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What Does it Really Mean to "Have" Self-esteem? posted Nov 1, 2017


The "idea" of self-esteem began in 1657, as the infamous poet and author of Paradise Lost, John Milton is believed to be the first to use the term. Then around 1890, psychologists/philosophers Lorne Park and William James introduced the idea to American culture, and now anytime someone does anything that seems like they don’t think very much of themselves (how would anyone else know) then “we say” they have low self-esteem.

TODAY, I want to suggest that “low or high self-esteem” is another way of dividing us—privileging some and othering other human beings. It’s a way to pathologize—infirm—the vulnerable, perhaps less fortunate, among us based on a socially imposed script. In other words, we pressure people into trusting society—and not themselves.

Actually, the difference between individuals with high and low self-esteem is belief and acceptance. In both cases, people believe and accept that their self-esteem is either high or low self-esteem.

So, one’s so-called esteem is more about belief than anything. Anyone who has a self-esteem problem (high or low) has been taught—conditioned—to have it by someone whom they respected and trusted.

So, this idea that someone may "have" self-esteem is like "having" a car or shoes or a bicycle. It's something that you have or don't have.

Possessing this thing then means that you are somehow better off than someone who does not have it. I'm wondering now, what those who have it are doing so much better than those who don't have it.

Does having high self-esteem keep you from making mistakes in relationships? Does it mean that you are more successful or powerful? Now I have to ask what does it really mean.

If I stick with my original premise then I'd have to say it really doesn't mean anything, except that we have a fancy phrase that we've learned so that people can feel good or bad about themselves depending on their beliefs about their so-called self-esteem. I say this for two reasons. One is that I've heard very successful, accomplished individuals say that they have low-self esteem and I've seen people with so-call high self-esteem do some really maladjusted things to themselves and others.

So, what is the profit of the self-esteem game?

Finally, the problem for the individual who “thinks” that his or her self-esteem is low is that he or she is stuck following the script set by someone else rather than the one he or she has set for himself or herself. When we follow any other script except the one we write, we'll most likely do somethings that are not in our best interest. I wouldn't call this low self-esteem, I'd just call it was it was—you made a poor decision that you regretted and it cost you something. Lesson learned. Perhaps you trusted a not-so-honest person or followed someone undeserving of your trust who led you down a dead end. Again, that's not a self-esteem problem, that's misplaced trust or poor research or planning, something we all are subject to once maybe twice or even more times.

Solution: Make a list of your gifts and talents. Then create a plan for how to use your natural abilities for your good and the good of our world. This is your script; follow it and see what happens. In short, begin today writing and following your own script!

Suggested Reading; got self-esteem by Dr. Debra H. Nixon

28850 PointsGold

Dr. Debra LMFT (MT2416)

/ The Relationship Expert / LMFT