Why Talk about Self-Esteem?
Building Self-Esteem in Schoolchildren
– Khadeeja Rana
What do we understand by Self-Esteem?
In simple words self-esteem is a person’s overall subjective evaluation of his or her own worth. It is basically an attitude toward the self. The self-concept is what we think about the self; self-esteem is the positive or negative evaluations of the self, as in how we feel about ourselves compared to those around us.
Why talk about enhancing the self?
We teach children in school about basic math and spellings to form a solid foundation on which they can build further complex learning. Why not teach them lessons where they can learn to value themselves; their strengths, weaknesses, appreciating their true potential including their physical appearance.
Schools mostly face a common phenomenon of bullying. One of the direct outcomes of bullying is a decreased self-esteem. Moreover school teachers tend to demean and belittle underachieving children, those who don’t meet the set standards of the school curriculum. It can often lead to lifelong scars where children learn and internalize that they are worthless.
Parents also overlook to play their part, especially in our culture where they give birth to their children but not worth. The authoritative parenting style is a particular favorite among south Asian parents where the word of the parents is the final word. Often children’s choices are ignored and parent’s opinions and decisions are imposed, by a casual remark “we know better”. Therefore it makes it even more necessary to enhance self-esteem in schoolchildren.
Why the School Years?
Social experiences are a major important contributor to self-esteem. As children go through school, they begin to understand and recognize differences between themselves and their classmates. Using social comparisons, children assess whether they did better or worse than classmates in different activities. These comparisons play an important role in shaping the child’s self-esteem and influence the positive or negative feelings they have about themselves. As children go through teenage years and adolescence, peer influence becomes much more important. Therefore they need to have developed a strong sense of unshakable worth well before they reach adolescence.
Back in Time…
Carl Rogers (1902-1987), an advocate of humanistic psychology, said that the origin of many people’s problems is that they despise themselves and consider themselves worthless and incapable of being loved. This is why Rogers believed in the importance of a therapist giving unconditional acceptance to a client to improve the client’s self-esteem. He said;
“Every human being, with no exception, for the mere fact to be it, is worthy of unconditional respect of everybody else; he deserves to esteem himself and to be esteemed.”
Since it is not always feasible to visit a therapist for this purpose, so why not become our own therapist, and start by baby steps: appreciating who we are.
Ways to Build Self-Esteem:
- Surround yourself with positive people who boost your sense of worth.
- Avoid comparing yourself with others as we all are on our own unique journey.
- Keep a feel-good box where you can collect notes about happy memories, positive affirmations and little things that make you feel good about yourself.
- Pick up activities that you are good at and foster those hobbies
- Be assertive – don’t let people treat you with a lack of respect.
- Learn to challenge your negative beliefs
How to Challenge Negative Beliefs*
The first step is to understand where your negative beliefs come from. The good thing about beliefs is that it is never too late to change them. As you identify what your core beliefs about yourself are, and where they come from, you can begin to challenge and change them. One way you can do this is to write down evidence to challenge each belief and begin to explore other alternative explanations of a situation.
For example, if you think that no one likes you, you can start to record situations that show a different pattern. These might feel like small examples, but as your list gets longer over time you can look back at it and challenge the negative opinions that you have been holding on to.
You could make a list of negative thoughts with the evidence against them, in two columns:
|Negative thought||Evidence against it|
*Activity taken from: http://www.mind.org.uk/