The Second Power Revisited
The Second Power is the second of the four foundations of
self-esteem. Each foundation or "Power" is a dimension or aspect
of experiences. Self-esteem is the aggregate or big experience
of all the powers as they interact. Together, they comprise
self-esteem, which is what I call an epiphenomenon.
In other words, an epiphenomenon is what emerges when all the
phenomena are engaged. Self-esteem is comprised of Four Powers.
In other articles, I've written about the First Power (Worth) and
in future articles I'll hopefully deal with the Third and
Fourth Powers (Ego-Strength and Self-Acceptance).
The Second Power is Competence. This is what we do with our
lives, given the foundation of genes and culture and family.
Competence is how we use our natural gifts, how our talents have
been shaped and what we have developed. We come to think of
ourselves, partly based upon what we have done and how we are
compared to others. Our abilities are relative, but our thoughts
about our skills are shaped by not only our real abilities but
also by what others have told us, or what we have told ourselves
based upon our own experiences or our interpretations of those
experiences as shaped by the opinions of others.
For example, we might think of ourselves as being good spellers.
Our family told us we have this ability and we can certainly spell
better than our younger brothers or sisters. Then we go to school.
We may, in fact, still be good spellers, but we may also not be as
good as another student. Now, our sense of spelling (competence)
is modified by reality. Other students beat us on spelling bees
and we feel bad when we have to sit down after missing a word.
What do we do?
Competence is partly dependent upon our natural abilities and,
it is very much dependent upon what we do with that ability.
In this example, we go home, share our upset with our mother,
who comforts us. If she is wise, our mother's will also instruct
us on becoming better spellers. So, instead of watching so much TV,
we rehearse spelling words, using flash cards or bribing older
brothers or sisters to help in some way. We then get better at
spelling, and sooner or later in class, we do better. We have come
to realistically assess our ability at spelling and the effort we
have to make to maximize our talents. This is realistic competence
and will form the backbone of how we deal with other abilities,
thus coloring our self-esteems in this one dimension (competence).
Unfortunately, this can work the other way. Suppose we have
abilities but in class, we just happen to miss an easy word.
This can happen for a zillion reasons that do not necessarily mean
we are crummy spellers. But, if we interpret missing an easy word
as evidence that we are, in fact, poor spellers, then we will assess
ourselves as poor spellers internally and will get negative feedback
about our spelling ability externally. We have lost confidence,
which is usually interpreted to mean we are not competent in
this area. This will also color how we interpret other skill areas
and influence our self-esteems.
The worst scenarios occur when we are either skilled in an area
and are told we are not, or worse, we have little or no skills in an
area and are told we are gifted. Both sabotage the realistic
assessment of our competence, and our self-esteem. Unfortunately,
in these two situations, self-esteem is unrealistically clobbered or
inflated. In the first example, self-esteem fails to develop
because there are actual abilities that go unrecognized.
In the second example, we develop a false sense of self-esteem that
sooner or later will cause grief to us or someone else.
To adjust self-esteem, it is necessary to assess all four
powers. In this instance, we have been examining how the
Second Power contributes, and why it is very important.