A question about self-esteem

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Do you think poor self-esteem is more likely in today's world than in the past? How about in the more developed vs. less developed countries.

I just wondered because there is so much talk about it nowadays. Was poor self-esteem always a problem and just not named as such?
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I believe it's always been a problem and studied and discussed. It may be more prevalent in more developed countries, because of the celebs, super rich, and super models. In more developed countries people are more materialistic and base their worth on what they have and on how they look.
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I think self worth and self esteem have always been considered, especially in the philosophical realm prior to the psychological realm. But I think that in a modern, developed country, the average person has more leisure time in which to think about these things and introspect. As opposed to a peasant in the 1700s who would rationally be more concerned with growing or acquiring food, health, making clothing, keeping a shelter, etc. I think that there's been a lot more though on self-esteem because there's just more opportunities now to think about it. Also, with the spread of media and more recently the Internet, you have new ways to compare your life to others. In the past, you may have lived your whole life only knowing a small town of people. But today, if I want to, I can compare my body to an Italian model's in the time it takes me to open google and type "Italian model."
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Interesting question and many good points were made! I recently saw a documentary on women and beauty and the narrator reported the results of a study about an undeveloped country village that never had media exposure and when they did gain access to it within a relatively short span of time many of the girls developed eating disorders. Before the media access, the incidences of eating disorders were very rare. I love the internet and TV and movies but I do think in many ways it has caused many susceptible people to doubt themselves and wonder if they have enough, are good enough. That can lead to low-self esteem and unhappiness, jealousy,etc. It seems the media has made the world an even more competitive place for those who tend to compare themselves to others.
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To keep ur simple , yea it's been a problem since forever , however, self worth is becoming a more of a problem than the past cuz of globalization n competition , like see how the media n business ads show us how we suppose to be like u know what I mean, that's it I guess
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I think a sense of self worth is something built into some religions. I know it is in Christianity. I think as ppl depart from organized religion, they are kind of left on their own to create their own sense of self worth here and there.

(I am using "sense of self worth" synonymously w/ "self esteem" bc I just don't like the term "self esteem" as the meaning is a bit nebulous.)

And also as we move beyond traditional gender roles and traditional expectations, the old ways in which men and women could buid their sense of self worth often no onger apply.
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Last edited by spiderlashes5000; 05-02-2013 at 09:06 AM.
I agree with LauraLee, I think it's more of a problem in richer areas where people have time to think about this stuff.

I think a sense of self worth is something built into some religions. I know it is in Christianity. I think as ppl depart from organized religion, they are kind of left on their own to create their own sense of self worth here and there.

(I am using "sense of self worth" synonymously w/ "self esteem" bc I just don't like the term "self esteem" as the meaning is a bit nebulous.)

And also as we move beyond traditional gender roles and traditional expectations, the old ways in which men and women could buid their sense of self worth often no onger apply.
Originally Posted by spiderlashes5000
This is an interesting concept that I'm not understanding. So you think self esteem comes from religion/roles(gender or otherwise)? What about school and career?
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I agree with LauraLee, I think it's more of a problem in richer areas where people have time to think about this stuff.

I think a sense of self worth is something built into some religions. I know it is in Christianity. I think as ppl depart from organized religion, they are kind of left on their own to create their own sense of self worth here and there.

(I am using "sense of self worth" synonymously w/ "self esteem" bc I just don't like the term "self esteem" as the meaning is a bit nebulous.)

And also as we move beyond traditional gender roles and traditional expectations, the old ways in which men and women could buid their sense of self worth often no onger apply.
Originally Posted by spiderlashes5000
This is an interesting concept that I'm not understanding. So you think self esteem comes from religion/roles(gender or otherwise)? What about school and career?
Originally Posted by Josephine
Back in the day, it came from those things.

I remember watching a documentary about farmers in an isolated enclave somewhere out west. And one guy wanted to marry his girlfriend an he recollected that the first time he saw her, he knew he had to have her. The way she fed the chickens, the way she picked the corn, the way she got up early to milk the cows. He knew she would be a good farm wife and that was all a man like him wanted.

When a woman, in a traditional culture, had healthy babies and worked the farm and cooked hearty meals, etc., she was cherished and she knew her role and value in the bigger scheme of things. Not saying she might nt have been oppressed, too. Or whatever. But in her mind, she had value. She wasn't on Prozac, she wasn't trying to kill herself, she wasn't drinking herself blind at the saloon and letting different guys climb on top of her. Maybe she was bored and maybe she didn't have rights, but she wasn't questioning her reason for being born or wishing she was dead. (Not saying it's OK for ppl not to have equal rights.)

