Sent: Sunday, February 10, 2002 11:40 PM
Subject: Self-esteem - how I think about it
This is a more up to date version of what I shared with you in our early conversations about 15+ years ago.
Self esteem is the buoyant absence of negative-to-self, emotional and intellectual, self-assumptions. A flowing from within channeled and focused by learning and not automated by the reflexes of wounded self-imagery.
Self-esteem is a term that describes the ground of our relationship with ourselves. Its not accumulative, it is the lack of a certain kind of accumulation.
John, I have long felt that people make a confusion by trying to define self-esteem in terms of its positive attributes. I am concerned with how it is our children learn negative to self assumptions. To use your vaccine metaphor, how do we 'vaccinate' the child against the in-form-ation of negative-to-self-assumptions.
By exposing our bodies to 'safe' doses of a pathogen, vaccines create learning environments for our immune systems. They function like 'simulators' - they give us a chance to work out a response without being in a life-threatening situation.
In order to develop a vaccine to the disease of self-disesteem, some appear to argue for accumulating self-positive knowledge and experience. This is then dismissed by the 'other side' as being over generalized and not specifically earned - there is a fear that it leads to self-inflation by principle rather than via healthy feedback. I think you would get more universal agreement if the thrust of self-esteem was more on reducing self-disesteem.
How do we immunize self learning from the ravages of self-disesteem? To do that I think that we have to get closer to how our learning nature, in the fields of our learning environment circumstances (home, school...) unconsciously learns strategies to avoid the shame and pain felt. "Oh, I am just no good at...." "I am not good looking" "I am not a loveable person" - "I am not smart" -
I believe what you mean by the term self-esteem is simply: human nature free from the self-disesteeming psychological reflexes we learn to modulate our negative-to-self, feelings and thoughts. If so, the question becomes how do we create environments in which children have the opportunity to learn to participate rather than be passengers in their feelings and thoughts.
Getting self-esteem on the map was a huge step for all of us. I congratulate you again for driving that into happening and for being the champion and hub of this noble effort to defend the self-esteem movement.
BTW - my single most significant concern in the learning to read process is related to 'self-esteem'. In China they call reading English out loud, 'red facing'.
From the heart to the mind
for the spirit,
for the children.
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