Self-esteem is a term used in psychology to describe one’s overall worth, i.e. where a person places himself or herself in his or her mind. Self-esteem is a personality trait and high self-esteem reflects the confidence and power of a person in society, whereas a low self-esteem is a negative personality trait that lowers the confidence of a person and might lead to stress and depression (Craig, 2006).
A person’s self-worth is more important than any other thing because a person’s opinion’s about him, or she is above everything. Self-esteem is a judgmental trait where a person evaluates his or her worth and hence, an error occurred while judging may have negative repercussions. A person who doesn’t realize his self-worth finds it difficult to stand in the society as he doesn’t know his importance and may feel unworthy and useless, therefore; realization of self-esteem or self-worth is a must.
Sociologist, Dr. Morris Rosenberg well known professor for his work on self-esteem and self-concept defined self-esteem as a feeling of self worth and after a detailed research provided a scale to measure the same and this scale popularly known as Rosenberg Self-esteem Scale is widely used in assessing one’s self-esteem (Branden, 2001).
As already mentioned above, self-esteem is nothing but a realization of one’s value. Now the question arises of where does one get this feeling of self-esteem? The answer to this question is simple, self-esteem is a process, and it’s a feeling that is developed across the lifespan of a person from within (Cherry, 2012). No one can develop this feeling overnight as it is a process and takes the time to be developed, however; once realized, changes the outlook of a person.
Self-esteem, though, sounds a simple concept, but it has a deep-rooted meaning and that’s the reason, detailed research has been conducted on the subject over the years. Many theorists, psychologists based their theory on these researchers and the concept has been explained again and again over the years. Another author, Nathaniel Branden in his notable work the psychology of self-esteem where he described self-esteem as an essential human need required for survival and it depends on various internally originated practices along with other social agents (family, friends, etc.).
Agents of Socialization
So far in the paper, a detailed discussion of the term Self-esteem is given, and now the role of society and various agents that handle the development of an individual are being discussed.
Greek philosopher Aristotle said, “Man is a social animal” (Sunil, 2011) by this what he meant is that human beings live in a society and therefore; society makes a person who he or she is. The role of society is remarkable in shaping up an individual, and the impact of society on the development of an individual has long lasting impact. The society turns a person into a God or a Beast.
Living in isolation is a nightmare and humans need other people to interact with to validate their existence. Social interactions are necessary as they open up the faculties of the mind of an individual and help them realize their true potential and purpose. At birth, an infant is not aware of his/ herself and this awareness is gained with time and for that matter social heritage is required (Erol & Orth, 2011).
Abraham Maslow in his theory of the hierarchy of needs places self-esteem as one of the factors that motivate people. Though it comes later in the hierarchy list, but still the realization of self-esteem is necessary to attain self-actualization.
There are five Agents of Socialization, which shape up an individual, namely peers, family, teachers, media, and religion, apart from these there are some other lesser-known agents that may affect an individual. All these are discussed at length below:
- Family– Family has a major role in developing the social self of an individual and hence; it is the most important agent of socialization. Since birth till death family remains with every individual; infants are dependent on their parents to survive, later when a person enters into adulthood he or she needs a life partner and so on. No matter how old a person is, the family is needed at every point of time. A family is one’s first school, which teaches the value of relationships and provides security. One learns about his culture, traditions and values from one’s family. The family can be seen as a mirror image of one’s beliefs and ethnicity.
- School– After family, school is the next most important agent of socialization. A school is a place where a child gets basic education and therefore; it can create an everlasting image that makes an individual’s identity. A child goes to school and gets a formal education that later helps him in earning bread and butter for himself and his family. The knowledge one gains at school time determines the future of a person. A formally educated person usually earns better than a person who hasn’t received any formal education. The school helps us to get along with other people and also teaches how to make adjustments and obey others, learn discipline and last but not the least makes one patient and tolerant. School is the place where one learns the value of responsibility and also, a place, where one gets his first friends. The importance of school cannot be neglected, and that is why it is considered an important socializing agent.
- Peers– Peers change from time to time. In school, classmates fall under the category of peers later colleagues occupy this position. However, peers impact the ideology of an individual, and good peers make a person while bad colleagues/ mates ruin an individual. Family teaches a person what is right and what is wrong, but an individual learns more from his peers and their attitude and behavior. A child sometimes observes that his family values contradict with what his peers do, and here he makes a choice that value he should retain and which behavior to reject. Peers impact the life of an individual to a greater extent as people usually follow their peers to get recognition. In later time when a person is mature he can make a difference between what is right and what is wrong for him, but a child doesn’t have this ability to choose wisely therefore; having right peers at the formative age lays the foundation of one’s character.
