Self Esteem

“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself.”
Harvey Fierstein

History of Self-esteem:

As the quote from the great 18th century Scottish Enlightenment thinker, David Hume, shows the idea that it is important to value and think well of yourself has been around for a long time. However, the first pure psychological use of the term can be traced back to 1890 and the work of William James who is generally seen as the father of modern psychology. James had a very simple definition of self-esteem: success divided by pretension. According to James the more success we have and the lower our expectations or pretensions then the higher our self-esteem. To raise self-esteem, therefore, we have two options: lower our expectations of ourselves or increase our achievements.

William James (1842-1910) is perhaps one of the first scholars who dealt with this topic. The thing that intrigued him and from which his studies began was the fact that he noted the lack of a direct link between the objective qualities of a person and how this person felt satisfied with him/herself: some people are equipped with a presumptuous and unbreakable confidence, whilst others, who are equally as able to succeed in life and are valued by others, do not believe in their qualities and capabilities. From this, James deduced that being happy or not about oneself does not depend on the results and successes of life as such, rather on the criteria one uses to judge these results and successes, that is, on the demands one has about one’s way of being and doing things. By following this logic, we can see that demands which are too high and which are regardless of successes, can inhibit good self-esteem.

From the late 1960s on self-esteem became a fashionable and influential idea. One of the first exponents was a young psychology professor called Stanley Coopersmith from California. A more influential figure was Nathaniel Branden. Branden was a psychtherapist and devotee of the philosopher Ayn Rand. He has written countless books on self-esteem and is considered the intellectual father of the self-esteem movement.

How Self-Esteem play Role in our life?

Possessing little self-regard can lead people to become depressed, to fall short of their potential, or to tolerate abusive situations and relationships. Too much self-love, on the other hand, results in an off-putting sense of entitlement and an inability to learn from failures. (It can also be a sign of clinical narcissism.) Perhaps no other self-help topic has spawned so much advice and so many (often conflicting) theories. Here are our best insights on how to strike a balance between accurate self-knowledge and respect for who you are.

The Key to Peak Performance

The flip side of self-esteem is called “self-efficacy.” This is defined as how effective you feel you are at doing or accomplishing a task or job. When you feel that you are really good at something, you experience positive feelings of self-efficacy.

One of the greatest discoveries in psychology was the discovery of the connection between self-esteem and self-efficacy. Now we know that the more you like yourself, the better you do at almost anything you attempt. And the better you do at something, the more you like yourself.

Each feeds on and reinforces the other. This finding is what makes time management so important for every part of your life. The better you use your time, the more you get done and the higher is your sense of self-efficacy. As a result, you like yourself more, do even higher quality work, and get even more done. Your whole life improves.

Three Self-Esteem Builders

There are three additional factors that affect your self-esteem that have to do with time management.

1. Determine Your Values

Living your life consistent with your deepest values is essential for you to enjoy high self-esteem. People who are clear about what they believe in and value, and who refuse to compromise their values like and respect themselves far more than people who are unclear about what is really important to them.

This immediately brings up the question, “How much do you value your life?” People who truly value their lives are people who highly value themselves. People who value themselves highly use their time well. They know that their time is their life.

The “Law of Reversibility,” says that feelings and actions interact on each other. If you feel a certain way, you will act in a manner consistent you’re your feeling. However, the reverse is also true.

The very act of living your life consistent with your values, and using your time effectively and well, improves your self-image, builds your self-esteem and self-confidence, and increases your self-respect.

2. Strive for Mastery

The second factor that affects your self-esteem is your sense of being in control of your life and work, your feeling of mastery in whatever you do.

Everything that you learn about time management, and then apply in your work, causes you to feel more in control of yourself and your life. As a result, you feel more effective and efficient. You feel more productive and powerful. Every increase in your feeling of effectiveness and productivity increases your self-esteem and improves your sense of Personal Well Being. 

3. Know What You Want

The third factor that directly affects your self-esteem is your current goals and objectives, and the activities that you take to achieve those goals. The more your goals and your activities are congruent with your values, the better you feel. When you are working at something that you believe in, and which is consistent with your natural talents and abilities,  you like yourself more, and you do your work better.

2 Major Self-esteem 

1) Low Self Esteem Not To Blame for being bad!

Firstly people with genuinely low self-esteem, a poor self image and low confidence, have been insensitively lumped together with bullies, narcissists, criminals and child abusers. No, really!

Popular assumption was that people did bad things to other people because they, themselves have low self esteem. But if you have ever asked yourself: “Do I have low self esteem?”, fear not. All the evidence points to the conclusion that low self esteem is a distinct condition, so if you do have self esteem you don’t have to feel that you are in the same group as bullies or abusers.

Research has found that people with genuine low self esteem tend to treat themselves badly not other people. Stopping people being bullies by trying to lift their self esteem may be like trying to get an obese person to lose weight by feeding them lots more cake.

In the 1980s there was a movement to raise self esteem in schools in the belief that this would stop bullies bullying and prevent future crime in society. But peer reviewed research has shown schools trying to raise self esteem don’t prevent bullies bullying (because low self esteem wasn’t causing them to bully).

Artificially and ineffectively focusing on lifting self esteem doesn’t raise academic performance either.  As you’ll see, the 4 methods schools attempted to raise self esteem may have even damaged the sense of self worth in those suffering genuine low self esteem.

Low self esteem is not to blame for nearly as many problems as has traditionally been thought. It was also assumed that self esteem could never be too high.

2) Too high Self Esteem Linked to Criminality

It is now clear that too high self esteem or ‘High Self Esteem Disorder’ is often more of a problem. (This is NOT merely a ‘disguised’ form of low self-esteem, as commonly thought). So, if you are the victim of a bully then you can rest assured you don’t have to feel sorry for them.

Hundreds of pieces of reliable research now show that bullies and many criminals are much more likely to suffer from unrealistically high self esteem and impulse control problems than low self esteem. An exaggerated sense of entitlement – expecting much from many situations – is more likely to lead to frustration and aggressive, antisocial, or even criminal behaviour. If self esteem can be too low it can also be too high. It was a crazy and unwarranted assumption that all human behaviour could be explained away by low self esteem.

Build on Solid Foundations

For anyone to be psychologically and physically healthy then core needs have to be fulfilled. Being clear about what you need and making efforts to meet those needs constructively means you’ll naturally have better self esteem as a by-product of living well.

This is useful list of basic human needs:

  1. The need to give and receive attention
  2. The need to look after your body.
  3. The need for meaning, purpose and goals.
  4. The need for a connection to something greater than ourselves
  5. The need for creativity and stimulation
  6. The need for intimacy and connection to others.
  7. The need for a sense of control
  8. The need for a sense of status and recognition from others.
  9. The need for a sense of safety and security.

** Read my next Write up on Women’s Self-esteem Psychology