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Awareness of low self esteem

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Young People
Wordcount: 5443 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Ever since Sigmund Freud made forays into study of Human Psychology, the study of different patterns of human behaviour, abilities at different individuals in different individuals, different outlooks and different responses to the same situations by different individuals involved great inquisitiveness in the minds of the psychological researchers. What was initially categorized under a comprehensive term ‘individual nature’ later proved to be an effect of various underlying factors. As the psychological research dug deep into these factors that mould the human mind and behaviour, self esteem and confidence emerged to be two of the two important factors that influence the outlook and behaviour of a person (Baum 2005). The two concepts began commanding intense interest from psychological researchers and voluminous researches naturally followed (Skinner 2005).

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Self Esteem

‘Self Esteem’ in simple words is one’s own estimate and evaluation of one’s worth (Friesen 2005, Moxley 2004, Baum 2003, Catania 2003). Self Esteem is something internal for a personal and is not expressive. It is manifest in social behaviour and responses to certain situations. Whether one has high self esteem or low self esteem is indicated by behaviour and situational response.While high self esteem in a person is desirable, low self esteem is a cause for concern. The reasons behind such low esteem can be many starting from childhood experiences and surrounding environment, its manifestation in person’s behaviour can be varied. The study of the reasons behind one’s low esteem, the methods to retrieve him/her from the State of low self-esteem to normal situation and his/her behavioural aberrations because of the low self esteem are interesting concepts for psychological research (Skinner 2005).

Confidence is basically an attitude which enables one to have a realistic perception of oneself and one’s abilities. It is displayed by manifestations like optimism, enthusiasm, assertiveness, pride, independence, trust, emotional maturity and the ability to handle and withstand criticism (Ward, Eastman &Ninness 2009,Skinner 2005, Fantino, Stolarz-Fantino & Navarro 2003).

However talented one may be, confidence is the basic attribute which enables one to achieve or perform potential. It is normal to come across many talented people perform very poorly, repeatedly and continuously in their chosen field of activity and we also hear that they are lacking confidence (Catania 2003). Confidence is not inherited, but it is acquired. Lack of confidence is not permanent and can be driven away if addressed properly. Apart from being a personal attribute, confidence is also inspired by such factors as religion, culture, parents, gender and social class. While these are the normal factors which mould the confidence of a person, we also come across a handful of legendary persons, who brave many odds in life, but never allow their confidence to wane (Skinner 2005).

The article attempts an exhaustive study of confidence and self esteem particularly from the angle of personal experience and literary research available on the concept.

2. Personal Journal

During my interaction with my students and persons from diverse fields, I didn’t come across a person who confessed that he is suffering from low self-esteem. People are scared to admit it. However the manifestations of low self-esteem exhibited through their action, deeds and behaviour reveal this facet of their personality. I came across three types of such manifestations.

The first category of people is the straight forward type. They appear quite clearly as the underdogs and underachievers. They seem to be always with a negative emotion or delusion exaggerating limitation in capacity nature and opportunities for growth. Statements like ,’I cannot’, I should not ‘,I have to’ and ‘I have no other alternative’ are quite frequently uttered by them. They appear as if they are in need of sympathy from others, but that does not mean that they are intent on revealing their handicap.

Certain behavioural aspects and qualities are explicitly discernible in them .These people are unable to open themselves up before others and also unable to trust others. They are afraid of committing mistakes and as a result are indecisive in action. They are always anxious in the face of a change. They are unable to participate in spontaneous fun and frolic. They face problems in establishing intimacy with others and consequently go through troubled interpersonal relations. They are chronically affected by the necessity of acceptance and approval by others and are often affected by the fear of rejection or disapproval by others. Complicated judgements are not their cup of tea and they suffer from lack of objectivity and transparency in a host of options for solution to a problem. They are afraid of conflict and discord and try to mash their feelings with exaggeration and lies. They try to avoid caring for people for whom they are to be responsible. They usually overreact to things and act impulsively getting into trouble which requires strenuous efforts to get out from. These are all straight cases of people who are afflicted with self help.