- Media– Media these days are playing a significant role as it influences the minds of kids and adults alike. Mass media have this responsibility of creating a lasting impact on the minds of people to persuade them so that they are convinced that whatever has been conveyed to them is right and will be beneficial for them in the long run. The internet, radio, television, newspapers, magazines are some of the most powerful tools media has to make their presence felt in the global society. Kids learn from their environment and the advancement of technology has led to a revolution that has changed the way of living, kids spend most of their time on the internet and hence, they learn more from the same medium. Children are exposed to every kind of content as it is available on the web and therefore; parents have to keep a check on their kids so that they do access the content unsuitable for them. The role of media is not less than any other agent of socialization, and it should be taken into account as well. A check is required as this is a medium that can have the most negative impact if not dealt with properly.
All the above-mentioned agents of socialization have their value and impact. Every individual may get exposed to these agents at one point or another during their lifetime. These social factors provide an individual what all is required to make decisions and hence, affect their self-esteem. Positive people help boosting the self-esteem of people while negative people drag down others and try to kill their self-esteem. Humans look for acceptance in the society, and this acceptance is required to validate the existence of an individual. A person who is appreciated in the society is most likely to have a higher self-esteem than someone who always gets scolded or harassed.
Self-esteem- A Global Perspective
Lately, same-sex marriage has been legalized in the United States of America. This year on 21st June, United States of America grant recognition to people, who married to people of their sex and with this decision, it has become the twenty-first countries in the world to legalize the same-sex marriage. Earlier, same-sex couples were denied marriage licenses and their union was considered illegal and immoral, but now they are given equal rights and opportunities (Johnson, 2014).
This bold move by the biggest power of the world has brought applause from around the globe as the USA has become the most populous country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. This move has given immense opportunities to those who were earlier rejected by the society and lost their self-esteem due to their sexual orientation as now they can enjoy equal rights offered by the government and also get the benefits attached to it.
Same-sex marriage is still considered to be a taboo in most of the world and people also call it unnatural and abnormal, but with this move, those who live in States do not have to bear abusive remarks of those who tag themselves as moral police (Wing, 2010).
Self-esteem seems to be a quality trait, but beneath the surface, the term has a latent meaning and if not understood and realized properly can vandalize the individuality of a person. Same-sex marriage is considered to be a social evil, and those who married with people of their sex were insulted not only in public and their families also disowned them due to societal pressure. Non-acceptance led to mental stress and may turn ugly when the person in question was forced to end his/ her life. There are many cases where people because of the pressure put by the Society took their lives as unacceptance of part of the society smashed their self-worth.
Anything lost can be found again, but mental peace and self-esteem if once lost is hard to be found again as it takes away the rational thinking ability of a person. Self-esteem is not just a quality, but a necessity that every person seeks to withstand in the society and hence, it has to be taken care of (Cohen & Shamus, 2009). In order to achieve greater height in life a person has to understand his value and the role he has to play in the society and this role is not of an ordinary person, but he must realize that he has been given this life for a purpose and he has to prove his worth to his family and the society so that he can be seen as an asset and not a liability. For proving one’s worth to other people, it is important first to understand one’s worth. To make others believe in oneself, one has to trust oneself, and this realization can be seen as the foundation stone on which a beautiful monument of reliability and character of a person can be erected.
Branden, N. (2001). The Psychology of Self-Esteem: A Revolutionary Approach to Self-Understanding That Launched a New Era in Modern Psychology. San-Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc Pub.
Cherry, K. (2012). What Is Self-Esteem? Retrieved from About Education: http://psychology.about.com/od/sindex/f/what-is-self-esteem.htm
Cohen, G. E., & Shamus, E. (2009). Depressed, Low Self Esteem: What can exercise Do For You? The Internet Journal of Allied Health Sciences and Practice, 1-5.
Craig, C. (2006). A short history of self-esteem. Centre for Confidence and Well-Being.
Erol, R. Y., & Orth, U. (2011). Self-Esteem Development From Age 14 to 30 Years: A Longitudinal Study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 607-619.
Johnson, C. (2014, October 3). Judge orders Missouri to recognize same-sex marriages. Retrieved from Washington Blade: http://www.washingtonblade.com/2014/10/03/judge-orders-missouri-recognize-sex-marriages/
Sunil. (2011, April). Why man is called as a social animal? Retrieved from Preserve Articles: http://www.preservearticles.com/201104306137/why-man-is-called-as-a-social-animal.html
Wing, N. (2010, May 13). Laura Bush: Gay Marriage Should Be Legal, Abortion Should Remain Legal. Retrieved from The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/13/laura-bush-gay-marriage-s_n_574731.html?ir=India&adsSiteOverride=in