If you’re suffering from a moment or a long period of low self-esteem, chances are the problem isn’t internal. As Psychology Today points out, the problem is more likely caused by issues you have with people other than yourself.
Photo by Mikael Altemark.
Think of self-esteem as the fuel gauge on a car. Most of us are busy driving around trying to keep the indicator from registering “empty.” The whole time, we’re focused on the alerting system-instead of on its true function: keeping fuel in the tank. “In the same way, in focusing on the psychological gauge, many psychologists have erred by concluding that people are motivated to maintain self-esteem for its own sake,” Leary[, a professor at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina] says. Instead, we should be using self-esteem as a gauge “to keep our ‘interpersonal gas tanks’ from running low.”
Call it a “sociometer.” When self-esteem sinks to the danger zone, the appropriate response is not to fix some inner sense of self, but to repair your standing in the eyes of others, to behave in ways that maintain connections with other people.
In the end, self-esteem might just have very little to do with the self. If we’re not feeling good about our relationships with other people, we’re just not feeling good at all.
At Last-a Rejection Detector! [Psychology Today]