There is a second category of people, who appear to be very confident superficially and also appear to be in control of situations around them. They appear to have firm opinions and often appear to be in commanding positions. But this is usually a mask for low self-esteem. When things go away all this exterior disappears giving way to seriousness and anxiety. They are usually self-centered, highly demanding and very independent. They try to assume leadership without actually deserving or having leadership qualities.

The third type is that of fun-seekers, who always try to seek fun and happiness at the expense of others. Laughter is a mask for these people to hide their low self-esteem. They try to do everything with an emphasis on fun to corner recognition-either giving fun or seeking it. They are sensitive and thick skinned and try to hide their anxieties and low self-esteem behind a mask of superficiality.

The fun-seeking people are non-committal in their relationships because of haunting social fears. The only thing they try to churn out is fun which loses its sheen and becomes routine after sometime. Since their effort to gain recognition I through fun but not by accomplishment of something meaningful, they don’t command much importance in their peer group.

I had the occasion to observe many people with different backgrounds, suffering from the handicap of low esteem. When the reasons for their handicap are looked into, they reveal startling diversity. But mostly it is the childhood experiences that sow the seeds of low self-esteem in a person. The handicap sails with his childhood into his adulthood and afterwards also.

Unless a conscious effort is done to drive out this feeling of low-self esteem, it persists with the person. The person may achieve fame with his accomplishments or my even achieve a celebrity status, but unless a conscious effort is made to conquer the handicap, they always tend to become superficial in their relations.

It is really astounding that there can be so many childhood experiences to infuse a feeling of

low esteem into children. Some children had verbal, emotional, physical and sexual abuse behind their low esteem. Some children were denied affection and acceptance either at home or at school or in the community. Parental condition was also found to be one of the reasons for breeding self esteem among children. Parents who were dependent on drugs and gambling, workaholic parents and mentally-ill parents were also reason for low self esteem among children. Similarly, brought up by divorced parent or where there is death of one of the parents during childhood also contributed to low self esteem. Brought up in environment which did not give scope for free expression of feelings and absolutist or fundamentalist environments are also responsible for low esteem among children. In case of adults, relationships are sometimes responsible for low self esteem. Relationship or marriage with a person, who is workaholic or comes from a dependent family or suppressive atmosphere are also prone to suffer from low self esteem. Also chronic ill health to a member of a family sometimes was the reason for low self esteem. Members of a family which has a child born with a developmental disability and members of a family where chronically ill patient is cared for are also often victims of low self esteem.

Personal experiences in coming into touch with people are very useful in understanding the behavioural pattern of others afflicted with the problems and counsel them to get rid themselves of low self esteem. Knowledge about low self esteem is particularly useful in dealing with children who because of circumstances beyond their control are victims of low self esteem. Particularly for me, my personal experience in this field is of immense help since I am in the field of educational instruction to special needs children.

3. Literature Review

3.1. Key issue 1 – Reasons for negative self-esteem

3.1.1. Low Self Esteem Vs Healthy Self Esteem

Self -esteem relates to how well a person thinks about oneself in comparison to the people around him like, his friends, peers and colleagues at work. Self-esteem can be said to be the essence for living a positive life and helps a person to respond to various situations and difficulties in his life efficiently and realistically (Plotnik 2008). Self-esteem of a person can make a person’s life (both professional and personal).Low self esteem can result in a person due to few untoward events that might have taken place in his life from his childhood. This makes the person live in a shell and stay aloof. This deprives the person of rational thinking and confidence and finally leads to self degradation (Scherer 2005). A person with low self-esteem feels that he is inferior in capabilities as compared to others. Generally the roots for this lie in the childhood where the person will be abandoned, ridiculed or feel that he is not receiving enough love or attention. This can lead to depression in long run (Craig 2008).

