Self-Esteem and Personality
In my capacity as an outpatient psychologist, I have worked
with people for almost twenty-five years. By far, the single
most central element, the one thing that pervades almost every
other issue is self-esteem. It touches everything--sex and
relationships, work problems, anxiety, depression, addictions;
you name it.
There are four primary elements of self-esteem.
I call them "Powers" because when we develop any one of them,
we become more personally powerful. The Four Powers of Self-Esteem
are: Worth, Competence, Ego-Strength and Self-Acceptance. This
article focuses on the workings of Worth and personality. From
my ebook on self-esteem is the following quote on the first power.
"Worth is the First Power and the most common term used to
describe self-esteem.... Specifically, Worth has to do with your
basic feeling of value. Are you a basically good human being?
You might even think of this category as "Goodness" instead of Worth.
Both work. Are human beings worthwhile as a species? Are you
valuable? Important? What are the markers of your Worth (and I
don't mean lots of money, although that can contribute...).
Another dimension of Worth is health. Are you mentally or
physically ill? You might have a basic sense that you are
defective. Are you adequate? Or, do you feel useless or flawed?
Another dimension has to do with your characteristics. Are you significantly different from others? Are you too tall? Too short?
Too many freckles? Too smart or dumb? Are you not so handsome or
not so beautiful? Do you think you are not the perfect weight?
These are all "default" values, ones that most people think
they are more or less stuck with and therefore probably cannot change.
The Worth scale tends to reflect early history or chronic
conditions. It has a lot to do with our fundamental values, usually
gleaned from our family-of-origin. Of the four powers, it is the
first to develop and tends to be most central to our functioning as
Some of you might recognize these descriptions as similar to the definitions of personality. Personality values do look like the
criteria of Worth. However, personality is largely genetic,
hard-wired and waiting for the environment to trigger it. Hence,
while Worth is fundamental; meaning basic and forms from
family-of-origin experiences, it is still superficial in comparison
to personality. Think of personality as the foundation and Worth
as the first layer of materials built upon it when constructing a
house. They are intimately related but fundamentally different.
For example, personality is comprised of traits like extraversion
(social) vs. introversion (more prone to avoid certain kinds of
activities that involve people), intellectual (cognitive) vs. somatic
(body or physically oriented), aggressive, neurasthenic (weakness),
etc. Some folks describe the above as temperaments, which in this
author's view are certainly personality-like, but are not necessarily
Layered on top of any of the above can be Worth values. These
are things like being trustworthy, sincere, loving, gentle, and
respectful. These latter qualities are better described as traits,
but their intrapsychic inculcation (taking in and "owning" of the
value) is better understood to come from exposure to others who
demonstrate and teach, hence pass on these traits. These people
usually are the early caretakers. While some personality types are
more prone to being this way, it probably is the case that exposure
and learning must take place before such traits cement themselves
into "personality." In other words, it is clear that certain
personality types better lend themselves to absorbing certain
compatible traits; usually the traits have to be presented in the
environment before the person takes them in. The earlier we are
exposed to such traits, the more likely they will be lifelong
penchants. This is the source of the first power, Worth, and is
usually encountered in the family-of-origin.
For more on self-esteem, see the author's website's below.