Friday, February 5, 2010



In my over-twenty-year practice as an outpatient psychologist,
I hear from people with low self-esteem almost every day. It
touches every aspect of their lives, most importantly their
relationships. Self-esteem impacts job performance, raises,
promotions, and work locations--the bottom line being quality of life.
It is a BIG issue.
I think of self-esteem as being made up of four foundations
experiences. I call them Powers. They can be found in an ebook
I have written about how these evolve from our early experiences and
how they manifest in just about every later-life experience.
There is a self-test to figure out which of the four Powers is
strength and which is a weakness. Frequently we use the stronger
ones to compensate the weaker one(s). Sometimes we just focus on
remediation of just one Power. In any case, once diagnosed, the
psychological work begins.
Confidence comes from having a good self-esteem, which can emerge
from any one of the four Powers. The first Power is Worth.
It usually reflects early-in-life experiences, largely derived from
messages gleaned from parents. It ties to religion, philosophy of
the world and chronic expectations based upon "how it went" when we
were very, very young. This Power, and the foundation concepts to
follow from the other Powers carry us through later life events.
How we "are" in the midst of any life event largely dates back to how
we "were" early on, and how our parents or caregivers nurtured us,
or left us to the elements.
Central to these experiences is the surfacing of our core
experience of self. It is either worth something or impaired in
some way. The sense of self interacts with the environment, nearly
one hundred percent in the beginning, less so as we grow up and become
autonomous. At any stage, it has value or is dinged by life events.
In the latter case, there is doubt about self-worth.
Lack of confidence is the subjective experience stemming from
lack of basic worth. If we did not manage well in early life, or if
we feel that support is lacking in adversity, then there is
proportional anxiety about future events. Even in "the present,"
there is anxiety because lurking in the background is that ever vague
but pressuring feeling that something is amiss. "Something will go
wrong or perhaps it is just me that is wrong," are comments I
frequently hear. The former is more of a response to early adverse
circumstances. The latter is a direct reflection of thoughts of
poor self-worth.
This is only one of the four Powers, any one of which can
contribute to the experience of poor self-esteem. I picked this one
to initially focus on because it is the first in line, so to speak;
meaning, the formation of this Power occurs earlier in our
developmental timeline and usually forms the foundation upon which
most of the other Powers build. In future articles, there will be
discussions of the other three Powers.
In short, to build confidence, first we need a foundation of self
that is worth something. Put negatively, lack of confidence reflects
deficits in our early environment, but more importantly, our
relationship to the experiences in that early time. What we
"came away with" is relatively stable even though the events that
formed our impressions have passed. The core of this identity we
call self, and its relative value we call esteem.

Dr. Griggs

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