Low self esteem can cause serious consequences and influence the emotions of people to a greater extent(Baum 2005). The person starts living life with negativity outlook and shows indifference in activities of his daily life. There can also be cases where persons with sensitive nature cannot cope with the issue of negative self esteem and subsequently can go to the extent of destroying their own life. Low self esteem can result in causing extremity in emotions and can result in depression, mental disorders, physical disorders, child delinquency and suicide attempts. This low self-esteem is the reason for violent behaviour in adolescents and can result in irreparable physical and mental damage (Baum 2003).

3.1.2. Reasons for Low Self Esteem

Various factors like environment in which the person stays or is brought up, a person’s background, status, his age, surroundings can be taken as reasons for low self-esteem. For successfully dealing with this problem, one has to understand the causes for the low self esteem in a person (Craig 2008,Denzin &Lincoln 2008). A prime was suggested is to review the mistakes made by the person in the past.

The following can be taken as possible reasons and situations causing low self-esteem.

Negligence in childhood can be termed as one of the reasons for low self esteem. Children brought up in environment lacking affection and love feel that they are insignificant and abandoned when they grow up with age. They mix up with people very less and find it difficult to trust others (Dalgleish, 2004).

Excessive criticism and rebuke in childhood can have devastating effects on a child’s psyche and this influences his confidence in his life. Repeated chiding and pointing the child that he is incapable or no-good at studies or behaviour can result in depression and subsequently there will be loss of self-confidence in the child. This makes the child hesitant to start anything new and makes him pessimistic while doing things. He will be enveloped by a feeling of worthlessness (Harmon-Jones et al. 2004).

Parents tend to pressurize their children to follow their dreams and fulfill their unfilled ambitions and dreams. They do not give choice to their children to choose their own career and in most cases forcibly land them in careers that they are not happy with. This leads to low self-esteem (Drake & Myers 2006).

When people experience failure after putting their efforts, in most cases they treat this failure as the final one and eventually it results in loss of confidence and self-esteem.

Physical appearance in some people results loss of self-esteem. People with bad looks feel that they are inferior as compared to good looking people. This in most cases results in isolation from active social life(Wacker et al.2008).

Negative experiences in childhood can cause low self esteem in a person and children easily absorb such negativity and it leads to lasting impact in their minds, Negative experiences influence adults too but the impact is more pronounced in children (Ward,Eastman & Ninness 2009).

Child Abuse in many people is the reason for their low self-esteem. Most people experience a history of mental and physical abuse in their childhood. Physical abuse can include sexual abuse and can be treated but with mental abuse, it gets deep-rooted and treatment for the same is extremely difficult. People who indulge in child abuse can be relatives, family friends, neighbours, step parents or strangers (Sigelman& Rider 2008).

An unemployed person feels helpless and incapable. His failure to earn a job and provide income to family creates low self-esteem in him (Drake &Myers 2006).

3.1.3. Characteristics of People with low Self-Esteem

People with low self-esteem have the following behavioural traits which cannot be noticed vary easily.

People with low self-esteem lack self confidence and social skills. This makes them avoid people and social life (Baum 2005).

People with negative self-esteem show depressed appearance most of the times and will be disturbed (Skinner 2005).

These people can suffer from problems like obesity which arise due to eating disorders. These disorders can be harmful for their health (Skinner 2005).

They fail to identify their strengths, capabilities and potential and suffer from negative thoughts (Skinner 2005).

Most of the time they take compliments in a negative way and often fear criticism for their acts or work (Baum 2005).

They have problem in starting a new task and do not go for taking up new responsibilities. Generally they do not make any effort to do a task as they have great fear that things will be messed up by them (Plotnik 2008).

They do not form their own opinions and are afraid to do so for they lack the required confidence (Plotnik 2008).

They outlook is pessimistic and life does not in any way enthusiastic for them(Baum 2005).

They are not assertive and mostly very timid (Baum 2003).

Some of them lose temper quickly and pick up fights (Cantania 2003).

Some people with low self-esteem blame others for their problems. They often pick quarrels on trivial issues (Cantania 2003).

Short-term cognitive therapy and couselling are helpful for many people to overcome negative self-esteem.

