Self- esteem is apart of each person’s social development which begins during infancy and lasts a lifetime. Parent, educators, religious leaders and neighbors all play an important role in this most delicate process. What does self- esteem mean? According to author David Myers in “Exploring Psychology”, self- esteem is one’s feeling of high or low self worth. Simply said its how you think about yourself. Do you think positively or negatively about yourself?
How we think of ourselves is so very important. Why? Rod Plotnik in “Introduction to Psychology” highlights the four following reasons. Self- esteem is important for the development of self identity, the development of relationships with others, the creation of skills necessary in social interactions and its influences on our personality.
The first highlighted reason speaks about self identity. Self identity refers to how we would describe ourselves along with our values, perceptions, experiences, interests and what motivates us. Just think when a child is born they have already been listening to the world outside of the womb for sometime. They have developed censors that tell them when they are loved, if their caretaker is upset, et cetera. You can see how important it is to have positive reinforcement along with sound constructive criticism while a child is growing up. If a child receives too much criticism and not enough positive reinforcement he or she can grow up being inflexible and rigid about expectations for themselves and others around them. They may not be able to see the great things they have to offer others in friendships or in a work environment. If a child receives too much praise and not enough constructive criticism he or she may grow up with an unrealistic view of the world and what people will and will not except from them.
As a result, they would be in for a rude awakening when they come across others that did not accept what behavior they offered simply because they are who they are. A balanced, positive self identity is important. Self identity is consequential to how we deal with ourselves and others.
The second reason focuses on how self- esteem affects our relationships with others. There is an adage that says ‘when you are smiling the whole world smiles with you’. Have you ever heard a baby giggle? You can not help but laugh or at the very least smile. Happiness is contagious! You just respond to the good feelings radiating out and sent your way. The positive outlook born for high self- esteem is fuel for our social development. People with high self- esteem tend to have great friendships, do well in school and are active in social activities. They are viewed as happy, bubbly and determined. No one wants to be around a wet blanket or someone who only sees the negative side of every situation. People want and enjoy being around others that encourages, inspires and enhances their lives or at the very least the activity at hand.
The third and fourth reasons emphasize the creation of skills necessary in social interactions and self- esteem’s influence on our personality. While we communicate we use verbal and non verbal language to express ourselves. Our head, facial and body movements and positions speak volumes about how we feel about something and what mood we are in at the time. Encourage you child to go to a mirror and look at how their face looks when they speak. This is how others see them when they are socially interacting. Empower them to share their beautiful smile with others. When you are in the habit of smiling more, there is a tendency to feel happier. Positive reinforcement by parents and other adults can not be overstated in its importance. When you say positive things to a child it emboldens them to continue doing the desired behavior because of the good feeling associated with it. They want to experience that good feel again and again. Inspire your child to try new things. Social interactions is about sometimes doing things differently and negotiating when you will be a trailblazer or student and turn- taking.
A child’s view of themselves and peer acceptance or interaction are factors in the formation of a child self esteem. When you feel good about yourself you tend to do well. When you do well at an activity you strive to do it even better. When you excel at an activity this draws people to you. Everyone loves a winner. Help your child find out what they are good at by exploring a bevy of activities. This will increase your child’s opportunities to use their social skills—which improve with practice. This will increase their desire to use your social skills because their confidence and self- esteem is high. Most importantly parents, you setting a positive example of favorable behavior is priceless.
By:Lynn Williams*This is a re-run of an article first published in Moving Forward Magazine and the 1st in the “Life Essentials for Success” series.