Obstacles to the Growth of Self-Esteem
Parents throw up severe obstacles to the growth of a child’s self-esteem when they…
- Convey that the child is not “enough.”
- Chastise the child for expressing “unacceptable” feelings.
- Ridicule or humiliate the child.
- Convey that the child’s thoughts or feelings have no value or importance.
- Attempt to control the child by shame or guilt.
- Over-protect the child and consequently obstruct normal learning and increasing self-reliance.
- Raise a child with no rules at all, and thus no supporting structure, or else rules that are contradictory, bewildering, undiscussable, and oppressive, in either case inhibiting normal growth.
- Deny a child’s perception of reality and implicitly encourage the child to doubt his or her mind.
- Treat evident facts as unreal, thus shaking the child’s sense of rationality—for example, when an alcoholic father stumbles to the dinner table, misses the chair, and falls to the floor as the mother goes on eating or talking as if nothing had happened.
- Terrorize a child with physical violence or the treat of it, thus instilling acute fear as an enduring characteristic at the child’s core.
- Treat a child as a sexual object.
- Teach that the child is bad, unworthy, or in full by nature.
Today millions of men and women who have come out of such childhood experiences are searching for ways to heal their wounds. They recognize that they have entered adult life with a liability—a deficit of self-esteem. What-ever words they use to describe the problem, they know they suffer from some nameless sense of not being “enough,” or some haunting emotion of shame or guilt, or a generalized self-distrust, or a diffusive feeling of unworthiness. They sense their lack ever if they of not know what precisely self-esteem is, let alone how to nurture and strengthen it within themselves.
A Definition Of Self-Esteem
We who are psychotherapists or teachers seek to fan a spark in those we work with—that innate sense of self-worth that presumably is our human birthright. But that spark is only the anteroom to self-esteem. If we are to do justice to those we work with, we need to help them develop that sense of self-worth into the full experience of self-esteem.
Self-esteem is the experience that we are appropriate to life and to the requirement of life. More specifically self-esteem is…
- Confidence in our ability to think and to cope with the challenges of life.
- Confidence in our right to be happy, the feeling of being worthy, deserving, entitled to assert out needs and wants and to enjoy the fruits of our efforts.
A Powerful Human Need
Self-esteem is a powerful human need. It is a basic human need that makes an essential contribution to the life process; it is indispensable to normal and healthy development; it has survival value.
Lacking positive self-esteem, our psychological growth is stunted. Positive self-esteem operates as, in effect, the immune system of consciousness, providing resistance, strength, and a capacity for regeneration. When self-esteem is low, our resilience in the face of life’s adversities is diminished. We crumble before vicissitudes that a healthier sense of self could vanquish. We tend to be more influenced by the desire to avoid pain than to experience joy. Negative have more power over us than positives.
Addiction And Self-Esteem
These observations help us to understand addictions. When we become addicted to alcohol or drug or destructive relationships, the unconscious intention is invariably to ameliorate anxiety and pain. What we become addicted to are tranquilizers and anodynes. The “enemies” we are trying to escape are fear and pain. When the means we have chosen do not work and make our problems worse, we are driven to take more and more of the poison that is killing us.
Addicts are not less fearful than other human beings, they are more fearful. Their pain is not milder, it is more severe. We cannot drink or drug our way into self-esteem anymore than we can buy happiness with toxic relationships. We do not attain self-esteem by practices that evoke self-hatred.
If we do not believe in ourselves—neither in our efficacy nor in our goodness—the universe is a frightening place.
This Article is taken from The Power of Self-Esteem
Written by Arshad. A