Good and Bad Self Esteem
You initially think as long as it’s high self-esteem, it’s good, right? After all, isn’t it something most books taught you? “Be confident. Believe in yourself. Believe in what you want. And you will get what you want.” I’m not criticizing the aforementioned statement, on the contrary, that’s what I live by. What I’m talking about here are different spectrums of self-esteem.
Back in the 1980s, the Californian State lawmakers carried out an experiment: They funded a project to help increase the self-esteem level of all the Californian residents. The purpose? Because some books stated that low self-esteem was the root cause of all bad things in society: homicides, robberies, unemployment, abortions, teen pregnancies, low grades. Therefore, in an attempt to lower people’s dependency on drugs, state funds, boost the economy and make the world a better place, the legislators came up with the idea. Self-esteem boosting programs were introduced as part of the education system. Grades were inflated to make the students/pupils feel better about themselves. The result? Not so much promising. In fact, the lawmakers were so disappointed that doubts started to creep in.
How Is Self-Esteem Measured
The scientists currently use the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale to measure a person’s self- esteem level. If you want to do a little test on your own self-esteem, head over here: www.health.harvard.edu/mentalextra and complete some simple questions regarding your emotional intelligence.
When Is Self-Esteem a Good Thing?
High self-esteem is what motivates people to achieve great things in life. Studies have shown that people with high self-esteem tend to have less mental or relationship problems. They also have a higher chance of success in life. Why? Because their belief in themselves is so high that they don’t view every challenge appearing on their route to obtaining their goal as a dead-end thing or get de-motivated about defeats. And because they keep on going, they will eventually reach their destination.
If you know that low self-esteem increases your risk of poverty, would you be motivated enough to change yourself? Here’s a simple explanation of the phenomenon: People who have low self-esteem don’t usually believe in themselves or the things they do. They negatively self-talk themselves into believing the negative scenario of the future. And when they don’t think their actions will work out, what do they do? They don’t put in their full efforts, and stop trying on encountering the first challenge (which is inherently part of any goal/process). Thus, they achieve minimal or no results. And there goes the circle again. “I knew this wouldn’t work out!” They told themselves so, reinforcing the low self-esteem that was the root cause of their failure in the first place.
Research has also found out that people with high self-esteem tend to bounce back quicker when undergoing a tough time, and their stress hormone levels tend to return to normal quicker as well.
When Is High Self-Esteem Bad?
When high self-esteem is not justified by reality, it becomes questionable. I would scratch my head in confusion if you continue to feel good about yourself while your life is falling apart around you. If you just focus on feeling good all the time, you will become a delusional narcissist who refuses criticism and chase after feeling good no matter what.
John is a person who is always confident about himself. He tells people about the grand schemes he has for his life. He’s always busy chasing after his dreams. The problem is, he has no facts to back his confidence up. Even though he’s busy building, he hasn’t found success. He sells his dreams to his relatives, friends, and anyone who is willing to listen so as to get them to lend him money to fund his projects. Whenever people criticize him, he refuses to listen and counter-strikes back that they are merely jealous or do not understand his scheme. He spends borrowed money on extravagant things such as expensive dinners to impress partners, newly met people, or girls. He has the need to show off his luxury lifestyle to prove to people how successful he is. But soon, reality will catch up with him. People are tired of asking for their money back time after time and all they got was more bullshit promises from John. He cuts contact with them.
John may not be the intentional con artist, but his narcissistic personality makes him one.
Do you know what’s the most dangerous thing about focusing on feeling high all the time? That you end up chasing after the things that make you feel high, regardless of whether they are meaningful to your life or your goal or not. Surely buying new expensive shoes or designer clothes feels good, but does it help if the price of each item is your entire month’s salary? Surely listening to this song feels good, but does it help you pass your imminent test tomorrow morning, which you haven’t even studied yet because you are busy listening to music?
And to make matters worse, most criminals, sex offenders, and child abusers do not suffer from low self-esteem either. In fact, bullies and psychopaths tend to think highly of themselves.
I feel very strongly that we need to regard self-esteem in a more practical way. Toxic self-esteem will not help you grow as a person. Healthy self-esteem does.
Believe it or not, even when you are at your lowest point, you still have something to be grateful for. Being alive at the moment is among those things. You may not realize because your brain works on autopilot, but breathing in the fresh air and feeling it permeate your body is something beautiful and to be grateful for.
“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” Charles Dickens
Even if you are feeling totally shitty and wonder what the heck to be grateful for, stop, and think. IS IT REALLY THAT BAD?! Now, rewind your memory a little bit to think of another difficult time that you have been through. How did you overcome it? The last time you encountered a challenge, you thought it was the end of the world, just like this one, right? The funny thing about our brain and perception is we tend to negative-talk ourselves into believing the extreme. If you are a bit of a stuck-up asshole who thinks too highly of yourself, to the point of delusional confidence, you tend to view everything, you, the situation, your talent, your appearance, in a much better light than the reality. The reverse is true for a pessimistic person. That’s why it gets tricky. That’s why next time your brain tells you how terrible or how brilliant you are, counter-question it.
Now, back to the topic of gratitude. What does it have to do with improving self-esteem anyway, you ask. Well, the basic of high self-esteem is the appreciation we have about our self. Since you can only be appreciative of yourself if you are grateful for what you have, who you are, etc. , gratitude does play a part here. Oprah Winfrey had something to say about gratitude. She said that if you are grateful for what you currently have, you will end up with more. If you only focus on the lack of things, sure enough, you will never be happy, no matter how much you have. Happiness is a state of the mind, so it stands to reason that you can instantly feel happy by changing your state of mind. How do I change my state of mind, you ask. By thinking about something good. And researches have shown that just by changing our posture, we can change the way we feel. The next time you feel sad, just straighten up, and smile. You’ll see the difference.