Years ago, I asked my nursing students, “If you could give a child one gift, what would it be? ” As expected, responses such as love, understanding, protection, support, health, education were listed. And while all of these are important, I challenged them to consider something else. I offered the suggestion that giving a child positive self-esteem and self-worth would ensure that all their needs would be met throughout their lifetime. Let me share some of the reasons for my suggestion.
Self-esteem has three basic components:
1. Body image – the mental image we have of our physical being and our attitudes towards our body and its various parts and functions (called the Perceptual Aspect)
2. Self-respect – the feeling that we are worthwhile and that what we are doing, or have done, is “right” according to our values (called the Emotional Aspect)
3. Self-confidence – believing we are able and have the ability to do things or the power to make things happen (called the Cognitive Aspect)
Self-esteem is the key to a person’s behaviour. It influences thinking, emotions, desires, values and goals. It is also the way we judge ourselves. If we feel positive about ourselves and our lives, this influences how we relate and behave towards others – and ourselves. Positive self-evaluations give us feelings of energy and acceptance; of being in control and accountable for our life experiences; we can appreciate our own worth and contributions, and those of others.
Low self-esteem results in less of a sense of self. Feelings and basic needs are not recognized or expressed and self-image becomes unrealistic, negative and often hurtful. When people feel they don’t measure up, it can lead to feelings of inadequacy, distorted beliefs about self and others, a depletion of energy and a sense of being powerless. Powerlessness has its own set of difficulties for a person to overcome.
“The way we see ourselves and the way we feel and think about ourselves is learned through our interaction with others and through their responses to us. It is not something we are endowed with at birth! Because it is learned, it follows that positive self-esteem can be promoted or negative self-esteem can be transformed into a positive one through successfull learning experiences.” Dugas and Knor
According to Dugas and Knor, self-esteem is fostered by:
– fulfillment of basic physiological needs
– a safe physical environment
– an adequate income to purchase the necessities of life
– supportive, nurturing family, school and work environments
– a strong support network of family and friends
– a nurturing community
– cultural customs and mores
– a sense of purpose in life
– good health
– successful transitions through developmental stages in the life cycle.
When provided with these things, a person’s self esteem will soar. But real life doesn’t always deal us this hand. This is why I suggest by giving a child the gift of unwavering positive self-esteem right from the start, it will help them throughout the times when life seems to be more harsh. If positive self-esteem and self-worth are the “default settings”, so to speak, then the ability of the child to stay healthy, happy and productive over her/his life span is strengthened.
Imagine a child who has a healthy, respectful and loving attitude towards her/his body and respects her/him self enough to choose what is necessary to keep this body healthy. Imagine a child respecting and believing in her/him self enough to set healthy boundaries with others so that they are neither the victim nor would they victimize others. Imagine a child who is not afraid to explore, question and try new things, yet has the judgement, common sense and courtesy to neither offend nor ignore others.
Quiet confidence, dignity, respect, responsibility, courage, health, compassion and joy . With this as the foundation, imagine the adult who emerges.
Article written by Pat Antoniak Registered Nurse – Registered Aromatherapist
and owner of the Natural Comfort Wellness Centre in Tsawwassen, BC.
Did you know ……
– Self-esteem is to the mind, what food is to the body; all humans need self-esteem for both physical and psychological well-being. (Simmermacher 1989)
– Pessimists have higher levels of most diseases, probably because they have an overcharged Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) and a relatively run down immune system. (Dr. David Peters 2002)
– Being critical of yourself sends a negative message to your mind; and where the mind goes, the body follows!