3.2. Key Issue 2 -How negative Experiences are overcome

Negative experiences result in lack of self esteem. Life without self-esteem confines a person to a life with less money, less desirable employment, lesser interactive nature and less socialising. Issues leading to low self-esteem are abuse, influence of friends, influence of media and health issues. For this there should be a fair analysis of a person’s strengths and weaknesses, support from family and friends apart from church or community affiliation (Skinner 2005).

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Sometimes negative experiences can influence a person to a greater extent that issues with self esteem become greater. In such a case, professional help is needed for sorting out the person’s behaviours, thoughts and feelings. The therapist can provide aid to some extent but change needs to come from within the person. A person should analyse as to why he is feeling so and effort should be made by him to come out of the same (Sigelman &rider 2008).

A person has to release the negative experiences of his past to experience a higher level of living.

Whatever regrets are there in the past, whatever has hurt the person or whatever might be the disappointment, it is time for the person to release these and go ahead. A 5 step procedure can adopted for the same to overcome the negative experiences of one’s past (Wacker etal. 2008).

Decision making

Letting go of the thoughts consciously

Shifting thinking from past to present.

Practising on focusing on present and living with positive thoughts.

Living in the present.

Making decision properly is important in a person’s life. For every change that happens in life, the change starts with a decision. A person can decide on letting the negative experiences of the past take hold of his life and dictate his present condition or else the person can take control of his decisions and become master over his emotions. Once the person decides on this, the next thing to be shaped is the mindset (Plotnik 2008,Friesen 2005).

In the second step, the person should reiterate to himself that he need to release the negative thoughts from his heart and mind and embrace feelings of joy, peace and love. When a conscious decision is made to release the impressions of the negative experiences of the past, a positive energy can be experienced by the person in his body. This makes the person position himself to receive and attract more positive emotions(Plotnik 2008,Friesen 2005).

In the third step, the person needs to find positivity in a situation and shift his focus to it. The thinking has to shift from negative experiences in the past towards embracing more positivity. Just like every cloud has a silver lining, one needs to needs to introspect as to what lesson life has taught at that time in past and how one can come out of the imprints from the past. The person should also think of the good this activity does and go ahead (Moxley 2004).

In the fourth step, this activity of trying to come out of negative thoughts should be reinforced again and again till it becomes a practice. Just like a toddler learns walking by trying again and again, the person should have a ‘Try again and again, Never give up’ attitude in driving away the imprints of negative experiences from mind. Let us compare this with learning a new skill like painting. Regular practice improves one’s skill at art and hones up his skills. This is because it has become a habit to think of negative experiences with the person ,so it requires determination and regular practice to see positive out of every situation(Drake &Myers 2006).

The person should say to himself that past cannot be changed and this fact has to be experienced consciously. Many a time there is difficulty on a person’s part to differentiate between present and past. We relive over our past experiences by bringing them to present.We relive on these experiences again and again even though the root cause for the negative emotion does not exist anymore or is not currently relevant.

One procedure to dealing with these emotions is to conscious understand that these experiences are not happening to oneself immediately and its high time that this is released from mind and should go ahead for a more positive life. It is easier said than done. All that is needed is will power and strong desire to come out of the situation(Denzin &Lincoln 2008).

In case the emotions from these experiences are too very overwhelming and it is not possible to be away from them, the person can just receive the thought, acknowledge it and release it. This will be difficult at first but if practised regularly becomes a habit. All he needs to do is acknowledge the thought and release it. He should not obstruct it and at the same time he will not think of it. He will simply acknowledge it consciously(Dalgleish, 2004).

A person can start writing down about what he likes or dislikes about himself and analyse his list of likes and dislikes. He needs to figure out which one is longer and if his dislikes are realistic and if he has exaggerated his flaws(Cantania 2003). He should also analyse if all his positive points and personality traits, achievements, good physical features and capabilities are honestly listed.Most of the negative thoughts are not consciously noticed by the mind. So it is necessary for the person to slow down the thoughts deliberately and scan them to know what thoughts make the person feel negative. He can question himself as to why he is feel this way at present and what his negative thought is. He should question and introspect as to what triggered the negative thoughts and if the reason for the same is good enough(Skinner 2005). A correct measure as to how genuine the thought is can be the person’s answer to the last question. It is suggested that the person should share his feelings with people close to him or his best friends (Dalgleish, 2004).