But as roles change, ppl have to carve out new niches for themselves and it doesn't always work. Well, yes, I can cook a great, hearty meal for my family and use what I don't cook for clothing and to grease the wagon wheel axles. But oh wait, my family likes McDonald's and my househusband shops at the gap. Cow fat isn't indicated for the BMW I can't afford.

I can't speak for other religions besides Christianity but yes, the message of Christianity is that God loves you, God thinks you're great, God sent his only begotten son to die for you because he loves you so much and wants you near for all of eternity and he wil bear any burden, stress, worry and problem for you out of his undying love for you and will move mountains and work miracles and never leave you and he made you in his image and has a customized plan just for your life, and has given you guidance and never-ending forgiveness and powers and talents and blessings beyond what you can understand, etc. So yes, for the believer, it provides an instant, unconditional sense of purpose and belonging.

I guess critics keep focusing on some perceived oppression or whatever that women and gay ppl experience in religion. But I believe that is a misperception. Yes, the husband is supposed to be the leader of the family, but in such a way that his role is to serve his family and lay down his life for it the way Jesus did for the church. And gay ppl are loved just like anyone else. We are all equal and all loved in God's eyes, according to the Bible. But God doesn't condone all behaviors...from gays or straights alike.

But anyway, yes, the message of Christ is one of unconditional love.

But as ppl move away from that, then there is a need to build one's value alone, in the eyes of self and of others. Yes, ppl can derive a sense of self worth from school and careers. But that would be a different wordview.

I might have bitten off more than I can explain here.
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Last edited by spiderlashes5000; 05-02-2013 at 11:23 AM.
Very interesting and thorough analysis, Spiderlashes.
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Very interesting and thorough analysis, Spiderlashes.
Originally Posted by curlypearl
I never explain myself properly but thanks.
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I agree with LauraLee, I think it's more of a problem in richer areas where people have time to think about this stuff.

I think a sense of self worth is something built into some religions. I know it is in Christianity. I think as ppl depart from organized religion, they are kind of left on their own to create their own sense of self worth here and there.

(I am using "sense of self worth" synonymously w/ "self esteem" bc I just don't like the term "self esteem" as the meaning is a bit nebulous.)

And also as we move beyond traditional gender roles and traditional expectations, the old ways in which men and women could buid their sense of self worth often no onger apply.
Originally Posted by spiderlashes5000
This is an interesting concept that I'm not understanding. So you think self esteem comes from religion/roles(gender or otherwise)? What about school and career?
Originally Posted by Josephine
Back in the day, it came from those things.

I remember watching a documentary about farmers in an isolated enclave somewhere out west. And one guy wanted to marry his girlfriend an he recollected that the first time he saw her, he knew he had to have her. The way she fed the chickens, the way she picked the corn, the way she got up early to milk the cows. He knew she would be a good farm wife and that was all a man like him wanted.

When a woman, in a traditional culture, had healthy babies and worked the farm and cooked hearty meals, etc., she was cherished and she knew her role and value in the bigger scheme of things. Not saying she might nt have been oppressed, too. Or whatever. But in her mind, she had value. She wasn't on Prozac, she wasn't trying to kill herself, she wasn't drinking herself blind at the saloon and letting different guys climb on top of her. Maybe she was bored and maybe she didn't have rights, but she wasn't questioning her reason for being born or wishing she was dead. (Not saying it's OK for ppl not to have equal rights.)

But as roles change, ppl have to carve out new niches for themselves and it doesn't always work. Well, yes, I can cook a great, hearty meal for my family and use what I don't cook for clothing and to grease the wagon wheel axles. But oh wait, my family likes McDonald's and my househusband shops at the gap. Cow fat isn't indicated for the BMW I can't afford.
Originally Posted by spiderlashes5000
Okay so you're tying career(in this case farmer/full time mother) to self esteem. I can see it tied more directly to self worth and then to self esteem, the two usually go hand in hand. I don't see how it's different now. Most people still work but I don't think they revolve their self worth around their career or jobs as much anymore but many still do.

I get the religion thing, you need a reason/explanation for your purpose in life.

I agree with LauraLee, I think it's more of a problem in richer areas where people have time to think about this stuff.



This is an interesting concept that I'm not understanding. So you think self esteem comes from religion/roles(gender or otherwise)? What about school and career?
Originally Posted by Josephine
Back in the day, it came from those things.

