Morris Rosenberg states that self esteem is formulated in 3 ways (1) reflected appraisals, (2) social comparison, (3) self attribution.
Reflected appraisal comes from Mead and Cooleys’ idea that if other respect us and look up to us in some way, we are likely to have a higher self esteem than if they are degrading us.
Social comparison is the process by which we compare ourselves to others in either a positive, neutral or negative way. Poor children (as a generalisation) will often do less well at school than their wealthier classmates as the comparison of life styles may develop a negative self esteem, making it less likely that the poorer child will perform well in school and the low level of achievement will then further damage the self esteem (see below).
Self attribution is when there is a failure to observe the internal psychological processes and to instead, form an opinion of the self based on external behaviours or reactions. Bem gives us the example that a man who eats an enormous dinner could conclude “I guess I was hungrier than I thought” making a conclusion about his external experience in seeing the empty plate instead of getting in touch with his internal feelings whilst eating or after finishing the food to establish if he was full up earlier, or is now feeling over filled. Therefore a child who’s teacher tell them “You’re not very good at concentrating.” Could conclude that this outside information is the truth about their ability to concentrate and develop a low self esteem, instead of challenging the statement internally (“When am I good at concentrating? What do I concentrate really well at? Am I concentrating now?) and using his own internal conclusions to improve the self esteem and the level of concentration.
By far the most reliable means of improving one’s own self esteem is to find it from within, as relying on an outside source to verify your identity can be at times unreliable. If your self esteem comes from knowing that you are a good daughter to your parents, what will happen to that self esteem when those parents pass away? Or if your self esteem is verified by knowing that you are good at your job, do you then lose your self esteem if you lose your job?
If we must compare ourselves to others, then surely looking at what others have and we do not, is best serving us if that helps us to establish new goals for the future to helps us achieve that which others have. Comparing ourselves to those who have less than us should encourage us to feel thankful and to develop a more grateful attitude for what we have already.
The idea of challenging the labels we are given (or give to ourselves) is not a new one. All NLP techniques are really based around the idea of reframing a problem (that is “seeing it in a different and more resourceful way). Psychologist, Dr Clare Graves said “It’s not that you get rid of problems. You evolve into a person who the problem doesn’t matter to.” This implies that overcoming a problem is simply a case of changing the way in which you think about that problem, or seeing yourself in a more resourceful way. Using the techniques of NLP this change in thinking can be created at the unconscious automatic level. When a person believes that they can be and do more, they tend to feel better about themselves and therefore have a better experience in life. They achieve greater results which propels their self esteem to an even greater level.
By Gemma Bailey