Self-Esteem First Must Be Grounded in Self-Worth
Can we really solve all of society's ills with just more self-esteem? Sometimes I think that's what some of us believe. As I read the books, magazine articles and professional journals that come across my desk and computer monitor, I see the phrase "low self-esteem" used to explain almost any personality or behavioral problem being described. Whether in the field of education, religion, psychology or psychotherapy, the lack of self-esteem often seems to be the diagnosis of choice.
I certainly agree that low self-esteem is a problem. Simply building up people's esteem, however, is not necessarily going to solve anything. Our self-esteem first must be grounded in our self-worth. Remember the poster popular a few years ago: "God Don't Make Junk!" The point was that we are all born with unconditional worth simply because we are us. Self-esteem comes when the people around us teach us to acknowledge this worth.
A lot of this learning comes through how parents, relatives, neighbors and teachers respond to our efforts to grow and develop as individuals. If our efforts usually are met with approval (even when we make mistakes or fail), and if guidance and discipline is offered positively, we will grow up with a fairly healthy esteem for ourselves. If we are constantly pushed, belittled or disapproved of, our esteem suffers accordingly.
As we mature, however, another source of self-esteem is available to us. We can acknowledge to ourselves our own worth. And we can value for ourselves what we do.
Here's where it gets tricky. …