Self Esteem – How To Get The Balance Right
Self Esteem all over the place?
Let’s face it, our level of self esteem is very variable. We all have days when we feel we’re not as good as we should or could be. It’s completely normal for our evaluation of ourselves to go up and down all the time. It’s part of being human.
Just how do we go about evaluating ourselves? Well, when we evaluate anything we need a benchmark against which to make a comparison. In the case of self esteem what sort of benchmarks do we have? Well it seems to me that there are two possible benchmarks. The first is a sort of general average person against which we can compare ourselves. Probably not very helpful because as we all know the average person doesn’t exist. Secondly, and probably much more realistically, we tend to compare ourselves with our peers and the people that we spend most of our time with. This can really dent our self esteem
And this can be a problem because the people with whom we spend most of our time may actually be nothing like us and so we end up making a false comparison. Which may not be altogether flattering and is bound to affect our self esteem. Here are a couple of examples:
Self Esteem Examples
Example 1 – Who you’re with
I was lucky enough to do my Ph.D. at one of the top research universities in the world. I’m not trying to blow my own trumpet here, it just happens to be true. Now, having won a place at this prestigious institution I felt pretty good about myself. Everyone was congratulating me on getting in. My self esteem was at an all-time high. I thought I was one of the top brains in the country. It wasn’t long before I had my illusions shattered. Every day I’d be working alongside people whose abilities, creativity, levels of understanding and speed of thinking I couldn’t hope to match.
Within a couple of months I felt pretty rubbish about myself. I started thinking I was useless and no good at anything and my self esteem was at an all-time low. And yet what had changed about my abilities? Nothing, in fact, because I was working in such a top university and learning a lot they were probably improving. My self esteem should be going up, not down! Yet my perception of myself and my self esteem was definitely on the slide. I guess the point here is that we’re probably the person least suited to judging ourselves for self esteem purposes. Any view we have of ourselves is bound to be distorted by our perceptions of others and our self esteem suffers as a result.
Example 2 – What you’re told
This is slightly different because it shows how the way that other people judge us, or say they do, can have a profound effect on our self esteem. My kids started at a new school last year. At their old school they’d be told when they got things right and they’d be told when they got things wrong. The teachers weren’t hard on the kids, but they did let them know when they weren’t performing. At the new school, the regime, in my view, is much less even-handed. The kids are given praise even when they get stuff wrong and not enough chivvying along when they’re underperforming. Self esteem is bound to become an issue.
The result of this constant praise is raised levels of high self esteem which are unjustified, in my view. The kids now think that everything is easy, that they’re excellent at everything and that the world owes them a living as a result. Their self esteem has gone through the roof. They couldn’t be more wrong and they’re going to get a nasty shock when they come under the proper scrutiny of a prospective employer. This sounds like a bit of a self esteem generated rant, I know, but it shows how self esteem levels can be too high as well as too low.
It’s a balancing act
As with all things, it’s important to keep a balance. Now, low self esteem is definitely more of a problem than excessively high self esteem. low self esteem can be very destructive both to yourself and to the people around you. It will lead you, and them, into a never ending cycle of despair and under-achievement. There’s never a right time sto start addressing the way we feel about the world, our attitudes, and of course our feelings about ourselves. But at some point we have to sit up and realize that unless we proactively do something then nothing is ever going to chnage. And dealing with self esteem issues should come first in any plan of alteration.
Life’s a bit of a balancing act. and it’s never going to be perfect. But if you feel that the balance is somehow tilted in the wrong direction and you want to get your self esteem back in balance, then I’d highly recommend that you check out the short course below.
Filed under: Self Esteem
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