After this introspection and self questioning it is suggested that the person starts to volunteer and gets himself busy in group work or community program. He can join community events or organizations that interest him. This involvement reduces the time spent on negative ideas. This way the person can start flooding his life with things very positive and with activities which involve interaction. The person can start feeling better in due course(Baum 2005).

The person can take interest in personal health and fitness. This reduces time spent on thoughts relating to negative experiences. The person can start reading books on personality improvement and confidence(Baum 2005).

4. Implications of Practice: for Special Needs children

4.1. Review of Research findings on students with Down Syndrome.

This part of the article concentrates on review of research findings by Catriona Wilson (2010) as given in her article ‘Self Esteem in Children with Down Syndrome in the Mainstream Classroom’ apart from inputs from other researchers. The article By Wilson(2010) focusses on self-esteem in children having Down syndrome in mainstream schools compared with a group of developing children in a chronologically age control group and also by comparing with group of children having problem of Generalised Developmental Delay. The perceptions of teachers regarding self-esteem in children were also considered while writing this article. A multi-dimensional scale was used for measuring self esteem. The subscales in this scale were tapped academic competence, social acceptance, physical competence, physical appearance, maternal acceptance. The results showed that children having Down syndrome have good levels of self-esteem which are in some cases at higher level than their developing peers. Also with physical indicators of the condition, children with Down syndrome showed increased levels of social acceptance than children with problems of developmental delay. It was found that teachers overestimate self-esteem of children having Down syndrome seeing their peer acceptance. The findings of this research are transformed into various recommendations designed for schools and there were suggestions for future research as well (Wilson 2010).

4.1.1. Self Esteem of Pupils in main stream school

The first year at the school is important for the self-esteem development and also adds that if students have low self-esteem, they cannot learn properly. This leads to their consistent failure and underachievement (Lawrence 1996 as cited in Wilson 2010).As a result, schools have good potential to influence students’ self esteem. Positive feedback by a teacher boosts the self-esteem of the student while negative feedback pulls down the student’s self esteem (Cosden et al. 2002 as cited in Wilson 2010).As such a teacher’s primary goal is to build self esteem in the student. This issue which was given insufficient attention earlier were given due recognition in the latest National Curriculum Framework for PHSE. This needed standardisation across schools. More specifically children having Special Educational Needs (SEN) are found to have considerably lesser self-esteem than their peers (La Greca &Stone 1990 as cited in Wilson 2010).But apart from mentioning this finding, the issue was not addressed by the National curriculum.

4.1.2. Self Esteem for SSEN children

Students with learning disabilities have to receive lot of negative messages from their childhood right from the time of their birth and that continues even in their school life as they have to bear with stereotypical and negative attitudes towards them. This makes life tough for children with learning disabilities. The SSEN students have to face with problems of social acceptance, awareness of differences with other students and academic failure (Cosden et al.2002 as cited in Wilson 2010). Also placing these students in special classes may have negative effect on their self esteem. But Beltempo& Achille(1990 as cited in Wilson 2010) found that a combination of mainstream and special education will be very benefic for the SSEN students. Apart from this, there are differences in self-esteem for children falling the group of ‘learning disabled’ and the chances that this group is homogeneous are very less (Denzin &Lincoln 2008,Sigelman & Rider 2008, Cosden et al.2002 as cited in Wilson 2010).

