Psychologists have been throwing the term ?self-esteem? around for as long as I can remember. A lack of it is supposedly responsible for a variety of social and psychological aches and pains: relationship and financial failures, etc. And if you?re an asshole, we quite often assume you suffer from low self-esteem.
We all experience lack of confidence sometimes, don't we? We feel insecure, compare ourselves to others and stonewall our own efforts to try something new. Problem is, these behaviours can be debilitating if they occur too often. Some people's fear of failure pretty much controls, and in many cases ruins, their entire lives.
On the other hand, undeserved self-regard might also lead to delusional self-confidence. Why study if you're so damn smart, right? Why work your ass off for that promotion when you know you already deserve it? And when you don't get it, you can always rail against the universe and the unfairness of life.
Just remember balance. It's key.
What the experts say
"We expect more from self-esteem than it can deliver. We expect it to cure a range of personal and social problems. But it's turned out to be an outcome more than a cause. There are still findings linking high self-esteem to better grades in school, so naturally everybody thought all we had to do was tell kids they're great. But it turns out from the more systematic data that good grades contribute to higher self-esteem, but higher self-esteem doesn't cause better grades. Forget about teaching self-esteem, and concentrate on self-control and self-discipline."
ROY BAUMEISTER, department of psychology, Florida State University, Tallahassee
"A lot of us have been told we're not good enough. I might work with the heart or the solar plexus chakra, which is about the mental programs we've been given through the messages we've taken into the body. I would use citrine quartz to strengthen this chakra. If it's more about self-love, or giving and receiving love, I'd probably use a heart stone such as rhodochrosite or rose quartz. Inverse wave therapy [using tuning fork vibrations, words and energy] is also really good for getting at core issues, particularly self-esteem."
BARBARA McKELL, intuitive healer, Guelph
"Self-esteem affects how we're perceived by friends, potential employers and clients. It affects how we show up in life. People who are really comfortable with themselves have more success. Low self-esteem originates in childhood, but by the time we reach adulthood, it's not our parents' fault any more. I often get my clients to work on seeing themselves in terms of their strengths and all the ways they've progressed in life, and to identify what their core values are and their purpose at this stage of life. Then they can develop a relationship with their optimal self or future self. That becomes the part of you that helps pull you along, a counterweight to negative self-talk. It becomes an inward motivating force to set limits, take better care of yourself, speak up."
ISABELLE ST. JEAN, educator, speaker, coaching consultant, Vancouver
"Low self-esteem is caused by believing the negative things we've been told by others, and by drawing false comparisons between who we are and who we might like to be. It tends to cover up a lot of associated issues and really means 'I can't help myself live the life I want.' There's something to be said for having confidence without being overly grand about yourself. The other side of low self-esteem is arrogant super-confidence. Some people are extreme narcissists and others have no self-esteem at all. Some refuse to admit negative feelings about themselves but on an unconscious level have bad self-esteem disguised by arrogance and swaggering. I've never met anyone who appeared to have low self-esteem but really thought he or she was fantastic."
STEVEN VAN BEEK, psychotherapist, Toronto