Posted in Of Psyche

Of Esteem


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Esteem is not the same as value. While there can be something true, something definitive about value whether intrinsic or extrinsic, esteem is always imposed. Even if we impose esteem on our own selves. However, that is not to say that esteem and value aren’t related. You recognise value in someone, yourself or someone else, and then you attach value, i.e. respect, to it. It is very possible to do the first without the second. But, our natural assumptions about us and the way people perceive us is that the second should be present without needing the first to be separately acknowledged. Quite simply put, I and the people in my life should respect and value me without having the need to judge whether I deserve it. But, because we’re much too given to self-analysis and external analysis, how our value gets estimated is not that easy to determine.

Therefore, the whole idea of there being high or low ( or moderate, if there is such a thing ) self-esteem boggles me. Especially, when people impose it on me. That, I may have high or low self-esteem which is visible to them, but not to me. That it is some sort of a marker, a qualification, that indicates how I perform in the main areas of my life – career, relationships, even health. That anyone at all is allowed to detect it in me, when even a qualified professional can’t give me a more-or-less accurate estimate of it. And that, when I am aware of my esteem options, high or low whichever way the pointer on the scale is, it should henceforth decide my attitude to the key areas of my life. Say, if I do or do not wear makeup, it will give separate readings on that rather rudimentary meter of esteem ( that only reads high and low ), when it comes to which subject is reading it, me or someone else. Wow, this device seems totally scientific and precise ( yes, you did detect sarcasm there. Hope it gave you an ego boost ).

My question is, is there really a point to all this? Does being aware of something so arbitrary help in anyway? I like to set my self-esteem level to zero. Not because of my low self-esteem, but if such a scale is invented, I’d always know where to start. Supposing I decided I had 10 or 90 self-esteem units. I wouldn’t know if that’s good or not! If the maximum unit was 10, I would have the most possible self-esteem. If it was 100, I would either have very low or very high self-esteem. Either way, measuring how I esteem myself cannot lead to comforting conclusions. So, why is the paltry high-and-low so much worth our time? I’d rather stick to zero or nil. That way, I wouldn’t have to bother with it.

I’ve often enough been bothered with it, though. It’s called many things, but right from the time I was a teenager or even as a child perhaps, I’ve heard things like low self-esteem, nervous, inferiority complex, superiority complex ( which, I was told, is a form of inferiority complex ) and many other things. After a while, I got really curious to know if this was invisibly tattooed in my demeanour and only I didn’t see it. I even picked up a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy book on it, which said that low self-esteem is by itself not a condition but a cause or a symptom for another. Great, so I have something that isn’t something by itself. I am not trying to make fun of those of us who have some version of this but, I’m trying to say, this isn’t a very user-friendly version. It needs to be upgraded.

When I think about what I esteem externally, I look at it this way. Things that I will do my best to preserve if I had to, things I wouldn’t try so hard for, and things the world could well be rid of, like cobwebs. I put myself in the first category. There are very many things I want to do, very many things I’m appreciative of. To quote Howard Moon from The Mighty Boosh, “Don’t kill me! I have so much to give.”

So, on this, we’re clear. There is no one in this world who thinks I am of more value than myself. Then, what else do I have to do to get rid of that label? I’ve had it for ten years or so, and it hasn’t done me any good. I’ve always found it slightly ridiculous. LSE makes me think of LSD which makes me think of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, which makes me think of John Lennon, which makes me laugh. But, it also reminds me of this external diagnosis that Lennon himself had often received from people, especially during his househusband years. Knowing him, he would have made a surreal poem or song out of it.

I won’t presume to know that a professional diagnosis and treatment of self-esteem hasn’t helped people. All I’m saying is, I don’t know how to tackle it in case I have it because, despite my best efforts, I don’t see any logic in it. I understand anxiety. I understand depression. I understand what these conditions feel like and what I can do to deal with them if I made the effort. But, I firmly believe, how I regard myself is my business and no one else’s. Certainly not some stray remark to be passed in conversation by someone who is not an expert. If you are such a person, do understand it is hurtful, certainly not useful, and uninformed unless received from a professional in a professional arrangement. Like OCD, it’s time we dropped this from our cultural vocabulary.


Writer, Blogger, Kate Bush Fanatic

5 thoughts on “Of Esteem

  1. When one person tells another person that they have low self-esteem I wonder if they are actually projecting her own insecurities onto others. It seems like a putdown, and putdowns are usually meant to raise oneself up by comparison.

    1. I, too, believe that is the case. I believe that mental health terms entering into popular culture has ended up trivializing it. Along with self-esteem (or “inferiority” complex), terms like OCD, bipolar and even schizophrenia are used to belittle and attack people ( or yourself ) everyday, with or without diagnosis. Whereas awareness should have made it less taboo to talk about them and encouraged people to come forward and seek help. On the other hand, it has become more isolating and frightening than ever.

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