I remember watching a documentary about farmers in an isolated enclave somewhere out west. And one guy wanted to marry his girlfriend an he recollected that the first time he saw her, he knew he had to have her. The way she fed the chickens, the way she picked the corn, the way she got up early to milk the cows. He knew she would be a good farm wife and that was all a man like him wanted.

When a woman, in a traditional culture, had healthy babies and worked the farm and cooked hearty meals, etc., she was cherished and she knew her role and value in the bigger scheme of things. Not saying she might nt have been oppressed, too. Or whatever. But in her mind, she had value. She wasn't on Prozac, she wasn't trying to kill herself, she wasn't drinking herself blind at the saloon and letting different guys climb on top of her. Maybe she was bored and maybe she didn't have rights, but she wasn't questioning her reason for being born or wishing she was dead. (Not saying it's OK for ppl not to have equal rights.)

But as roles change, ppl have to carve out new niches for themselves and it doesn't always work. Well, yes, I can cook a great, hearty meal for my family and use what I don't cook for clothing and to grease the wagon wheel axles. But oh wait, my family likes McDonald's and my househusband shops at the gap. Cow fat isn't indicated for the BMW I can't afford.
Originally Posted by spiderlashes5000
Okay so you're tying career(in this case farmer/full time mother) to self esteem. I can see it tied more directly to self worth and then to self esteem, the two usually go hand in hand. I don't see how it's different now. Most people still work but I don't think they revolve their self worth around their career or jobs as much anymore but many still do.

I get the religion thing, you need a reason/explanation for your purpose in life.
Originally Posted by Josephine
How are you defining self esteem? (So many different definitions of it.)

I think the difference with it now (moving away from traditional gender roles) is that there are no clear cut ways to be relevent and demonstrate that you are succeeding at whatever it is you are supposed to be doing.

Generations ago, women felt if the kids were healthy and the house was clean and the meals were served up hot when the husband walked thru the door, she was a good wife and an asset to her family and community.

But that's not enough anymore. Most men don't want that anymore and society doesn't reward it. Now there are all these other things she needs to do to feel a sense of self worth: look like a movie star, compete w/ men at work, climb the corporate ladder, run the McMansion, raise the bratty spoiled kids (w/o grandma and grandpa around to help bc you moved away), fight to keep a marriage together that's statistically likely to end in divorce, etc., opening your own doors and paying for dates and buying your own condoms and calling him first. Making the empowered decision to allow your husband consume porn and making the empowered decision to walk off a good-paying job bc you were asked to make coffee. And being labeled a bad employee bc you're a good mom or a bad mom bc you are a good employee. And being a bad daughter in law bc you did both differently than your mother in law wanted.

Just a lot more stuff than women a century ago had to contend with.
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Last edited by spiderlashes5000; 05-02-2013 at 01:41 PM.



Back in the day, it came from those things.

I remember watching a documentary about farmers in an isolated enclave somewhere out west. And one guy wanted to marry his girlfriend an he recollected that the first time he saw her, he knew he had to have her. The way she fed the chickens, the way she picked the corn, the way she got up early to milk the cows. He knew she would be a good farm wife and that was all a man like him wanted.

When a woman, in a traditional culture, had healthy babies and worked the farm and cooked hearty meals, etc., she was cherished and she knew her role and value in the bigger scheme of things. Not saying she might nt have been oppressed, too. Or whatever. But in her mind, she had value. She wasn't on Prozac, she wasn't trying to kill herself, she wasn't drinking herself blind at the saloon and letting different guys climb on top of her. Maybe she was bored and maybe she didn't have rights, but she wasn't questioning her reason for being born or wishing she was dead. (Not saying it's OK for ppl not to have equal rights.)

But as roles change, ppl have to carve out new niches for themselves and it doesn't always work. Well, yes, I can cook a great, hearty meal for my family and use what I don't cook for clothing and to grease the wagon wheel axles. But oh wait, my family likes McDonald's and my househusband shops at the gap. Cow fat isn't indicated for the BMW I can't afford.
Originally Posted by spiderlashes5000
Okay so you're tying career(in this case farmer/full time mother) to self esteem. I can see it tied more directly to self worth and then to self esteem, the two usually go hand in hand. I don't see how it's different now. Most people still work but I don't think they revolve their self worth around their career or jobs as much anymore but many still do.

I get the religion thing, you need a reason/explanation for your purpose in life.
Originally Posted by Josephine
How are you defining self esteem? (So many different definitions of it.)

