Well, the dictionary doesn’t help much:
1: A confidence and satisfaction in oneself
2: Self conceit
I hear the most about low self esteem – those who don’t think themselves good enough. Good enough doesn’t tell us much either. I can’t imagine trying to assess my own self esteem this way, but I’ve heard and read of it plainly intended as something meaningful – as something I should be able to interpret and use a standard. But good enough compared to what or who? And what do comparisons have to do with it?
Another common definition is the sense of how capable one is. OK, confidence counts, but a can-do or a can-learn attitude doesn’t guarantee that a person has good enough self esteem. There’s some talk of liking – or even loving – ourselves, respecting ourselves, knowing where we fit in. But none of this hits the nail on the head, either.
Value, Worth … or Respect?
Even the word esteem might not be the greatest choice. It implies value. And this idea carries a simplistic, superficial quality that seems more appropriate for property. People certainly aren’t property!
We hold many things in high esteem – gold is called precious due to it’s high monetary value. Sometimes people are tagged as precious, too. And sometimes this is just a bit too, too.
High self esteem fits the dictionary description of self conceit fairly close. This attitude is we run up against idealizing, aggrandizing, entitlement.
But we’re stuck with the inadequate words for the time being, at least, so I’ll try to make the best of it. Esteeming people might be viewed as recognizing each and every one of us has our own potential. While potential isn’t equal or identical for each, the opportunity for growth within it is.
But I began with self esteem, didn’t I? Hmmm … the word self leaves something to be desired, too. Esteem only considered in the self-context just doesn’t work very well. What ever my views of my own potential, I can’t seem to get away from the idea that to keep my assessment of my own potential in perspective, I have to be aware of everyone else.
Those who have solid self esteem, although they tend to work toward their goals on their own, are found to work with ideas and activities that help others reach their own potential in some way or another. It isn’t just about themselves.
There are just too many examples of those who have all the appearance of success, but obviously hit the heights at the expense of others. Respect for people’s potential is low or even missing altogether. Interference with, rather than support of, others progress is typical. The idea that real self-esteem needs to be co-operative with other esteem to hold it’s own stands out.
Context and Balance
This is getting windy, so I’ll attempt to pare it down some:
Balanced Esteem – respect for and understanding of, one’s own potential in the context of respect for, and understanding of, everyone’s potential.
And maybe, rather than going along with the popular drive to be successful, discovering more about, and setting off in directions more in keeping with, our individual possibilities, even if they aren’t typical, might be the most balanced esteem promoting goal.