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What Is Self Esteem?

By Barbara White

Self esteem is a familiar term that is used, but what exactly does it mean? Self Esteem is actually a system of measurement. It is a way of measuring and describing how a person thinks and feels about themselves. It is a method that attempts to measure a person's value or self worth. Here are the two criteria people commonly use to measure self esteem:

  1. How Lovable Am I?
    Your self esteem is based on how lovable you think you are. How do you decide how lovable you are? This is usually determined by what you think other people think of you, and how much you think these other people care about you.

  2. How Capable am I?
    Your self esteem is measured by what you think about the things you 'do'. This falls into two groups; your traits and behaviors. Traits refers to attributes such as patience, being brave, clean, organized, thrifty etc. Qualities that you believe are valuable and desirable in your life. behaviors are more specific, for example, how fast you can run 100 metres, how well you can cook dinner, or add up numbers.
By using a combination of these two criteria enables a person to make a judgment about their unique value, or worth as a person. From this judgment a feeling of self esteem is usually formed. As you determine your self esteem, to the degree that you consider yourself lovable and capable, it will inevitably be deeply rooted in your intrinsic belief in your uniqueness, value and worth as a person. It is also, clearly a subjective opinion and strongly influenced by your personal beliefs and values as well as the influence of your family, upbringing and other significant life events.

This process of measuring your value and worth as a person poses some interesting questions for consideration. If I were to ask you to rate your level of self esteem today with a number between 1-10, with 1 being no self esteem (you see no value in your life and are seriously considering suicide) and 10 being maximum (thinking you are the greatest person in the whole world) -- what would your number be?

Supposing tomorrow, you had an argument with your best friend and they didn't like you or want to speak to you ever again, would your number remain the same or be lower? If your self esteem is affected by your emotions, or the way you interact with people and how you perceive what they think of you then there is a fundamental problem. The problem is your self esteem will inevitably be unstable and easily affected by your feelings and perceptions which arise from your circumstances and the way people respond to you.

Your worth and value as a person, in reality, remains the same, irrespective of your emotions, circumstances and relationships. You are not any less of value as a person tomorrow than today or yesterday. One person's reaction or opinion cannot change your value and worth as a person. Your emotions cannot change your value as a unique human being, any more than catching a cold or someone else having a bad day can devalue your worth. Your value as a person remains constant whether the sun is shining and you are having a great day, or there's a storm outside and the events of the day are not going as well as you would like them to.

Everyone has value and worth as a human being. We are all unique with different personalities, strengths and weaknesses, and each one of us have been created as lovable and capable people.

I would like to suggest that our self esteem should not be based on our thoughts and perceptions of how we are treated or valued by other people, or by how well or badly we perform, whether to our personal standards or that of others. Rather our self esteem will grow from a deeper inner place as we discover and accept our uniqueness and value, and learn how to love and live life with purpose.

Barbara White is the founder of Beyond Better Development, a company that is dedicated to empowering people in their personal and professional growth.

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