I think the difference with it now (moving away from traditional gender roles) is that there are no clear cut ways to be relevent and demonstrate that you are succeeding at whatever it is you are supposed to be doing.

Generations ago, women felt if the kids were healthy and the house was clean and the meals were served up hot when the husband walked thru the door, she was a good wife and an asset to her family and community.

But that's not enough anymore. Most men don't want that anymore and society doesn't reward it. Now there are all these other things she needs to do to feel a sense of self worth: look like a movie star, compete w/ men at work, climb the corporate ladder, run the McMansion, raise the bratty spoiled kids (w/o grandma and grandpa around to help bc you moved away), fight to keep a marriage together that's statistically likely to end in divorce, etc., opening your own doors and paying for dates and buying your own condoms and calling him first. Making the empowered decision to allow your husband consume porn and making the empowered decision to walk off a good-paying job bc you were asked to make coffee. And being labeled a bad employee bc you're a good mom or a bad mom bc you are a good employee. And being a bad daughter in law bc you did both differently than your mother in law wanted.

Just a lot more stuff than women a century ago had to contend with.
Originally Posted by spiderlashes5000
Wow lol, I don't relate to any of this. I have heard of it though for women a bit older than me that have superman standards, which is why that 'lean in' book was written. I think there are probably people my age that feel that way too.

Why isn't succeeding at one's career, being able to support yourself and a family enough for many of these women? I don't understand working women who want 2 full time jobs(outside the home and taking care of a home/family as good as a full time stay at home mom), its not possible.

I think the pressures you mentioned are self inflicted. If she doesn't want to be 'empowered' by holding her own doors, competing at work with men and women, make a lot of money, etc, that's fine, there are many traditional men that may like that and will provide and play that role. There are a lot of men though that want to have their cake and eat it too - have a woman contribute equally in finances(or more) but then expect her to do most of the domestic duties.
I find self-esteem issues to be so confusing and difficult to figure out, not matter the time in history.
My sister and I grew up in the same house with the same parents in the same town, went to the same schools, and we are quite alike. We've both had severe traumas in our lives. She has many problems with self-esteem and I do not. No idea why that would be.
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I've had low self-esteem my entire life, but my older sister does not. Part of that, I think, is due to our having completely different personalities - my sister is extroverted and outgoing and is going to do what she wants to do while going through life with a happy-go-lucky attitude. I'm an introvert, shy (though that has gotten much better with age), and have always felt like I needed to put everyone else's happiness before my own.

Birth order may have had a small part to play in it. My sister is the oldest and was the first grandchild on my mom's family's side, and, as such, was the center of attention and had a normal amount of fuss made over her. In essence, she had the groundwork laid for good self-esteem - she felt she was important in her little universe. By the time I came along, not so much. I pretty much felt invisible.

Another aspect in my family is that my mom treated me completely differently than my brother and sister. My sister was golden because she was first-born, and my brother was golden simply by being a male child (big deal in Italian families). I was the youngest, was very sensitive, was alone at home with my mom once my brother & sister were in school, and very quickly fell prey to my mom's own issues with low self-esteem and narcissism. With my personality and those conditions, I never had a chance to develop a sense of self-worth or self-esteem as a small child because there was no one to teach me or mirror that to me. My most important mirror (my mom) told and demonstrated to me daily that I had no worth and nothing I did was right or good enough.

The most improvement I've had in my self-esteem has been from being a part of this board and interacting with all of you -- you've all been my role models, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I do think that self esteem has always been a problem; it just wasn't identified as such.
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But anyway, yes, the message of Christ is one of unconditional love.
Originally Posted by spiderlashes5000
I agree that is Christ's message, but that is not been my personal experience with the Christian church. I have been judged, ostracized, made to feel unwelcome and belittled by the church. I was brought up to believe we, the people of the church, do not act that way. So, for a long time, way into adulthood, I thought there was something wrong with me because it was clear that the church thought something was wrong with me. It took me a long time to realize that the church's treatment of me was a reflection on the church, not a reflection on me.

I believe that self-worth is our view of ourselves but it is viewed through lenses shaped by our culture. I believe it's always existed in social classes, castes, blood-lines, and vocations.
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Interesting thread.

