19 Jan Self Esteem – Aspects & Affirmations
Psychologists usually regard self-esteem as an during personality characteristic (“trait” self-esteem), though normal, short-term variations (“state” self-esteem) also exist. The word ‘personality’ is derived from the Latin words ‘per sona’ which mean “to speak through”. The Latin term was used to denote the masks worn by the actors in ancient Greece and Rome. Common usage of the word emphasises the role which the person displays to the public. The most meaningful approach included both the person and the role.
Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, best known for his theory of structure of human personality, called three mental processes in human beings — the id (unconscious, unleashed, raw, instinctual drive for pleasure), the ego (conscious, logical portion that associates with reality) and the superego (the conscience that provides norms that enable ego to determine right and wrong).
Later, psychologist Carl Rogers developed self-concept approach to explain human personality. He defined self or self-concept as an organized, consistent and conceptual gestalt composed of perceptions of the characteristics of the ‘I’ or ‘me’ and the perceptions of the relationships of ‘I’ or ‘me’’ to others and to various aspects of life, together with the values attached to these perceptions. The ‘I’ is the personal self — the self that one believes oneself to be and strives to be. It consists of the individual’s psychological processes (perceptions, learning and motivation) which in combination, result in a unique whole. The ‘me’ represents the social self. The ‘me’ is the way a person appears to others and the way the person thinks he appears to others.
All of us are perplexed by the thought of how we are valued and viewed by others, impressions others carry about us and self-impressions about ourselves. The present era teaches one to have confidence in his own worth or abilities and live with self-dignity or self-respect. Many define self-esteem as “feelings of worth based on skills, accomplishments, status, financial resources or appearance”. We all crave for being esteemed higher than others.
Young people are encouraged to have blind ambition for wealth, name and fame so that they become high net worth individuals. They are ready to go to any extent in business, work place or private lives to accumulate wealth and become de novo rich at the expense of any value, ethic or person. They always have the temptation to update status in social media in a way that will draw attention of themselves. They want to be loved, liked, noticed and commented upon. Less number of likes and comments to a Facebook post is considered as less worthy of an individual. Comparison to others having more followers brings feelings of gloom and inadequacy. A survey finds a gaping chasm between students’ perceptions of their giftedness and drive to succeed and the reality. In general, students’ opinions of themselves have soared compared to their performance on ground. There appears to be a mental disconnect between perception and reality. In this age of fierce competition, the norm is to boast confidence and strengths of oneself and remain visible. Self-Love, self-confidence, self-image and self-made are the key drivers of self-obsession leading to a rising tide of narcissists.
Psychiatrist Keith Ablow has noted that toxic psychological impact of media and technology on adolescents and young adults is turning them into faux celebrities — the equivalent of lead actors in their own fictionalized life stories. Using computer games they can pretend they are Olympians, Formula-One drivers, Rock stars or Sharpshooters. These are psychological drugs of the 21st century. Everyday newspapers report the depressions and tragic ends of the victims of this virtual lifestyle.
It is important to be vigilant against nurturing a culture of narcissism and understand the status of oneself in the plan of the Creator. God made man in His own image and likeness. God created our inmost being and knit us together in our mother’s womb. When some complain that they are not handsome or beautiful or smart, the Psalmist reminds us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. God did not make a mistake in the way He uniquely designed and formed each one of us. Let us accept ourselves as we are. We are of worth in God’s eyes irrespective of whether others like or accept or notice us. Apostle Peter while writing to the disciples at large reminded, “Let your beauty not be external — the braiding of hair and wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes — but the inner person of the heart, the lasting beauty of a gentle and tranquil spirit, which is precious in God’s sight”.
Other causes of low self-esteem may be limited to formal education, past circumstances, physical or emotional abuse. Some of the wisest and prominent people in history did not have proper formal education. But they were recognized as brilliant leaders. Knowledge of God’s Word is more valuable than any recognized degree for developing a good personality. One of the underlying reasons of low self-esteem is an involvement in personal sin. When we acknowledge, confess and forsake sin and allow God to reign in our lives, we overcome the past life of unpleasant circumstances or abuse. New life in Christ imparts grace to lead a life of joy and purpose. We attain self-worth and esteem by having the right relationship with God. Psychologist Carl Jung declares, “I am not what has happened to me, I am what I choose to become”.
In one sense low self-esteem may be viewed as the opposite of pride. In another sense, low self-esteem is a ‘look at me’ syndrome, which is just another form of pride. A damaged self-view may result in a haughty or critical demeanor. While dealing with diminutive self-image, one may think highly of himself or look down upon other associates. Sometimes it is reflected in a person’s exaggeration of his accomplishments. It is time to shift our gaze from our own reflections unto the Master. Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord. God considered us worth when He purchased us to be His own people. When we have healthy self-esteem, we will value ourselves enough to not become involved in sin that enslaves us. Instead, we should conduct ourselves with humility thinking of others as better than ourselves. “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with measure of faith God has given you”. The writer of the Book of Proverbs admonishes us “Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; A stranger and not your own lips”
The believer is called upon to humble himself under the mighty hand of God. God gives grace to the humble. A life of humility does not mean a life of worthlessness or a life of self-pity devoid of confidence. As we draw near to the throne of grace, confidence builds up and strength rises in us to face any challenge of life. Therefore, the writer of the book of Hebrews exhorts, “Do not throw away your confidence, because it has great reward.”
Whatever may be the expression or narration of self-esteem, let each one of us make this self-declaration: With God, I am considered to be a treasure. I am of more value than the sparrows. I have been engraved on the palm of God. By the grace of God I am what I am and His grace toward me is not in vain. It is no longer I who lives, but Christ lives in me.I am of a chosen generation, a royal priesthood and His own special person. I am the workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works. God sees the good in me. I am grateful to God. God loves me with an everlasting love. I am thankful that my life is filled with favor and blessings from the Creator. I shall be a crown of glory in the hands of the Lord and a royal diadem in the hands of my God.
Scripture References: Gen. 1:26,31,Ex. 19:5, Psa. 139:13-14, 119:73, Eph. 1:14, Phil. 2:3, Rom. 12:3, Prov. 27:2, I peter 5:6-7, 2:9 & 3:3-4 , Luke 12:7, James 4:6, Heb. 10:35, Isa. 49:16 & 62:3, I Cor. 15:10, 2 Cor. 10:17, Eph. 2:10, Gal. 2;20, Jer. 31:3,Phil. 2:5.
Dr. Nanda Dulal
The author is working in a Government department and presently based in Bangalore.