The Second Power
In previous articles, I wrote about the Four Powers of Self-Esteem.
The first Power is Worth, and has to do with our upbringing from day one. It mostly reflects early-in-life experiences, largely resulting 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 help us negotiate later life events.
How we "are" in the midst of any life event largely relates to how
we "were" early on, and how our parents or caregivers took care us,
or left us to fend for ourselves.
The Second Power is Competence. This has to do with actual abilities.
It has to do with talents in any area(s). Can you run faster than
anyone else? Do you achieve more in school, earn better grades, get more
involved in clubs? Do you balance your checkbook with less errors? Are
you good at your job? Do you get more promotions than others? Can you
sing or are you good at music? Are you able to repair things? Can you
write? Are you good with people? Competence tends to be about
constitutional ability modified by training and/or education or life
experience. These are all real abilities; "things" that speak to competence.
If you do not think you have any "real" abilities, life is going to be tough,
because central to these experiences is the surfacing of our core experience
of self. Self-Esteem is either self-evident from past ways of think
(First Power) or it relates to practical or functional abilities (Power Two).
In some way, the sense of self interacts with the environment, nearly
one hundred percent in the beginning (the greatest influence being from the
environment that created The First Power), less so as we grow up and become
independent. As we find out about ourselves, the Second Power comes into
focus. We offset our awareness of ourselves by contrasting our abilities
with those of others. We thus get a sense of how we fit in, for better or
If the "inputs" we get about ourselves at primary levels are negative
(the basis of The First Power), we can partially offset the damage by
extolling our competence (the basis of The Second Power). We call this
compensation, but it usually does not really deal with what we are
compensating. For example, if we come from a divorced family and we,
as the child, were blamed for the parental separation, our fundamental
judgment about ourselves might be that we are troublemakers, or just
bad children. Later, we might find out that we are good athletes or can
excel in school. We become better children when we excel, even though the
fundamental assumption (more at the core levels) is that we are still bad
people, just compensating.
It is very common for people to use the Second Power to compensate the
First Power. Over-compensation can be found everywhere. Frequently extreme
striving is about burying laziness. People over-react in extreme ways that
are the opposite of what they deeply fear. If a mother overdoes it taking
care of her newborn, she may fear that deep down she is a bad mother.
This is the natural extension of being a bad person, so having a baby makes
up for it, especially if the newborn turns out to be OK. Demosthenese
(c. 340 B.C) was a Greek orator who put pebbles in his mouth and practiced
speaking out loud over the waves on the beach. He got good at it
(developing the Second Power). This allegedly was to compensate a speech
defect (crummy First Power). Does this mean that all super-achievers are
compensating for crummy core experiences? No. Nevertheless, one would be
surprised that more of these over-achievers are burdened by lousy core
experiences than one might image.