By Bunmi Fadahunsi
A wise man once said, “It’s not what you are that is holding you back, It’s what you think you’re not.” Sounds familiar? Years ago, I came across a book called Psycho-Cybernetics. This book was written by a renowned plastic surgeon, Maxwell Maltz, who said day by day, people of both genders would troop into his office, swearing that their thin lips, big nose, minimally endowed chest, or even big ears and scars made them look very ugly; and that it was ruining their lives, ruining their hopes of having a better life. Many of them believed plastic surgery was just the right and best solution to their problems in order to make their lives worth living. So, our dear Dr Maxwell performed nose jobs, breast augmentations, scar removals etc. While some were pleased with the outcome of the surgery, some would still go back sad and dejected. But then, Dr Maxwell soon realized the ones wholater looked in the mirror and STILL saw the same thing even after the surgery i.e who STILL saw the same old big nose, who STILL felt ugly, had other problems. He realized that their bodies’ “shortcomings” weren’t the real problem. It was their minds, their perceptions (of their bodies) that really did the damage to their self-image. That was how Dr Maxwell jettisoned the idea of plastic surgery and moved towards the study of psycho cybernetics and that was what he did until he died.
The lesson here is quite simple and straight-forward – it will never matter how fat, skinny, dull, successful or ugly a person is if you don’t change how you are seeing yourself on the inside and whatever you create on the outside would not matter. This brings me to the concept of the FIVE ‘Ws’ AND ONE ‘H’ OF SELF-ESTEEM. They are: What is Self-Esteem? Why Do We Need Self-Esteem?
Who Needs Self-Esteem? Where Does Self-Esteem Come From? When Should We Start Building Self-Esteem? and How do we manage Self-Esteem?
What is Self-Esteem?
I’m going to give you different definitions of self-esteem so as to enhance an all-round understanding of the concept.
Wikipedia describes self-esteem as something that reflects a person’s overall subjective emotional evaluation of his or her own worth. It is a judgment of oneself as well as an attitude toward the SELF. Self-esteem encompasses beliefs (for instance,
“I am competent”, “I am worthy”) and according to psychology.about.com, in psychology, the term self-esteem is used to describe a person’s overall sense of self-worth or personal value.
Self-esteem is often seen as a personality trait which means that it tends to be stable and enduring. Self-esteem therefore, can involve a variety of beliefs about the self, such as the appraisal one’s own appearance, beliefs, emotions and behaviours. Somewhat similar, right? Now that we have a broad idea of what self-esteem means, let’s move on to the next question;
Why Do We Need Self-Esteem?
We know that self-esteem can be very vital to the overall success we achieve in life. Too little of it can leave you feeling defeated or depressed while too much of it has the fatal
capacity of damaging personal relationships. You need self-esteem for varying degrees of reasons because when you think about it, it’s more than just a word to describe how you value yourself, it’s an act– trust me! Self-esteem is needed to attract positive and loving relationships into your life, to be appreciated by people, to do away with any form depression or tolerate any form of abuse and to really appreciate what you possess. Self-esteem can also make people believe in what you believe because if you don’t believe in yourself, others won’t.
Who Needs Self-Esteem?
Self-esteem can be regarded as something personal; it embraces the concept of SELF therefore, every human being who is old enough to understand the basics of life needs self-esteem. In the real sense of it, experts say self-esteem has “survival” value and so it helps you survive and thrive in the world. Wherever you go, your sense of self-worth goes too. Whether it is getting food, shelter or just trying to make ends meet, self-esteem is what helps you do what needs to be done to get to where you want to be.
Where Does Self-Esteem Come From?
Self-esteem actually comes from positive self-imaging. Many factors are responsible for the shaping of our self-esteem. From childhood, the way our parents treat us go a long way in impacting how we view ourselves as adults. Childhood messages from parents, teachers, family members and peersall add up to build our self-image. Just like an echo, the words that were spoken to us as children reflect in how we talk to ourselves through our lives. Early successes and failures also shape our everyday attitudes towards achievement. It’s just like learning how to skip or ride a bicycle for the very first time.
Again, you need to understand that self-esteem is linked to actions and emotions. A child who feels capable and supported will usually develop healthy self-esteem. This is why parental involvement is so important to helping children form their view of themselves. Children who do not feel safe at home or are abused will suffer terribly from low self-esteem, and this may put them at great risk for dangerous and destructive behaviours as teenagers.
When Should We Start Building Self-Esteem?
According to Brian Tracy, “people with high self-esteem are the most desired, and desirable people in the society.”
Can you recall the last time you were in an emotional slump, such that your belief (in yourself) and your abilities were fast slipping away? How can you maintain the beliefs you have in yourself, such that you can live with less anxiety and more joy?
I’ll tell you this, self-esteem doesn’t happen while you wait passively. When you leave it up to external factors, you build your self-esteem on sandy ground and trust me, what you want is a rock-solid foundation which can only come from within. Every day while going through our daily routines, our minds get very good at picking up all the things we’ve done wrong, and it makes sure we’re aware of them.
So with such a counter-productive force at work, we can benefit greatly by REGULARLY working towards establishing and building our self-esteem.
How do we manage Self-Esteem?
Self-esteem is shaped by your thoughts, relationships and experiences. It is important to understand the ranges of self-esteem and the benefits of promoting healthy self-esteem – including mental well-being, assertiveness, resilience and more. When you have healthy self-esteem, you feel good about yourself and see yourself as deserving the respect of others but when you have low self-esteem, you attach little importance to your opinions and ideas. There’s a possibility that you constantly worry that you are not good enough for something.
Now, self-esteem tends to fluctuate over time, depending on your circumstances. It’s only natural to go through times when you feel down or times when you feel good about yourself. My point is this, generally, self-esteem stays in a range that reflects how you feel about yourself. When you have a healthy self-esteem, it means you have a balanced and accurate view of yourself. For instance, you have a good opinion of your abilities but also recognize your flaws.
Also note that self-esteem affects virtually every area of your life. Learning to maintain a healthy, realistic view of yourself doesn’t have anything to do with blowing your own horn or boasting and always wanting to feel superior to others around you. If that sounds like what you do, I’ll tell you here and now that it’s more likely an evidence of insecurity and low self-esteem. So, note that a good and healthy self-esteem is about learning to like and respect yourself. Gain control of yourself and be kind to yourself. You can also make a list of your good qualities and believe them. Another good way is to avoid being a complainer. Everyone has problems, so why should yours be greater than others? By being negative, you can end up isolating from others and cut yourself off from solutions to problems.
Finally, don’t wait for anybody to boost your own morale for you, do it yourself. Allow yourself a treat from time to time, especially if you have overcome a hurdle of task or you have achieved something awesome. It doesn’t have to be too expensive, just something to congratulate yourself with. Also note that it is difficult to go from poor self-esteem to positive self-esteem overnight. Instead you will discover that you make small improvements over a period of time. Always try to stay in touch with how you feel during the day. Do you feel good about yourself? Why is that? Identifying why you feel a certain way really helps in winning the battle of knowing whether your self-esteem is healthy or otherwise.
So, continue to believe in yourself, and whatever you are doingin your day-to-day life, always look for the good in it and you will find out over time that many areas of your life can be changed just by changing your outlook from a negative one to a more positive one.
All the best!