Our self-esteem is profoundly influenced by our social environment. The greatest of these influences is our home: our parents in particular and our siblings as well. Our earliest perceptions of ourself are based on things that our family say to us and about us. And they’re also based on the way they treat us. With lots of love, positive affirmation, and wholesome teaching or training we grow up feeling good about ourself because we sense the love and value bestowed upon us by our parents and siblings. Naturally, the converse is true. A troubled, abusive family setting is injurious to our self-esteem and the effects of that loveless relationship haunt us for the greater part, even the remainder, of our life.


Besides our parents and family, the people in our life affect the way we think about ourself. Our teachers, classmates, pastors, neighbors, relatives, coworkers, and friends all play a role in contributing to our own perceptions about ourself. Their opinions, criticisms, and positive affirmations form the basis of what we believe about ourself. Now what’s true with family is also true with our social network: a positive social environment produces a healthy self-esteem. And a negative social environment, an unhealthy one. The people we hang around with the most are the ones who have the most impact on the way we view ourself.




How, exactly, do we go about forming or developing our self-esteem? There are five basic factors that go into the makeup or development of our self-esteem.


1. OUR LOOKS. As children, our very first perception of ourself centers around our looks: our gender, skin color, hair color, length, and style; our body shape and size; our height and weight; and our facial characteristics, i.e. the size and contour of our nose, the shape of our eyes and mouth, our facial hair, etc. As we enter puberty and adolescence we lay a lot of stress on our facial features, sexual endowments, and current hair and clothing fads. Our very first perception of ourself as beautiful, ugly, comely, or attractive is based on the way we look.


2. OUR ACCEPTANCE. As we enter puberty and adolescence we continue to lay a lot of stress on our facial features, sexual endowments, and overall bodily appearance. We do this as a means to an end; it’s what we think we have to do to get what we want. And what is that?  We want to be liked and accepted by our peers. This is where our preoccupation with current hair and clothing fads or fashions come in. We spend a great deal of time and money making ourselves attractive and appealing—especially to the opposite sex because we desperately want to be loved and accepted. We want to fit in, blend in, and be like everyone else in our age group. Our teen years are devoted to popularity and acceptance. Our self-esteem at this age is determined by how well we are liked and accepted. Popularity and likeability produce good self-esteem. And rejection and ridicule produce a disastrously bad or low self-esteem.


3. OUR CHARACTER. As we enter our later teen years we are not as bound by peer pressure as before. We are free to explore who we really are. While looks and fashion are still important elements of our self-perception, they are no longer the sole, most important determinant of our self-esteem. We begin assessing our value, dignity, and worth on something that has become more important to us, and that is our psychological, spiritual makeup. We start building self-esteem on who we are as a person. We judge ourselves based our personality, behavior, and character; on our morals, beliefs, and goals in life. If we like what we’ve become in terms of our personality and pursuits we’ll have good self-esteem. Contrariwise, if we despise who we are because of our weaknesses, addictions, and aimlessness  in life we’ll have poor self-esteem.


4. OUR CAPABILITIES. As we leave our schooling behind and enter the work force we begin to define our self-esteem in terms of our abilities.


(a) Our abilities includes our intelligence or how mentally-equipped we are to perform certain tasks and succeed. When we get a job that we can do well in and succeed vocationally as well as financially, we get a good feeling about ourself and remain optimistic about life. But when we have a job that we’re just not capable of doing well, we see ourself as a dunce and a failure in life.


(b) Our abilities include our emotional makeup and how well we are prepared to handle the stresses of the job, the stresses of a long-term relationship with a member of the opposite sex, and the stresses of life in general. We all are faced with difficulties and trials. A person who copes well and is able to get past the defeats and difficulties will feel good   about   himself or herself  and   his or her  resulting   resiliency   will contribute toward a positive outlook in life. But a person who doesn’t cope with life’s struggles will get angry and bitter. Unfortunately, this inability to cope contributes to a sense of failure and the onslaught of despair or depression.


(c) Lastly, our abilities include our physical makeup. As men, the health and stamina to work hard and provide a good living bring a sense of inner satisfaction and fulfillment. For domestically-inclined women, the ability to conceive children and be a good mother provides a woman with an inner sense of pride and fulfillment. A physical disability wreaks havoc on a person’s self-esteem. But, fortunately, a disabled person can rise above a defeatist mentality and do what he or she can do to live an independent, or semi-independent, life and thereby enhance his or her self-esteem.


5. OUR ACHIEVEMENTS. As we enter our mid-life and senior years, our self-esteem comes to be based on what we’ve accomplished, or failed to accomplish, in life. It’s a reflective, meditative time in life when we look back over the course of our life and see whether our life has counted for anything. We look at the goals and dreams we had in life when we were young, then we look at ourself now and we judge ourself based on how well we lived up to our goals and dreams. Our self-esteem becomes one of pride and satisfaction, or else sorrow and regret.


Coming Up On My Next Blog Post, Part 3: Two flaws of self-esteem and the question of whether Christians should have self-esteem.

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