What is self-esteem anyway? by Janice White, PHD of Healthy Is The New Skinny

To see Janice’s blog in its original location, click the following link:


“We have all heard the terms self-esteem or self-concept. Self-esteem was thought to be a one dimensional, fixed concept that was like any other trait such as hair color etc. It was defined as basically how you feel about yourself.  Research has demonstrated that it is much more complex than that.  It is actually a multi-dimensional, fluid type construct with many contributing influences.  There are two major areas of self-esteem: sociological self-esteem and psychological self-esteem.

The Psychological type  of self-esteem is basically how you internally feel about yourself.  It is a developmental process that occurs in the sub-conscious mind early in child development from birth to about 5-6 years of age.  The sub-conscious part of the mind absorbs information from the environment and establishes “beliefs” about its self from what it is told and experiences. The sub-conscious does not know true from false, it just accepts what information is given.   The child does not have the expressive language skills to verbalize these learning yet since language is developing at the same time.

Sociological Self-esteem relates to how others perceive us and our reaction to how they perceive us. It leads to how we view our own worth as it relates to the society in which we live.  These vary from society to society and the members react to the sociological values consistent with the society.  For example, in western culture thinness is valued as the definition of beauty and girls will be judged in the society toward that standard. However, in the Efik people of Nigeria they believe in “nkuho” which is the fattening up of girls to prepare them for marriage.  The larger the woman, the better candidate she is for a wife.  In each society the girls’ self-esteem will be affected differently based on the culture.

I think we have all experienced having a “split personality” around self-esteem.  You might feel pretty good about work; you are confident and secure doing your job.  Then you get transferred to a new position and you feel insecure and incompetent at times.   This demonstrates the fluid nature of self-esteem.  It is possible to have parts or situation in your life where you feel good and confident and parts or situations that you don’t. The positive side of it being fluid is that with work you can change your self-perception both psychological and sociological.  It is not static unless you don’t take actions to change it.

Development of the psychological aspect of self-esteem occurs early in life and largely in the family unit.  This basic self-esteem can serve to ground the person in a positive or negative place while the fluctuations and sociological influences come and go across a lifetime.  Early awareness of parents and caregiver to the developing self is critical to strong and positive self-esteem.  I am always surprised (and concerned) to hear people say something negative or derogatory in front of a child and when challenged they say “he/she doesn’t know what I am saying”.  Well they do most of the time, if not in the form of language, then in the energy or the feeling modalities.  Kids react spontaneously to some people in negative or positive ways based on feelings and energy, similar to an instinct before they have the language ability to explain it.

The point of this blog is to remind you that families play a huge role in psychological self-esteem development. You want it to be solid and positive so the child has resources that support them as the face the sociological self-esteem fluctuations and challenges in life.  Tell your kids and treat your kids from birth like the divine, magnificent expression of life that they are. They will be equipped nicely to deal with the challenges of the sociological aspects of self-esteem.

I so value HNS because we are approaching self-esteem on both fronts.  We support individuals in becoming their healthiest in mind, body and spirit.  We also work to change the sociological influences that are so unhealthy and restrictive for women.  We need society to take some of the pressure off women to meet a narrow specific standard of beauty and start realizing beauty is everywhere!  We are our most beautiful when we are healthy and happy.”

By Janice White, PHD of Healthy Is The New Skinny @ http://healthyisthenewskinny.com/landing/


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