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ESTEEM 101 Part 1

June 5, 2013
Girl Looking In Mirror

Girl Looking In Mirror

Everybody knows that relationships are very significant in our lives. We put energy and effort into those we believe are more valuable than others. But the indisputable truth is that the single most important relationship in our entire life, is the relationship we have with ourselves. The way we view ourselves and feel about ourselves is something we carry with us whether we want to or not – whether we think it matters or not.

It is like the steering wheel in a car…it controls the direction we move. When we feel badly about ourselves, we reflect and project it out onto others that we come into contact with. We’ve all experienced this – meeting someone who is so terribly uncomfortable with themselves that we begin to feel their awkwardness and discomfort. Most likely, this is someone who we go out of our way to avoid being around, not because of what the person does or says, purely because of how being around him makes us feel.

The good news is that the opposite is also true. There are some people who we enjoy being around, because of how good they make us feel – not by something they do or say, but because of the positive vibe they project. We may not understand it or be able to put it into words, but we just sense goodness and happiness whenever that person is around. Their positive energy is projecting outward onto all the people they encounter.

Positive Esteem

Positive Esteem

People with positive esteem see themselves as being valuable to the world in which they live. They project confidence and are self-directed. They behave in a way that does not throw blame onto others or themselves for that matter, because they are able to make mistakes and learn from them. They show a strong awareness of their personal strengths, tend to be quite optimistic, and have a strong ability to solve problems. They are independent yet they are extremely cooperative with others because they are comfortable around them and are able to trust them. They also are able to judge and accept their personal limitations, take good care of themselves in all ways and are able to say “no” in order to set limits and boundaries, without feeling as if they are doing something wrong.

What makes the difference? What causes some people to possess positive esteem and others to feel quite the opposite? There is nothing surprising about the answer according to all professionals and can be found in the relationships we develop with our primary caregivers (usually our parents) during the first six years of our lives.

Silhouette of Family

Silhouette of Family

The messages we receive about who we are and more importantly HOW we are, form the basis of our beliefs about ourselves. And many of our parents are not aware of how unrealistic the expectations they set for us actually are. Without intending any hard, most parents expect their children to be little adults. They anticipate children who will listen most of the time when it comes to things like being quiet, most young children don’t really understand why anyone would want quiet when loud is so much more fun. Parents want rooms to be kept clean and neat, but children don’t necessarily even understand the concept of neat at all.

And the responses from disappointed parents are most often not very pretty. Some of the responses that many young, developing brains hear repeatedly from frustrated parents are:
“How many times do I have to tell you?”
“Don’t you EVER listen?
“What’s wrong with you?”

It is very important that we understand that if children rarely hear these comments, their esteem will not be severely impacted; but with most cases, these comments are heard quite frequently and repetitively. The result of frequently hearing these things can be and DOES become detrimental.

As children grow and develop, their own brains serve as mini tape recorders replaying these messages over and over again. Eventually, these negative comments become mantra-like and penetrate our belief systems.

In my next post, I will continue tracking the effects of negative esteem and what we can do to undo some of its damaging effects.


I’m a licensed clinical social worker and have worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. I combine professional experience in the mental health field along with my love of writing to provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. I hope my down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life is easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

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