Self Esteem – Meaning
What does actually self-esteem means? In everyday conversation and in the professional literature the term is often thrown about loosely, used interchangeably with self-love, self-respect, and a sense of self-worth, and also with the word “self-concept.” In fact, though, these terms are not all exchangeable.
The self-concept or self-image is the set of beliefs and images we all have and hold to be true of ourselves. By contrast, our level of self-esteem (or self-respect, self-love or self-worth) is the measure of how much we like and endorse of our self-concept. Or, as we’ve heard it put, “self-esteem is the reputation you have with yourself.”
A person’s self-concept will usually contain a wide range of images and beliefs. Some of these are simply statements of facts whose accuracy is easily verifiable: I am a man; I am a woman; I am black; I am tall; I am a mother; I am a student; I am a secretary; I am poor. Others refer to less tangible aspects of the self, and their accuracy is not so easy to verify: I am smart; I am ugly; I am sexy; I am unlovable; I am incompetent; I am no good; I am worthless.
Self Esteem And Socioeconomic Standing In Children
It has not been validated that there is a compulsory and causal connection between low socioeconomic standing and low self-esteem in children. There is no guarantee that if one is raised in a poor family she will have developed low self-esteem or that if one was raised in a financially well-off family she will have developed high self-esteem. The crucial factor in terms of self-esteem development is the quality of the parent-child relationship.
There have been interviews of many men and women who grew up in very well-off families yet whose parents were negligent, abusive, alcoholic and/or disturbed; these people may have been born with the proverbial silver spoon in their mouths, but they still grew up without high self-worth.
On the other hand, many people we interviewed grew up in poverty or near poverty, yet their parents made up for what they could not give their children materially by spending much loving time with them. These men and women grew up knowing they are lovable and worthy.
Some also developed a sense of competence and autonomy that many more financially privileged people failed to attain by working early and being treated as responsible.
Although lack of money does not automatically preclude self-esteem and money does not automatically bring child self-esteem, lack of financial security can have a disruptive effect on the quality of the relationships within a family, and this in turn can unfavorably affect children’s self-esteem.
Perhaps money problems helped to spark arguments or even bring on an eventual rift between a child’s parents. Perhaps the father, unable to find work, felt compelled to leave his wife and children so that they could be eligible for welfare. Perhaps lack of money prevented the family from taking care of health and dental problems among the children, etc.
We could go on with a long list of possibilities here, but the major point is this: While there is no guarantee that money will give children an edge in self-esteem development, a child who grows up in a family where there is not enough money to insure a fundamental standard of living faces hindrances to self-esteem that children in financially secure families do not face.
Moreover, mainly among the urban poor, and now increasingly among the rural poor, the child will definitely suffer the pain of social stigma.