The fall course season is upon us as people look to fill their upcoming wintry evenings with a little bit of enlightenment. As such, I was reading a list of available workshops and noticed yet another one about building our self esteem. These courses seem to be everywhere as we obviously deal with an epidemic of people who feel lousy about themselves. The first question to ask is why is epidemic happening and if indeed it is, could it be that we are concentrating more on the result of having self esteem than the process by which we get it? Furthermore, is it possible that the process that our current society believes is the way to get self esteem, is inherently flawed?
The traditional factors that used to dictate our self esteem seem to have lost favor. We used to receive our self esteem from contribution, effort and self discipline. Instead, in my role as Calgary’s version of Super Nanny, I now see an increasingly large amount of parents and children who believe self esteem either comes from what they have or should be there simply because they exist. Add to that the fact that our TV adverts are full of buy something because you’re ‘worth it’ and that then leads to the question of how should our worth be determined?
Are we worthy because of we ‘have’ or because of what we ‘do’ and should we be teaching the younger generation to feel good about themselves regardless of effort? Could we not give children opportunities and encouragement to succeed without lowering the bar and thereby making their success meaningless. Could we not instead focus on the journey toward self esteem instead of the attainment of it and view it instead as it is a journey in progress. Isn’t it important that as individuals we keep on trying, instead of believing that we have ‘arrived.’
And are we really worth it, anymore than a refugee in Darfur or a child in Bangladesh? Could it be that our feeling of being worth it has lead to ingrained cultural attitudes that make us believe we are somehow better than other people and deserve more? No, we are luckier and there’s the difference. Give your child things because they are ‘worth it’, regardless of the contribution they have made and you rob your child of the chance to really obtain self esteem, the one that counts anyway.