Self Esteem and Behavior

The latest journal article I read from Psychology today helps to put a different perspective on self-esteem and behavior.  The abstract for "Letting the Steam out of Self-Esteem" by Theodore Dalrymple is as follow-
The behavior of some people leads them to develop poor self-esteem. People should not have the attitude that they should always have high self-esteem, regardless of their behavior. Self-esteem allows people to become familiar with their real self instead of their perceived self.

The first question the article asks is, "have you ever considered the possibility that your very own behavior might - just might - be causing you to have a low opinion of yourself?"

Actually, no. I have not considered that. In my mind self-esteem was based on my inner thoughts about my self and how the world must have harmed me in some way (major or minor) to cause this. That is how I think when I hear about little girls that have low self-esteem or kids that are being bullied or people that always think negatively of themselves. I imagine that some trauma happened or they were not built up as children or people kept attacking them. I imagine that they have internalized this negativity and that inturn has created their low self-esteem.

Self-esteem is a very big deal when talking about our psyche. A strong sense of self is the baseline for a healthy individual, an individual who is willing to fight for her life. It is my goal to help people grow and have healthy self-esteem because that allows them to better handle stressful life events. Healthy self-esteem cannot be taken for granted. 

Dr. Darymple basically maintains that self-esteem is not necessarily constant. There are times in our lives when we will have little to none especially during battles with intense depression. There are other times when a little self-doubt is needed to drive us into action or to do better the next time.

The idea that we should sail through life feeling good about ourselves, whatever we do, is therefore morally monstrous. Most of us live lives of good and bad, success and failure. The demand that we should have some fundamental baseline of self-satisfaction would render our lives meaningless. If we were entirely free of anxiety about our own worth, there would be little to make us strive to do better, to avoid error and crime, and to achieve more than we had already achieved.

I fully agree with this to an extent, in that we need to have a healthy balance. Our existence is predicated on maintaining equilibrium and so why would our psyche be absolved from this. Our level of self-esteem requires a healthy balance as well. "Self-esteem not accompanied by accomplishment or personal quality is a serious failing," Dr. Darymple maintained. Imagine a person who takes pride in hurting others or gets a boost in his self-esteem by bullying others. This person is masking his own deep-seated lack of self-worth.

We have to be willing to have those difficult conversations with ourselves to explore where our low self-value comes from. Although I haven't given much thought to the cause and effect of my low self-worth on the days I am feeling down, I can fully agree that my lack of initiative and action do play a role in how I feel about myself. Sometimes we have to take action no matter how we feel. We cannot idly sit by and lament our lack of self-worth while not putting out the energy or effort to change our circumstances.

Is our low self-esteem issue "an explantation for our failings or an excuse of them?" Regardless of the answer, what are we going to do about it? We must take action to change our lives and making strides in even the smallest of accomplishments will go a long way to positively impact our self-worth. This is where we should begin our journey. Do something today to start a chain reaction of change.


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