Continuing with our series on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we go now into more psychological territory and take a look at Esteem.
In this day and age, we’re not used to hearing the word “Esteem” by itself. In general, it shows up within the concept of “Self-Esteem,” yet it’s safe to say that when Maslow said the former, he meant the latter too.
Esteem can be elusive, for it lives in the mind, and the mind is constantly changing. I mean, how many of us can lay claim to having exclusively good days? Failure, frustration, self-doubt, and plain confusion are natural parts of being human.
So how does Esteem look when it’s legitimate, and not just some sentimental fairy tale? To me, it all comes down to having a solid mental foundation to land on when things get hard.
Esteem’s not about skipping around and always feeling terrific about oneself (although doing so is certainly commendable and awesome). Esteem’s more about being inwardly stable enough to (A) believe in oneself enough to always push forward and (B) believe in oneself enough to bounce back from setbacks. Some setbacks will be harder than others. Some will test, bend, or possibly break one’s Esteem.
When we discuss what it takes to have Esteem, we’d also be wise to discuss what it takes to Grow Esteem Back when times are hard.
Esteem is half social and half private. On a social level, Esteem comes from nurturing positive relationships. We should associate primarily with people who build us up and see the best in us. At the outermost extreme, this can turn into strictly socializing with people who mirror our every thought – but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about constructive relationships wherein even disagreements are anchored by a sense of true respect.
For when people respect us, we simply feel better about ourselves. Human beings, after all, are primarily social animals. However, human beings also arguably have an active aspect that is in fact not necessarily social.
Esteem should also come from within. We should practice positive self-talk. Doing so is like flossing, or lifting weights: the more we do it, the more stable and long-lasting the results.
Human beings get dealt a wide variety of hands when it comes to our own “natural” self-talk. But I put natural in quotes because just like with lifting weights, engaging in positive self-talk can actually alter our biology (in this case, our brains’ biology). The trick is to do it regularly: Put aside 10 or 15 minutes a day to address yourself in positive terms. It may sound silly, but the results add up.
Building Esteem Back
Even the strongest among us get dealt large challenges. So what about those moments in our lives when we’re down, we’re struggling, and we’re not sure when the light will appear again? I’m writing these words in the immediate aftermath of an incredibly bruising and aggressive presidential election cycle. Many Americans’ basic views of their country have been compromised, if not shattered.
Where then does Esteem come from when it’s been stomped down?
As it happens, the answers are cited above. It comes from other people and from positive self-talk. However, when Esteem’s been trampled, we owe it to ourselves to be more proactive in building it back. We have to call, email, text, or hang out with the people who make us feel terrific. We have to avoid those souls who leave us cold. And we have to seriously amp up our self-talk regimen, not only lengthening the daily time frame, but maybe even refining the delivery system.
So sing it, yell it, SCREAM it to yourself:
I am worthy. I am valuable. I am successful. I am awesome!
Because you are. But I doubt you needed me to tell you that.