This Thing Called Self-Esteem
This thing you hear about low self-esteem and healthy self-esteem is balderdash. Why? Because self-esteem is a concept, constructed and agreed upon socially, which has no material existence beyond the written word. How exactly do you plan on evaluating if a person has a high or low self-esteem, as if there are standard levels of self-esteem that you can see, hear or feel! To even say, “I value my Self” requires a chain of ‘I’s. The ‘I’ that will observe the ‘I’ whose levels are to be assessed.
Here is the thing. There is a reason why the concept exists and is sustained socially. How? Read through the next paras.
Each of us has a/many human needs – certainty, uncertainty, significance, connection. Beyond this, the basic embodied need is growth. Why do we have these needs? Because we don’t have it. The sense of incompleteness, imperfection, lack of, inadequacy, aloneness, unfulfilled, uncertain pervades in all of us in different measures and in different ways. This is our natural sense of self – limited.
We fulfil these needs in one of three ways. We could, for example, throw a tantrum that no one cares for us or respects our work or respects rules or do boring things. Or we could decide that we will go after what we need – make friends and lovers; ensure our work gets the attention we think it deserves; set up policies/procedures and penalties for not following; or create adventure sports or a crazy new startup.
The third way is to be detached, realise how our needs drive our behaviours, and then choose what we want to do about it.
One way isn’t superior to the other. They exist. If they support us, then so it is. The third way opens up options, gives us some control over our next steps, and prevents hyperventilating or depression.
When we abdicate the work of fulfilling our needs to others, we are basically stating whatever incomplete self we have is so utterly, miserably, uselessly, incomplete, that it cannot provide for our needs. On one hand, we blame/complain and are miserable and on the other, the society is inconvenienced by our tantrums. This is the reason why self-esteem as a construct has been sustained in the post-Industrial world through the last century. You also find godmen and women step in to make their living out of such folks.
We can also go, go, go after what we need and be harried, sleepless, and ahem, miserable, frustrated that it still doesn’t feel enough. After all, the sense of_____ continues as long as we live. Some folks consider this as healthy self-esteem because well, it serves the society to get you on the hunt. One less mouth to feed.
The third way is what the society resists. The radical acceptance that we have needs, that we know what they are and how we manifest them and how we intend to manifest them in future. You see, it makes us unpredictable. That messes up order.
Approaches that foster this empowered sense of self are quashed in favour of other methods like – pharmaceutical drugs, unending therapy, shaming and discipline, selling quick-fix-to-happiness and organisational training.
I state today – NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming, a very market-unfriendly term) is one of the best approaches available in the Modern world to nurture the third way. The reason it has been sidelined/gaslighted is because it jeopardizes and challenges economies, identities and control.
If you want to learn something for yourself, not others –learn NLP.