How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
The Need for Self-esteem
We all need to think well of ourselves, that we are worthy and important.
I feel comfortable in my own skin, that I am basically a decent person and can add real value to the world.
A person holds a dark tension inside, basically not liking themselves. This comes out in all kinds of dysfunctional ways, from pushing away from others to almost deliberately failing in the workplace.
It is curious that while much is made of esteem from other people, few needs models consider the need for self-esteem. Yet those who do not feel themselves worthy may reflect this by seeking external esteem as a replacement, even though this can never heal inner doubt and self-loathing.
Loss of self-esteem can be self-inflicted, for example when we know we have betrayed our own values or feel that we have let down either ourselves or other people. The roots of low self-esteem can also go back to childhood where, for example, they may have been criticized by a teacher, parent or perhaps a bully. Being a child, they did not realize that this was a short-term comment and took it as meaning they were permanently bad. On the other hand, a loving upbringing can lead to solid and comfortable self-esteem.
People with low self-esteem typically judge themselves and then find themselves guilty. Being guilty, they then conclude they must be punished, and so proceed to harm themselves in all kinds of ways, from constant internal recrimination to failing at any activity of significance that they undertake. They seem to feel that, being bad, they are not allowed to succeed, because that would make them feel good. To improve their self-esteem, perhaps an early step would be self-forgiveness.
Most of us, however, have moderate and reasonable self-esteem that may go up and down with mood. Self-esteem is also related to esteem from others, particularly when a person is particularly influenced by what others think of them.
The importance of self-esteem was highlighted in research by Bushman et al (2010) who found that college students scored activities that boosted their self-esteem more highly than sexual encounters!
When you want to motivate a person, help them to feel good from the inside. Esteem may also be used as a push motivation, for example when good behaviour is linked to good feelings.