Sunday, March 14, 2010

Self-Esteem and You-The Beginnings-Part III

Self-Esteem and You-The Beginnings-Part III
(In my twenty-four (+) years as an outpatient psychologist,
I have worked with all walks of people, of all ages and beliefs,
of all races and income levels. Every one of the people I work
with has a self-esteem. Every one of these people got that
self-esteem by living day-to-day, absorbing messages about
themselves in every context and activity. How does self-esteem
form? This is part II of a series of article, each starting
where the previous one ended...)
In high school, the messages to self increase exponentially.
(This is somewhat arbitrary because even in the lower grades the
speed with which information comes to us is also very fast for
some of us.) Here's an excerpt from my ebook, The Four Powers
of Self-Esteem:

"Imagine you are in high school and you are late for class.
You run into the building, down the hall and burst into the
classroom where the lesson has already started. The teacher
is writing on the blackboard and you clamor in and find your
seat, backpack falling down around you. At that moment, the
teacher turns around and looks at you, along with thirty other
students. Most look at you, just for a moment, and then resume
what they were doing. At that second, you just took in
thirty-one messages about yourself (one from the teacher and
one from each of thirty students). The teacher probably looked
at you disapprovingly (frown, grimace, sneer). After all, you
were late and probably interrupted the lesson. Your peers
flooded your awareness with a variety of messages, some good
some not. Your friends probably snickered but at least smiled.
Your enemies frowned or maybe negatively gestured. Some of
your enemies and other students you don't know very well just
looked at you with expressionless faces (indifference). Maybe
some didn't care enough or weren't distracted enough to even
look up.
Let's continue the example. During the class, the teacher
asks questions. Some students raise their hands and talk.
Were you one of them? Or, did you try to disappear from the
teacher's attention because you didn't know any answers?
You are comparing yourself with your peers with every question.
Are you one of the smart ones? Are you assertive and speak up?
Or, do you feel dumb? Are you sick or well and do or don't
give a darn about today's class? During class, you could
receive hundreds of messages about yourself.
Continue the example some more. After class, you have five
minutes to get to the next class, maybe stop by your locker,
maybe stop by the bathroom and maybe stop by the drinking
fountain. Between the class you just left and the one you are
going to are lots of students, all doing the same thing, all
probably in a hurry. In an instant you make eye contact or
say "Hi" or in some way get feedback about your Self-worth,
Competence, Ego-strength and Self-Acceptance from each contact.
In the space of five minutes between classes, you probably got
another thirty messages about you, this time in a different
venue/activity, but nonetheless a bunch of messages. From the
time you entered the class, sat through it, then went to the
next class, you could have received a hundreds of messages-all
about you.
Now, this is a description of one microcosmic period in your
life. It considers only one very thin slice of (probably)
typical high school experience most of us have had. It
considers only about one hour of time in one day. Multiply
that times the number of school periods in one day, the number
of school days in a year, times the number of your school
years up through high school. Add to this that we interact
with family after school, friends in or out of school, in
person or on the phone, email, through IM, My Space, Facebook,
Utube, etc. You begin to get the idea of the magnitude of
inputs we experience over even just our childhoods. We take
in thousands of "inputs" every day, whether we want to or not,
from people we interact with, or not, in real time
(or even relived in memory). I've thought of this quite a
while, and have determined (guessed) that for most people,
by the time they are eighteen years of age, they have
inculcated somewhere in the neighborhood of five million
messages. WOW! And, some of my colleagues think that
number is too low!!! (You might wonder how I arrived at
this number. It's a long story but in the beginning it
involved following little children around all day, counting
the number of times they interacted with someone. Mothers
didn't really dig this, so I had to develop other ways...)"
Our hormones have cut in and we have social interests that amplify
academic ones. So, while we are in class getting zillions of messages
about ourselves from others, we also are mindful of our place relative
to others with respect to relationships.
More on this in Part IV...

-Dr. Griggs

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