A few thoughts:

1) I think that self-esteem named as such as an independent concept is a "first world" and modern age thing in the sense that, as has been said, people who are poorer don't have the time to think about it because they are thinking about basic necessities and survival and don't have the choices in their lives that we do. However, I think that some of those people can or did in fact suffer from what we might label as "low self-esteem" - feeling worthless, feeling powerless about their lives, allowing others to mistreat them, not liking themselves and their lives, not thinking they deserve or can have better, etc. I have many clients from very low socio-economic backgrounds who commit crimes because "that's all I can do" or "no one cares if I do time so I might as well" or "everyone else I know does this and I can't do any better."

2) I do think that a lot of self-esteem is relevant, so the more of the world people see, the more aware they can be of what they are not and what they don't have. My mama always says that when they were growing up in the islands they didn't have a lot of material things, didn't get big presents for Christmas, sometimes barely had enough food, didn't wear fancy clothes, etc. But everyone else was in the same boat, and as long as they had their friends and family and got their educations and played and had fun, they were happy, and had no idea others might think they were deprived. But as has been said, they couldn't go on the internet or cable TV and see what others had.

The media seems to revel in trying to make people, especially women, compare themselves negatively to other people. I just came across this article about Kate Middleton and Kim Kardashian's pregnancies. The point of the article was basically 2 things:

1) Kate Middleton apparently looks fantastic pregnant and "pregnant women the world only must be so envious and wondering why they can't look so good"

2) Kate Middleton apparently looks so much better pregnant than Kim Kardashian and Kim must be jealous and Kim looks disgusting

So basically, if you are pregnant and don't look like Kate, you should be down on yourself and trying to look like her, regardless of your life situation, body type, etc. compared to hers. And if you are pregnant and look like Kim, you look disgusting.

It used to be that being pregnant was a blessing in and of itself. Now apparently you have to be a fashion queen too or something is wrong with you and you are less than. It's not about being healthy and happy for your baby - it's about what you wear and what your "bump" looks like and how much weight you gain, as seen through the eyes of other people. And we buy and watch and pay for this crap. And even if we don't seek it out, it's in our faces (I wasn't looking for that article but it somehow came to my attention.)

3) I'm not sure I agree with spidey about religion. If religion was so great for self-esteem, etc. so many people wouldn't leave it. I think religion CAN give self-esteem to some if they fall within a very narrow range of acceptable behaviour and choices - if they happen to be fortunate enough to have that situation and be satisfied with it, they can be happy and fulfilled, but if they seek more, as many people do, then they'll be sent the message that something is wrong with them.

Many religions also use guilt or the idea that you are a "sinner" or "unworthy" - certainly, this is a theme in Christianity as much as the idea that you are "saved," at least in the way that it is practised.

As to the idea of the men as the head of the household, that's a whole other debate, but I would argue that that traps and limits women and keeps them unfulfilled as much as it can give them security and an identity. In the days when men were the head of the household, women were trapped in controlling or abusive relationships more than they are now, and that was pretty bad for their self esteem. I think for many people/couples, an equal, challenging, dynamic partnership is a much better way to "help them be the best they can be", and religious beliefs that oppose this are therefore not assisting people in developing self-esteem, as self-esteem comes through autonomy and being empowered to make choices, not through following prescribed roles.
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But anyway, yes, the message of Christ is one of unconditional love.
Originally Posted by spiderlashes5000
I agree that is Christ's message, but that is not been my personal experience with the Christian church. I have been judged, ostracized, made to feel unwelcome and belittled by the church. I was brought up to believe we, the people of the church, do not act that way. So, for a long time, way into adulthood, I thought there was something wrong with me because it was clear that the church thought something was wrong with me. It took me a long time to realize that the church's treatment of me was a reflection on the church, not a reflection on me.

I believe that self-worth is our view of ourselves but it is viewed through lenses shaped by our culture. I believe it's always existed in social classes, castes, blood-lines, and vocations.
Originally Posted by goldencurly
Christ's love is seen as unconditional by many Christians... unless you're gay, and then kids will kill themselves because they've been rejected and made to feel worthless for coming out. So I can't really take that claim seriously, unfortunately.
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Get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me. -Muhammad Ali











Do you think poor self-esteem is more likely in today's world than in the past? How about in the more developed vs. less developed countries.

I just wondered because there is so much talk about it nowadays. Was poor self-esteem always a problem and just not named as such?
Originally Posted by curlypearl
With the disparity between the wealthy and those living below the poverty level and the increase in illiteracy (women make up over 40 percent of the world's illiterate), I do think it is still a serious issue, maybe even more so with pressure from social media and peers... In the past there was more equity in income and education levels, so it wasn't discussed as much in terms of it being a factor in social ills. Bit, today it definitely is there.

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