On the notion of “self-esteem”.

I’ve thought about this subject for years. I was raised by one abusive parent and another that offered insufficient social support during my formative years. This has cause me reflexive issues for me all my life, even to this day.

If I may, I’d like to offer a cut-to-the-bone way of examining the concept of self-esteem which I try to more properly term as sense of self or sense of social value.

The term self-esteem literally means “self-estimation“. The attempt to assess, to measure one’s self. But that is tangential. What we’re really speaking to is a matter of our response to this self-assessment. Self-assessment is a means goal, not an end one. What we are attempting to navigate are three items, a progressive sequence of  means goals to an end goal: positive social inclusion.

This whole concept revolves around the instinct to be included in a given troupe’s activities and the positive interactions and results that these confer, as well as avoiding its negative interactions and negative results.

Humans are included or excluded based on social status–the perception of an individual’s positive or negative contributions to the group. It is a measure of where one fits in the hierarchy in a given troupe.

Our social status — where we fit in the hierarchy — is based upon our stature: what we have to give. It might be wealth, positive feelings, leadership, security or being funny, etc. Even a lack of threat or simple acceptance of another is valuable to others. To be included, we must be attractive, that is, to have something of value that draws others to us so that they may partake of said value.

So the sequence to creating a positive sense of self is this: have something valuable to offer, which confers stature, the level of your stature determines your status, your level of status determines the degree to which you are sought after to be included, then, with habituation, to belong.

The key to an accurate sense of social value, and it’s accompanying internal response, is an accurate measure of what you’ve got, how it is assessed by another and the “social market value” of another. One of the Dalai Lamas said something along the lines of “True humility is knowing your place, accepting that one is neither above, nor below another.”

Low self-esteem is usually inaccurately measuring what one has or can deliver, or being in an environment where one’s offerings are accurately insufficient to the demand or expectation. (“That person is in a whole different league”.) Self-doubt is a lack of accurate information of the degree to which another values our offering. Shame is the acceptance that our offering is inferior to the demand.

Whether we feel “good” or “bad” about ourselves is in fact little more than a physical response to the assessed threat of being harmed or outcast versus being safe and included.

I may be wrong, but this is my 30+ years or so of investigation of the mechanics of it, and what is to be done.

When one views things in such a light, it is easy to see the source of so many conflicts from the personal, to the international. We can understand why “victim politics” has such force. I find that this helps me be more compassionate and practical toward both myself and to others.

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6 thoughts on “On the notion of “self-esteem”.

  1. Anaala Richardson says:

    I tend to agree since I also grew up in an abusive environment. I was also not socialised when I was a child so I find interaction between myself and others to be somewhat terrifying yet interesting.

    The idea of self estimation though I find is flawed in today’s society. I say this because as humans society is collective that allows us to thrive so long as we participate. Yet as time goes by and we move further away from the time when we needed to stick together for survival, there is this idea of the independent human that has taken root.

    Yet nothing could be further from the truth since no matter how independent we may think ourselves to be we could not function without the safety net that society provides. There is no human that is self sufficient as far as I can tell. And the more stature you have the more dependant you become.

    I am perturbed by the amount of credence we give to victim politics since more often than not yesterday’s victims become tomorrow’s oppressors. This can be seen with the struggles of the LG community today as well as the pop feminist movement.

    • Francis Roy says:

      Thanks for the reply. I’ll get back to you on that tomorrow after catching some Z’s.

    • Francis Roy says:

      The idea of self estimation though I find is flawed in today’s society.

      I’m a little bit unclear on what you’re saying, but I’ll take a shot at what I think you’re saying. Correct me if I’m wrong, please. If you are saying that our technologically safe and comfortable society does away with the need for “self-esteem”, I’d be inclined to say that this is irrelevant. These are instincts built into us. On the other hand, I am very happy to agree that the obsession with one’s self-sentiments and emotions is a by-product of where we’re at, at this context of development. We have so much free time that we are free to consider things that only a few hundred years ago would have not been possible due to the fact that we filled our heads with more practical, more survival based thoughts. Personally, I believe that this need for “self-esteem” is a survival mechanism, an evolutionary adaptation, not much different than other social animals knowing where they stand in the troupe’s hierarchy.

      I am perturbed by the amount of credence we give to victim politics since more often than not yesterday’s victims become tomorrow’s oppressors.

      I’m really not sure what you mean by this. If by credence, you mean “belief in or acceptance of something as true.” I acknowledge that victim politics (politics based on victim mentality) exist, that they have a powerful influence over society, but I certainly do not value them, or see them as a positive force in any way.

      Victim mentality is an acquired (learned) personality trait in which a person tends to regard him or herself as a victim of the negative actions of others, and to think, speak and act as if that were the case – even in the absence of clear evidence. It depends on habitual thought processes and attribution.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victim_mentality

      I consider victim mentality and victim politics as a tremendous poison.

      • Anaala Richardson says:

        I was referring to the latter. Yes to your belief that self esteem seems to be a survival mechanism/ evolutionary adaptation.

        Yes that’s how I meant credence. I also share that view but I was referring to society in general at that time.

        P.S. How do you use quotes with comments? I can’t seem to find an option for that.

      • Francis Roy says:

        The quotes are part of writing HTML, the way your browser knows how to make a page look. Wrap something to quote with <blockquote> and </blockquote>

      • Anaala Richardson says:

        Ahhh…*face desk* I really should have known that.

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