Sunday, September 19, 2010

Self-Esteem 101 - Part II: Causes

So I did my Google search. There is a lot of information out there about what self-esteem is and how to increase or build it, though even that isn’t always understandable in practice, but what about how we get in that hole to begin with? Why we are the way we are? Previously when I would experience problems with my self-esteem level, I would focus on how to get out of the hole. This time I want to figure out why I was in the hole and why I so frequently end up in that place. I hope it will give me some clues to prevent future episodes.

Keep in mind, there are many resources out there on this topic, self-help books, tapes, counselors, etc. I just found some quick sources from Google, found a few that seemed like they could be helpful, then the pondering began.

An important note, low self-esteem can be a symptom of depression or other illness. It is recommended that those experiencing this symptom should first consult their physician to determine if there is any need for treatment.

The best resource I found on the web is a pdf developed by the Maryland Community College’s S.O.A.R. Program. This document was developed to assist students transitioning from high school to college.


Although it is not yet known all the factors that contribute to low self-esteem, it is believed that negative emotional responses do play a significant role. For example, failures, criticism, teasing, punishments, abuse and poverty affect feelings of self-worth. Additionally other influences such as the media, our culture, race, gender and religion can all play a role. Essentially, what happens is that negative thinking becomes a habit.

The brain is believed to be flexible and the more we think in a certain manner, positively or negatively, the more that type of thinking becomes our reality. Hence if we allow these negative emotional responses to build up or if they occur repetitively, it is very easy to develop a habit of negative thoughts about ourselves. Soon it becomes all we know and we forget what it feels like to feel good about ourselves. This corresponds with research into how brain pathways develop. This can happen as a child or as an adult. For more information on how the brain creates neuropathways and how our thinking influences this creation, I recommend the following movies.

What the Bleep Do We Know!?

You Can Heal Your Life

I remember how in my junior year of college I had a realization that not all families behaved and treated each other the way my family did. It was an eye opener about how insulated we can be in our formative years. I knew people were different, but I didn’t know that relationships could be so markedly different than what I thought was a very normal childhood and upbringing. Interesting how “normal” means very little these days and “common” may or may not be relevant. What appears to be important now is “healthy” versus “unhealthy” or “nurturing” versus “abusive and/or neglectful”.

Ok, so why exactly has my self-esteem been making frequent visits to the toilet for 3 decades? How does this apply to me? I'm going to ponder this profound problem. In the meantime, does any of this apply to you? More to come.

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