Self-Esteem – A Psychology Lesson

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How Does Self Esteem Affect A Person?

Self-esteem is something perhaps everyone wants and which everyone certainly needs. Because it increases our chance of finding happiness in life and makes it possible to cope with life’s disappointments and changes, we want to know about self-esteem.

We need self-esteem because nothing is as significant to psychological well-being. Our level of self-esteem affects virtually everything we think, say and do. It affects how we see the world and our place in it.

It affects how others in the world see and treat us. It affects the options we make – choices about what we will do with our lives and with whom we will be involved. It affects our capability to both give and receive love. And it affects our ability to take action to change things that need to be changed.

If a man or a woman has an inadequate amount of self-esteem, they will not be able to act in their own best interest. And if a person has no self-esteem at all, he will become overwhelmed, immobile and eventually will give up.

In Children

We needed to feel that we were significant as children. From our parents we sensed how much we mattered. We were not important in our own right, and then our self-esteem got off to a poor start, if we believed we did not matter much.

A person who never obtained a sense of her own inherent importance may suffer guilt about being alive, or may go through life feeling she is nothing but a victim of fate, totally incompetent of making a difference in the world.

Adults communicate the “rightness” of a child’s survival to the child long before any language is spoken. The softness of the adult’s touch and manner of holding the child is the infant’s first clue to her significance.

The child gains knowledge of whether she is pleasurable to hold, or a source of worry, tension or unhappiness. A child will become overwhelmed by anxiety without the warmth that comes from physical affection and the nourishment of food.

Even before she learns to structure her perceptions and senses into patterns of thought and speech, a child can begin to wonder in her own hazy yet crucial way whether she is okay, and what she has to do to be okay.

During Infancy

Many believe that the newborn cannot distinguish between her, others and the external environment at large in the earliest stages of infancy. She is aware of no boundaries, and experiences her mother and other caretakers as extensions of herself rather than as separate entities.

Therefore, the newborn is often said, and correctly so, to be entirely egocentric, for she has not yet become aware that her needs are only her needs, and that others have needs of their own, needs which might not be companionable with hers.

Ultimately, however, the newborn does become conscious that she is a separate being, that the world and others exist apart from her, and when she does become conscious of this unsettling fact it can strike her as truly frightening.

For it is then that she changes from her (inaccurate) perception of herself as all-powerful to her (accurate) perception of herself as entirely powerless, completely dependent upon someone else (in our culture, usually the mother) to fulfill her pressing physical and psychological needs. The child’s first, most basic feelings will be those of anxiety, insignificance, worthlessness and perhaps even terror unless someone else does fulfill those needs.

The child’s sense of self-esteem takes on a symbolic form with an understanding of language; what was previously only experienced is now expressed symbolically, through words. Non-verbal communication remains significant, but as she grows older, language plays a more and more important role in establishing her sense of significance.

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