• Question: why do some people have really low self esteem

    Asked by ellengd1039 to Enda, Jean, Tim on 22 Nov 2012.
    • Photo: Jean Bourke

      Jean Bourke answered on 22 Nov 2012:

      Everyone needs praise and encouragement. We also need to learn to deal with failure as it is part of life. People with a good self esteem tend to bounce back from failure and try again, someone with a low self esteem may find it harder to deal with. Do not confuse good self esteem with arrogance though. Someone with good self esteem should build up those around them, not make them feel worse.

      The main contribution to self esteem is from life experiences. The people someone is around a lot will be the ones they experience things with so those close to someone can have a large effect on their self esteem. This is assuming the person in question is physically and mentally healthy as physical and mental illnesses can have a massive effect on someone’s self esteem.

      Maybe Enda, as a parent, has some more insights on the topic of self esteem.

    • Photo: Enda O'Connell

      Enda O'Connell answered on 23 Nov 2012:

      Hi Ellengd1039,

      I agree with everything that Jean has said, particularly that everyone needs praise and encouragement. Even the most outwardly confident people require their actions to be validated by those around them. Everyone experiences doubts about themselves at some stage of their lives, whether it is their ability to do their job, pass an exam or maybe about their appearance. Self esteem comes in two forms, the need for approval from others but also the need to respect yourself.

      As Jean said, life experience is very important in building your self esteem and becoming happy with the person you are. For example, imagine a student who has an interest in science, but doesn’t know anybody who works in the area, and might have the image of a scientist as a neurotic genius with crazy hair who blows things up for a living. This image is something completely different from what they are and they might not be able to see how you get from where they are in school to that scientist in the lab.

      Then they experience something like “I’m a Scientist…” which puts them in contact with “normal” people like Jean and I (mainly Jean) who happen to be scientists, but who can chat to them about science, but also music, football, cooking and TV. This simple interaction can increase the student’s self esteem by letting them know that they can communicate normally with scientists, challenge them and even become one of them someday. For us, particularly an old guy like me, we get to chat to young interesting and interested people and other scientists and seek their approval.

      I will admit I was a bit nervous signing up to this as I didn’t know any of the other scientists, and wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep up with all of the energetic students…but I have gotten so much out of these past few days, I just want to keep doing it.

      You see it works both ways