That's right. Odious subject.
I'm not talking about giving ribbons and trophies to everyone on the soccer team and not keeping score to build self-esteem. I'm talking about--
Well, what the hell AM I talking about?
Merriam-Webster online defines it as "a confidence and satisfaction in oneself."
Huh? These words are nonsensical and also make no sense to me.
Thank God, my sister the psychoanalyst emailed me. She had this to say:
As for self-esteem, I guess it's basically how you feel about yourself. There could be global self-esteem - your overall feelings/ evaluation of yourself, or more domain specific self-esteem (I'm a good musician). Healthy self-esteem would be positive feelings about oneself that aren't fully dependent upon external feedback or events ....
You see, one day when I was talking to her about success, she had this insidious point: that some people will never feel successful, no matter how much they accomplish, because of their early nurturing.
Because of their early nurturing. SOME people. Faulty nurturing. Well, she IS a psychoanalyst.
Do you think she meant me? (Motherless child. Cinderella identifier.)
But instead of me, let's consider some perfectionists I know who admit to never feeling satisfied with anything they do, except perhaps for a fleeting moment.
Of course, all moments are fleeting. So why complain? At least they have flashes of success-feel. Maybe that's all we get.
No, no, no, of course not. As my sister the psychoanalyst points out, there's global self-esteem and domain-specific.
So global would be just generally feeling pretty good about your self-worth.
And domain-specific is, well, specific to a domain. Like, I'm good at math. (Actually, I'm not; not terrible, but not great.)
Seems like domain specific self-esteem is linked to self-confidence. Self-confidence being something you can build by baby steps--small wins--measurable, point-to-able achievements. Like learning long division. These things build confidence and confidence beefs up your self--esteem.
But you can be confident of your mathematical abilities and still have low self esteem.
So the global part, just feeling overall (or underneath it all) that you're a decent person deserving of as much good as is possible in this vale of tears, is the more amorphous self-esteem. Self-esteem that isn't dependent on finding an agent and publishing a book and getting on some kind of list somewhere for something. Self-esteem that doesn't need a mirror to tell you you're beautiful.
Without that, it can be impossible to enjoy the fruits of your labors, your achievements, your successes. Thus, you can be extremely successful in others' opinions, but not FEEL successful yourself.
And thus concludes my diversion into self-esteem.