In our earlier article, we learned that ego is indeed something very negative while self esteem is something very necessary as well as very positive. But what about low self esteem?
Low self esteem that is often the result of negligent or incorrect parenting is a very painful thing to live with. Inside one’s mind, one constantly thinks of oneself as a worthless person who doesn’t deserve anything good in life. It starts a vicious cycle in one’s life that can, in extreme cases, give terrible results.
The Pain of low self esteem – Illustration
Peter was a typical lower-middle class boy who was brought up with the traditional Indian value of respecting one’s elders and teachers. All elders and teachers were authority figures in his mind whom he needed to please and appease.
If these authority figures thought well of him, he thought well of himself and if they thought badly of him, he thought badly of himself. There was no question of anything else. They were superior figures while he was only a boy.
His father used to send him to a low-grade school since that was all he could afford. With such a self image and authority-figure-related mindset, Peter went to Class 5 where his teacher, Mr. Jackson first met him.
Mr. Jackson’s personality was dictatorial and highly critical. He believed in discipline and didn’t stop at anything to ensure that the children in his class behaved with discipline. Peter was a meek boy who was also very lost most of the time. His lack of alertness and failure to respond to questions irritated Mr. Jackson, no end and he would often shout at Peter in front of everyone in the class and also make him stand outside the class for long periods.
As such treatment continued Peter’s self image deteriorated further and further with time and whatever little confidence he possessed earlier also disappeared. He became a depressed little boy who remained quiet and aloof most of the time.
One day, Mr. Jackson got very upset with Peter who had not had his homework checked for the last 2 months by forgetting to take his notebook to him.
This was mainly because of the hesitation and fear that Mr. Jackson inspired in him. Mr. Jackson had also had a bad day at home that day and this caused him to over-react and take out his frustration on Peter beating him with a wooden stick.
Peter felt humiliated and disgusted with his life after such an episode and since he couldn’t handle the pain of such a negative experience, he reacted by committing suicide that evening without sharing anything with anyone at home.
This is a clear case of low self esteem in which the teacher was not seen as what he truly was; an insensitive and cruel, negative character and was given respect and authority by Peter despite his negative traits.
Had he been a child with high self esteem, he would have complained to his parents and the school principal about the conduct of the teacher and got him fired from his job. But because of low self esteem, Peter went into a depressive state of mind which caused him to take the extreme step.
How to overcome low self esteem?
It is crucial for everyone to have a very clear objective idea about oneself by knowing one’s positive as well as negative traits. This self knowledge makes us independent of the opinion of others as we don’t depend on anyone for love or respect since we ourselves approve of ourselves.
Real freedom and independence is achieved this way and we cease to have the need to develop the thick crust of the Ego.