Down Syndrome is a genetic condition that arises with the presence of an extra chromosome 21 and can be said to be the perceptible reason for learning disability in both children and adults (Roizen &Patterson 2003 as cited in Wilson 2010).Children with Down syndrome (DS) can be easily identified by their physical features and the children with DS develop slowly than their peers and tend to stay at each step in development for a longer time. This leads to an expanding gap with children with DS and their peers. The problems with learning range from mild to severe and also students have problems with language, speech, memory and reading (Liptak 2008).As against the common notion that individuals with DS are good-natured and cheerful, there are serious problems like impulsivity, hyperactivity and attention seeking (Parens &Asch 2003).Earlier, there used to be notion that the problem with Down syndrome is genetic and recognizing the same helped to eliminate the outlook that children with DS should be sent to separate institutions and led to the concept of inclusive education for these students.

4.1.3. Modification of Classroom

For younger children with DS, chairs and desks are needed to be evaluated for ensuring good posture. Platforms and stools can be provided so that children’s feet can rest on them and do not reach the ground. Cushions can be used in chairs in case more height is needed for the child to raise to the table. For ensuring proper grasp with writing, pencil grips can be used. Modification of scissors with springs is needed for these students to help them operate easily. Also there should be modification to recess activities and physical education for these pupils (CarrolAnnMc5 2010,Wilson 2010).

4.1.4. Location of DS children in the Classroom

The placement of children with DS in a classroom assumes significance because these children often suffer from hearing loss which ranges form mild to moderate. It is necessary to ensure that these children are located nearer to para educator or teacher for listening to lectures and instructions. The pupils can be placed at a place where they can concentrate well without distraction. This place should be used rarely to improve concentration of the child. Greater use of this area for classroom can make the child feel isolated, so this place should be used cautiously (Wilson 2010).

4.1.5. Helping students with DS to understand Classroom Instruction

The vocabulary that the child requires for classroom participation to understand and interpret the lessons should be introduced. It should be ensured that the child learns the key concepts well before the lesson is taught and is provided with the required learning tools. The level of the child’s knowledge should be assessed and the vocabulary and curriculum should be modified accordingly. Students with DS learn more visually. Also students should be taught concepts and instructions orally apart from teaching through diagrams, pictures and visual cues. Children can be made to repeat instructions so that they can understand lessons. Students with DS might be given shortened assignments or they can be given extra time for the completion of assignments to help them complete the assignments (CarrolAnnMc5 2010, Wilson 2010).

4.1.6. Making children with DS to learn from their peers

Children with DS are friendly and sociable and learn well by imitating their peers. So inclusion of these pupils as part of a peer group can thin down their feeling of isolation. This way peer modelling can help students with DS. It is always helpful to let the child observe their peers and learn doing a difficult task and reduces their isolation. Children without DS are also benifitted with this interaction as they start learning to accept their peers with DS and it increases their awareness (CarrolAnnMc5 2010, Wilson 2010).

4.1.7.Behaviour Management of Children with DS

Positive feedback can work wonders with children with Down syndrome. Effort should be made to provide positive feedback for good behaviour and the results of negative behaviour should be clearly explained to students. Also there should be good communication between the child’s parents and school in case of children with DS and a daily report can be submitted to parents with daily activities, progress, behaviour and lessons taught recorded in the journal (CarrolAnnMc5 2010, Wilson 2010).

4.2. Music Education to Children with Handicaps

Handicapped children are referred to as special needs children. Music enriches their lives. With the “Rehabilitation Act of 1973” and the subsequent amendments made under the Section 504(CarolAnnMC5 2010),the issues pertaining to the learning environment of special needs student have to be addressed by the district schools. Additionally assistance through technology was to be provided for pupils under the Disabilities Act for providing response to consumers through a delivery system in every State and also to the families with these pupils. Assistive devices are prepared and Individualised Education Plan (IEP) for each special needs child is to be prepared by greater interaction between educators and parents. All educators working closely with Special Needs Children including the music educator are to be part of IEP meetings (CarrolAnnMc5 2010).

Equal benefits are not offered by Music Education and Music Therapy for the special needs child though both of them play significant role in overall development and growth as per the views from professionals in these fields. While music therapy aims to improve the pupil’s health, music education focuses on teaching music. In some school settings, music programs are used for getting positive goals. Inclusion of various adaptive instruments such as switches enables these students to work at their own level and also work in a group setting. Velcro bands and assistive computer program


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