T Nation

Get philosophical: self-esteem

What precisely IS self-esteem, and where do we derive our own self-esteem from?? If you think about this deeply, it is hard to answer adequately. What exactly do we get our sense of self-esteem from? Is it the way we look? Is it how smart we are, our intellectual capacity? Is it the quality of our friends? Is it the “quality” of our partner (or even ex=partners?)? Is it found in our childhood, they way we are brought up? Or do some of us derive our self-esteem from being promiscuous and sleeping around…or is this just misplaced LACK of self-esteem and love? Your thoughts please.

I’m not going to get too deep with this, since we all don’t know each other here. It’s hard to “talk” about this sort of topic on forums - I’d prefer face to face discussions. Anyways, I wanted to throw my hat into this, just a tad. I have this skin disease, called Acute Dermatitas. It’s a extreme form of eczema. And it’s not fun. When I was a li’l girl, it was REALLY bad. I even had to miss almost a whole freshman year of high school due to the flair ups. Sometimes I couldn’t move out of bed, due to the pain of crackling skin (yep, it feels as gross as it sounds).

THAT seriously messes with someone's self-esteem. And it did mine. I got better by learning that (back in 1981-82) nutrition actually made a difference. I STILL have to be careful. (but you wouldn't know...if you want proof, check out T-Mag online issue #194, reader mail - you'll see me!).

My senior year I met a guy from Kuwait. And I thought he was so kewl (y'know he wasn't a "high school" boy.....). After I graduated, I moved in with him. And well, I became a abused girlfriend. Once he beat me so bad, my sister took me to the hospital to make sure I was okay - and I was. So okay, I left his ass. I remember after he was chasing me around our bedroom, I ran out of the house and was running down the street - and I realized all I had on was my bathing suit. So, I started laughing. This folks, was my beginning. I still could see humor in this moment and that gave me hope and then I began to get pissed. I went to our neighbors, called my sister - and left. I also threatened to deport him after I had filed a police report.

Okay, enough of that. I believe everyone derives their self-esteem from different sources. Mine is my history or background. That person back in '85 with that Kuwaiti dude is a totally different person from me, now. A stranger. NO ONE, other than my boyfriend(and family) knows about this of me. And people who know me now would not believe a word of it.

However, I know and am aware of me being a intelligent and talented person. I have never measured my self-esteem in accordance to whoever I have on my arm. It's up to the person I see in the mirror everyday. I don't need assurances from others about my abilities. I am a loyal and trusting friend, and will be that until someone takes advantage of my loyalty. Then I am not forgiving. I do hold grudges. I am accepting in my faults and the faults of others. I believe in individuality. I take pride in my accomplishments. I am 36-years old and I'm still learning about myself. I am deeply in love with my best friend, my boyfriend. But I don't need him for approval - but sometimes for guidance and support. I am extremely proud of my heritage.

I didn't learn ANY of this from my childhood, but from my experiences over the years. I just had the gumption to actually learn from them and take action. Ain't that what it's all about? THIS, all to me, is encrusted into my self-esteem.

Unfortunately, I often base my self esteem on what others think of me. In reality though, I am a Christian and there is a better source of my self-esteem. It is the realization that I am a child of God and I was created in his image and He loves me unconditionally. All too often, I stray from this knowledge and it only leads me in the wrong direction.

Rational individuals attain and increase self-esteem through the setting and achieving of goals. Self-esteem is by definition your regard for your own value, and as such relates to your own estimation of your efficacy in this world. While it can be negatively impacted by others, it can only be generated positively through your own actions.

I think self-esteem comes from how we are treated when we are young. I believe that all people are born with a good opinion of themselves, but it is our situations and our ability to cope with them that can change things. If you are continuously put down about something your self-esteem will go, even if you are beautiful and smart and talented. We can often recover quite well from physical punishments, but it is the verbal ones that have a way of sticking to us–especially from people who are close to us (like family, bf’s, gf’s). I do believe that you can rebuild your self-esteem, like Patricia has, but I still think it is a very hard process once it has been diminished. Nobody thinks of themselves as a loser unless someone actually puts that idea into their head.

Those people who sleep around trying to create self-esteem are deluding themselves. If anything, that type of activity just shows that the individual is not capable of sustaining anything more stable or permanent.

I had struggled with self-esteem all my life because one person close to me always put me down for one reason or another. I have gone beyond it, but it still nags at me and this person still does the same thing even today–without even realizing the affect it has.

Well, this one strikes at me directly. I was always heavy growing up. I have pretty bad genetics anyway, but I am able to get to an acceptable level of muscle and weight, although no where near what I would like. Anyway, I am very successful and good looking. One year I made over $270k, yet I still look in the mirror and see fat along with a lack of self worth. My self worth issues stem from childhood and I am trying to get over them. It is coming, but sometimes I get thrown off and fall into depression. On the surface, I have it all. Money, millions of friends and intelligence, but I still struggle with it. So, I guess all I can say is to keep on moving forward. I will conquer this someday, (I hope it is sooner because I am starting to get really tired of it) and then I can be happy. Well, that’s it. I listen to tapes, do excercises and practice Buddhism. Keep going I guess.


Well, I’ve got to say you’re way off in even your questions about self-esteem. EVERYTHING you listed as possible sources of self-esteem are external. And while they can help bolster a good self-esteem, they are not sources. Self-esteem comes from within. If self-esteem is derived from external sources, it’s not really self-esteem, and if those sources are removed, so is the self-esteem.

I think the deffinition of self esteem is knowing who you are and exactly where you fit in the greater sceme of things. I think thats why self-esteem is such a big problem for most people including myself. It’s hard to know yourself and it’s even harder know why you are here and where you belong while your here… The things metioned in your post are only where we get the answer to our questions, and most of the time the answers are wrong…