What is self-esteem?
“If self-esteem is the health of the mind, then few subjects are of comparable urgency.”
Self Esteem is the confidence in our ability to think and cope with the basic challenges of life.
It is the confidence in our right to be successful and happy, the feeling of being worthy, and deserving.
Entitled to assert our needs and wants, achieve our values, and enjoy the fruits of our efforts.
Boiled down it is self-efficacy and self-respect.
Self-Esteem is predicated on fundamental belief systems of worthiness.
What happens with a lack of Self-Esteem
“When we have unconflicted self-esteem, joy is our motor, not fear. It is happiness that we wish to experience, not suffering that we wish to avoid. Our purpose is self-expression, not self-avoidance or self-justification. Our motive is not to “prove” our worth but to live our possibilities.”
Self-esteem is analogous with the immune system for the mind. The higher it is, the better we deal with adverse situations.
The faster we come back from disappointment, and the more eloquently we express ourselves.
With a lack of self-esteem the less we are likely to aspire to and achieve, and the more we feel the need to “prove” ourselves.
The lower our self-esteem the more muddy, evasive, and inappropriate our self-expression is likely to be, because of the way we doubt our thoughts and fear how others will perceive us.
Poor self-esteem will also manifest as irrationality, blindness to reality, rigidity, fear of the new and unfamiliar, inappropriate conformity or inappropriate rebelliousness, defensiveness, over compliant or over-controlling behavior, and fear of or hostility toward others.
Low self-esteem will often seek the safety and the familiar and undemanding.
Healthy self-esteem is life supporting and life-enhancing for the sake of survival, adaptiveness, and personal fulfillment.
How to Build Self-Esteem
In his book, The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, Nathaniel Branden highlights some essential practices of self-esteem.
Practice makes perfect: “A ‘practice’ implies a discipline of acting in a certain way over and over again — consistently.”
There are six practices that he outlines.
1. The Practice of Living Consciously.
“Sentence-completion work is a deceptively simple yet uniquely powerful tool for raising self-understanding, self-esteem and personal effectiveness. It rests on the premise that all of us have more knowledge than we normally are aware of — more wisdom than we use, more potential than typically shows up in our behavior. Sentence completion is a tool for accessing and activating these ‘hidden resources.’”
Basic idea: Take a sentence stem (like “Living consciously to me means . . .”) and create six to 10 completions of that sentence. The only rule is that each ending needs to create a grammatical sentence. Write quickly, don’t stop to think, and as Branden advises: “Any ending is fine, just keep going.”
Try these on:
• If I bring 5 percent more awareness to my activities today . . .
• If I pay more attention to how I deal with people today . . .
• If I bring 5 percent more awareness to my insecurities then . . .
• If I bring 5 percent more awareness to my priorities then . . .
2. The Practice of Self-Acceptance
“We can run not only from our dark side but also from our bright side — from anything that threatens to make us stand out or stand alone, or that calls for the awakening of the hero within us, or that asks that we break through to a higher level of consciousness and reach a higher ground of integrity. The greatest crime we commit against ourselves is not that we may deny or disown our shortcomings, but that we deny and disown our greatness — because it frightens us.”
3. The Practice of Self-Responsibility
“I am responsible for my choices and actions,” Branden writes. “To be ‘responsible’ in this context means responsible not as the recipient of moral blame or guilt, but responsible as the chief causal agent in my life and behavior.”
4. The Practice of Self-Assertiveness
“To practice self-assertiveness is to live authentically, to speak and act from my innermost convictions and feelings — as a way of life, as a rule,”
5. The Practice of Living Purposefully
“To live purposefully,” Branden explains, “is to use our powers for the attainment of goals we have selected: the goal of studying, of raising a family, of starting a new business, of solving a scientific problem, of building a vacation home, of sustaining a happy romantic relationship. It is our goals that lead us forward, that call on the exercise of our faculties, that energize our existence.”
6. The Practice of Personal Integrity
“Integrity is the integration of ideals, convictions, standards, beliefs — and behavior,” writes Branden. “When our behavior is congruent with our professed values when ideals and practice match up, we have integrity.”
Mistakes Parents Make
Criticizing them or always focusing on their mistakes
Growing is weird and painful and a process, so mistakes are not if, they are when.
And when the child in question makes a mistake – if they feel they will be punished, it can ramp up their anxiety to hesitate trying new things.
Instead, teach them applicable life skills about how to maneuver their mess ups and teach them about how we all make mistakes.
The wrong kind of praise can be detrimental
Praise children’s specific actions, their effort and the skills they used to achieve the goals, rather than their personal traits. That way they know they have control over their ability to do better instead of being born innately special.
Doing everything for them creates a lack of self-efficacy.
Give them autonomy to figure out what works so they develop that skillset on their own instead of every move and decision being made for them
Knowing they can complete simple tasks like dressing themselves will give them more confidence to build skills and think through problems
Setting expectations for perfectionism
Instead of giving your child anxiety about disappointing you, teach them about the importance of mistakes on their life journey as a step closer to where they are trying to get.
As busy as parenting is, it’s important to make sure your children feel heard and valued by listening to what they have to say and acknowledging them for their emotions.
Forcing a child to take sides during a separation
A child’s sense of self is still being formed at a young age, and they are forming that self from their parents.
Both parents are equally important to them and if one badmouths the other, it throws the developing psyche in a state of confusion over what is happening.
Another likely thing is the child being forced to choose sides may feel more insecure and like they are betraying the other parent.
Leave the children out of the conflict and reinforce how much each parent deeply loves the child.
Comparing them to others
Nobody is exactly alike in skill, intelligence, character, beauty, etc.
It is important to recognize the unique charm of every child and accept them for who they are – to teach them to do the same for themselves.
Expressing your own lack of self-esteem
More than what you tell them to do is what you yourself do.
Teach them how to behave during tough times by putting on the can-do attitude you want them to emulate.
A lot of how they cope is absorbed from how they see their parents cope.
In the end,
Raising a child is hard. We can all agree on that.
The more a child is told they are loved and appreciated, the more they will thrive with a higher sense of self-esteem and wellbeing.