsž self-esteem, but this
is a topic for another book.

The gift of high self-esteem is the greatest gift a parent can give a child. It is also an essential
element of all responsible citizens in a society, as I show later. Yet most parents are ill-equipped
to provide this gift. They may be able to give cars, clothes and cosmetics, but not self-esteem.The
result is millions and millions of children suffering from damage to their self-esteem by the most
well-intentioned people: their own parents.

Well-meaning parents often damage their children's self-esteem in many ways including
psychological invalidation, inappropriate expectations, harsh criticism, neglect, over-control, over-
protectiveness, lack of emotional support, and lack of proper emotional and modeling.

Well-intentioned parents may also cause damage by filling their childrenžs minds with fear,
anxiety and dysfunctional belief systems-- most of which comes from the long past generations.

Since a parent can only teach and transfer what it knows and possesses, it must both understand
and possess high-self esteem before it can be communicated to the child.

A low self-esteem parent can no more instill high self-esteem in a child, than it
can teach a foreign language it does not speak.

Parents set the pattern of self-esteem which is reinforced for the rest of the child's life. As a
parent sees the child, the child sees itself. As the child sees itself, others will see it. It has been
said that we teach others how to treat us by the way we treat ourselves. For example, if a child
is constantly putting itself down, others will be all too content to join in.

It has also been said that we first form a belief about something, then we seek evidence to
confirm this belief. For example, the child who believes she is bad at math turns this belief into
a self-fulfilling prophecy by dwelling on any mistakes she makes, and by exaggerating the
consequences of her errors.

Since the parents serve as the most important mirrors for the child, they are the most responsible
for the feelings and beliefs which the child forms about itself. When a child is young, the most
important belief he has is whether he is fundamentally good or bad. This belief is formed from
the constant feedback from his parents, for example from the many thousands of reprimands,
scoldings or praises. Though well-intentioned, most feedback is negative, and the childžs self-
concept and self-esteem is steadily damaged accordingly.

In fact, since the childžs emotional brain develops before their cognitive brain, the child begins
to feel either positive or negative before it forms its beliefs. Very early in life whiles its
emotional circuits are still being formed, it begins to feel either wanted or unwanted, important
or unimportant, valued or unvalued, approved of or disapproved of. These feelings form the basis
for how they feel about themselves for the rest of their lives.

Most people do not realize that they were not taught how to have high self-esteem. Nor do they
realize the damage which has been done by their lack there of. If they ever do become aware of
it, their awareness often comes at great financial and emotional cost.

When people are unaware they have low self-esteem they risk perpetuating a dangerous cycle by
having children. Low self-esteem is passed from one generation to the next like a genetic disease,
but the disease of low self-esteem cannot be treated with medication. Neither can it be healed
strictly by someone else. Only we ourselves can rebuild our low self-esteems, and not without
tremendous effort.

This book attempts to answer the questions: What is self-esteem? Where does it come from? Why
to we need it? What develops and nurtures it? What damages it? How do we know when
someone has it? How do we know when they donžt. How does it affect relationships? How can
it be improved?

The answers I provide are based on extensive research, careful observation, and abundant personal
experience.

Chapter One
What Is Self-Esteem?

Self esteem is best defined as how you feel about yourself. If you have generally positive
feelings, you have relatively high self esteem. And of course, if you have generally negative
feelings about yourself, then you have relatively low self-esteem.

It is the feeling of confidence and competence. It is the feeling of value, of worth, and of inner
peace. It is feeling good about yourself.

Self-esteem is also what we think and believe about ourselves. On the other hand, what others
think of us may be called "other-esteem". Self-esteem is internal, while other-esteem is external.
In addition:

Feelings Needed for High Self-Esteem

How a person feels about himself is the best tangible indication of self-esteem. For example,
when a person feels the following feelings, he or she has relatively high self-esteem:

Though high self-esteem primarily depends on our feelings about ourselves, it is bolstered when we are
surrounded by those with whom we feel:

What Self-Esteem Is Not

Because the term self-esteem is used so widely, it is useful to clarify what it is not. For example:

It isn't narcissism.

It isn't egoism.

It isn't boastfulness or pretension or superficiality.

It isn't appearance or physical attributes.

It isn't what other people think of you. (That is other-esteem.)

It isn't conceit or showing off.

It isn't needing to be the center of attention.

It isn't what kind of car you drive or what kind of clothes you wear.

It isn't your position or your power.

Feelings of Low-Self Esteem

When we have low self-esteem, we frequently feel some combination of the following negative or unhealthy feelings:

Afraid
Awkward
Alone
Angry
Attacked
Betrayed
Bitter
Burdened
Clingy
Coerced
Controlled
Criticized
Defeated
Defensive
Defiant
Depressed
Desperate
Disapproved of
Discouraged
Disillusioned
Disrespected
Distrustful
Drained
Excluded
Frustrated
Isolated
Guilty
Helpless
Hopeless
Humiliated
Hurt
Inadequate
Incompetent
Inferior
Insecure
Insulted
Irritated
Jealous
Manipulated
Misunderstood
Needy
Nostalgic
Offended
Overwhelmed
Pathetic
Pessimistic
Powerless
Pressured
Punished
Rejected
Reminiscent
Resentful
Sad
Self-conscious

Self-destructive
Self-righteous
Slighted
Small
Superior
Suspicious
Tense
Threatened
Trapped
Tricked
Unattractive
Unappreciated
Uncomfortable
Undesirable
Unfulfilled
Unhappy
Unimportant
Unlovable
UnlovedUnneeded
Unsatisfied
Unsupported
Unsure
Unwanted
Upset
Used
Worried
Vindictive
Violated

 


to be continued...

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