More On The Second Power
This is another article about the Four Powers of Self-Esteem.
Previous articles dealt with the First Power. To review, the
First Power is about Worth; that is, the basic core values we all
carry about ourselves regarding our worthiness. Are we moral,
intelligent, good looking, athletic, capable of earning a living,
etc.? Or, are we fundamentally flawed, defective, morally corrupt?
These are values we got from our primary caretakers when we were
growing up. As we mature, these core orientations are modified by
life's experiences. Our basic philosophical inculcations are
molded and shaped by our genetics and social feedback.
The Second Power follows from the first. The Second Power is
Competence. We may have been taught that we are good, moral,
(or their opposites), but as we live, the realities of these
teachings about us, for good or bad, are forged on the anvil of
experience. As we move out of our primary zone (parents and family),
sooner or later we start comparing ourselves to others in more
distant zones (neighbors, pre-school children or school peers
themselves). Are we as smart (really...) as other kids in our
class? Can we run as fast? Do we finish tests before others?
What grades do we make? Are we pretty or handsome? Are we popular?
Where do we stand in our social ranking? These are questions
that define our competence. At some point the feedback we get from
those in our environment shapes our perceptions of our real abilities.
At some point we decide that we have competence in some area(s).
At some point this become our truth.
What do we do with this information? Well, one of the ways we
act when around others is to identify with others or to set ourselves
off from others. We share some of the traits and abilities of others
or we are different (better, worse, inferior, superior...). This
differentiation sets us apart from others when we are different and
lets us empathize with others when we are the same. Both revolve
around Competence, because there is implied or actual comparisons we
make about ourselves in relations to what others have or what others
are doing. This becomes the basis for our assessment of our own
abilities, which is the core of Competence thinking. We then go out
into the world with this condensed version of our abilities, knowing
we are smart or dumb, good looking or not. We wear this on our
sleeves, so to speak, projecting this "orientation" onto others,
situations, and social interactions.
Deficits in the First Power are hard to rectify on their own
level. If we think of ourselves as fundamentally flawed, which is
more akin to the First Power, changing is harder because the concept
is so broad. Deficits in the Second Power are a little easier to
rectify. If we think we are just poor at spelling, remedying this
is easier because it is more specific. We practice spelling and
there is some relief from feeling we are a poor speller when that
first "A" comes on a spelling test. It may take lots of practice
and better grades on lots of spelling tests to fix the basic
assumption that we are crummy spellers, but eventually this will
To use this specific example, the difference between the
First Power and Second Power is that in the first, we think of
ourselves as fundamentally flawed; that is, unable to become a good
speller. In Second Power thinking, we think that we are poor
spellers, but that we are able to learn to spell, thus become good
spellers. In the first instance, there is a basic flaw. In the
second there is a lack of developed ability. One cannot be fixed,
the other can.
In this way, it is much easier to address the psychological
precursors of a crummy self-esteem if we look at "local" events
rather than distant ones; that is ability-specific skills rather
than big, general default values.