Self-esteem is basically the evaluative part of self-concept (how you define yourself).
Some famous psychologists define self-esteem:
Albert Bendora – “Those who express a sense of unworthiness are said to have low self-esteem, whereas the person who expresses self-pride are said to have high self-esteem.”
Germain – “the judgment and feelings about the self.”
Coopersmith – “self-esteem is an evaluation that a person makes and customarily maintains with regard to himself. It expresses an attitude of approval or disapproval and indicates the extent to which individual believes himself to be capable, significant, successful and worthy.”
One of the major underlying causes of most psychological disorders and ailments is self-esteem. It’s critical we understand this component because it applies to behavioral problems at the core. Low self-esteem is associated with substance abuse, teen pregnancy, school drop-out rates and crime.
From the Positive Psychology perspective, self-esteem isn’t what you tell yourself in the mirror, it’s not the product of empty illusory reinforcement. Real self-esteem is bound by reality, in real success, in actual works and performances, it is the product of hard work, optimism, and passion.
One of my favorite psychologists Tal Ben-Shahar divided self-esteem into three categories:
1. Dependent self-esteem: Where a person feels great, or happy, or awful, depending on the actions, feelings and perceptions of others. Examples include: when you buy a nice dress because you think others will complement you on it. When you chose a job based on accolades or praise or chose a partner others will approve of. When you do great on a test compared to others and you feel great, and when you do poor compared to your peers, you feel awful.
2. Independent self-esteem: The sense of self is not contingent on the actions, feelings and perceptions of others. You do things for yourself because you enjoy them, not because you want to show off. Those with independent self-esteem don’t look for others for approval, they welcome criticism because it makes them better, they decide their own standards and hold themselves to it. The question they ask themselves is not, “Am I better compared to others?” But rather, “Am I better compared to the person I was yesterday?”
3. Unconditional self-esteem: This is the ultimate sense of self. It’s when a person achieves independent self-esteem to a level that it cannot be separated from dependency on others. Buddhists describe this idea of “Detachment,” when we become more capable of enjoying things as they are now, without fantasies about what they can be. We become ego-sensitive to other people in relation to us. When we are not attached, our relationships with others are harmonious, we care about them, we become empathic and compassionate to others. Distancing yourself from experiencing feelings of envy, jealousy, superiority because you are one with all others around you. It is a state where concern for the ego disappears, yet paradoxically the sense of self emerges stronger than ever before.
It’s not about you and I, it’s about “we.”
And this last pillar of self-esteem is a high goal to reach. Maslow said he never found anyone below the age of 45 who self-actualized (part of having unconditional self-esteem).
#tomtips – stop thinking about the “I” in relation to others, and start thinking about “we.” What can we accomplish today? What can we build together? What can we do today to help make this world not just a better place but a heaven on earth? What goals can we unite on? After thinking about this, (this is the most important part) TAKE ACTION.
My action today was getting this blog out there, because it serves to educate, it serves as a catalyst for change.