Human Relations. Self-Esteem as a Sociological Concept


There are several definitions of self-esteem with different sophistication and breadths, but everybody agrees that a state of high self-esteem implies that we appreciate our personality in what we are and are hence proud of ourselves. Being more specific it means that we have a positive attitude, we have faith in our abilities, we value ourselves immensely and we consider ourselves to be competent and in control of life and have the competency to do whatever we wish to do. Tracy Turner has defined self-esteem as “appreciating your own work and importance and it helps you to cope better with the challenges of life”, We should not consider ourselves to be inferior in any way since a low self-esteem implies conditions of depression, helplessness and powerlessness. There are several attempts on a continuous basis by governments and institutions to find ways and means to increase self esteem amongst people, but the fact remains that majority of people often suffer pangs of low self-esteem that lowers their performance and happiness levels and if such pattern exists on a consistent basis, it can lead to prolonged depression in people.

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I think that it is correct to say that our self-esteem has immense implications for our life and our future growth as also in meeting our objectives of life. The history of self-esteem begins with early childhood and continues throughout life by effecting the decisions that we make, and needs to be tended to on a regular basis just as a plant requires to be done. A typical example of self-esteem is when we go ahead in setting a career profile for ourselves. I believe that it is perfectly in order to set goals for ourselves in keeping with our life aspirations since it is our own choice which matters ultimately in bringing us satisfaction and a sense of achievement. A career decision may require us to go against the family wishes or it may be against the social way of doing things, but if we have the courage and determination in achieving even the most difficult of tasks, we must go ahead with the same. Experts are of the opinion that everybody enjoys the benefits of high self-esteem and that it often acts as a support during times when life poses difficult and painful situations by way of rejections, failures and disappointments and gives us strength in coping with these difficult times. We have all experienced that life is not a bed of roses and that despite our best efforts we sometimes fail or are not given fair treatment at the hands of people around us, and it is during such downturns that a state of high self-esteem helps us to tide over the difficult moments.

Self-esteem is often referred to as the social vaccine, “which entails human personality as being empowered and inoculated against a wide spectrum of self defeating and socially undesirable behaviors.” In this context, the family is considered a strong force in developing self-esteem, since the earlier years of childhood are the founding years when an authentic and abiding self-esteem is sown by the culture prevailing in the family. Hence a high self-esteem in parents is an important factor in nurturing personal effectiveness from the childhood years, which eventually builds up into a high self-esteem. Thereafter the climate in the school has an important bearing on the child in developing self-confidence, and I believe that people who have such traits are less prone to engaging in destructive habits such as drugs, alcohol, child abuse, crime and violence. Young girls who have a high self-esteem are less likely to stray into situations that lead them to become pregnant during the teen years. I strongly believe that self-esteem is not something that can be given to some one as a commodity or gift. In fact it has to be nurtured and sought in the same way as we earn our respect or our reputation by making efforts. Self-esteem is a common term used in referring to people who display qualities of being connected with lots of people, of being assertive, competent, unique and who have a high sense of security, Such people are spiritually inclined and have full faith in themselves.

Building self-esteem is a continuous process in life and it is not a particular target to achieve. A person with low self-esteem has to build on it to get more happiness in life. We all have the right to respect ourselves as also to be respected and if we have the will there is nothing to stop us from having a high self-esteem. We need to put our behavior in perspective and not condemn ourselves for the disappointments and failures that we face. It is important for us to understand that there are many aspects of our personality and that the present negative results are the results of our current behavior patterns which can of course be changed to get better results in due course. Hence there is no point in believing that because of current mistakes we are useless. There is certainly an alternative that we need to implement by first halting all destructive thoughts and convincing ourselves that we too are important in our own rights. One should start thinking as having all the rights, ideas and opinions as others have, which will go a long way in improving self-esteem. We should accentuate positive thoughts by avoiding to repeatedly ponder over our failures and should instead make attempts to change our strategies in working over the job again by concentrating on correcting things which went wrong.

One area in which people have low self-esteem is when they deal with giving or receiving criticism since both situations have a very negative impact in a person’s ability to cope with such situations. Sometimes criticism is justified and we need to do ourselves justice in accepting the same and during such times it proves to be a learning process. It is wise to deal with criticism so that we benefit from it. To deal positively with criticism we must listen to it without interruption and agree to the points that are true, ask for clarification and if wrong we must agree and apologize for the same. If the criticism is wrong we must refute the charges and assertively declare that we don’t agree. This may appear difficult but with practice we can overcome the pangs of criticism. Giving criticism is considered a negative quality but sometimes it has to be done to assert ourselves in given situations. To be able to criticize at the right moment one must have a calm composure and criticize at the right moment by being tactful in criticizing the act and not the person, which will go a long way in conveying respect for the person. A big catch in venting criticism is to use ‘I’ instead of ‘you’ since by doing so we convey that we are in control. Instead of saying ‘you made me feel bad’, it is better to say ‘I felt bad’. This way we do not offend people and convey the message of our disagreement without any ill feelings, thus putting us in a higher position, which implies higher self-esteem. We need to stand up for ourselves by saying ‘no’ when we want to without having any feeling of guilt. I have observed that it is people with low self-esteem who are unable to be assertive in saying no and often get pressurized into doing things that they don’t wish to do. It is imperative that this kind of pattern in one’s personality must be altered if one is to have value in being happy and contented. Self-esteem is something, which we cannot touch, but it affects how we feel. We cannot see it but it is right there when we look at ourselves in the mirror. We cannot hear it but it is very much there when we talk about ourselves. Indeed it is a mysterious thing but very essential to keep us in high spirits.


David V Sheslow, The Story on Self esteem, 2008, Web.

Marilyn Sorensen, Breaking the Chain of Low Self Esteem, 1998, Wolf Publishing Company

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Nathaniel Branden, How to Raise Your Self Esteem, 1988, Bantam. Tracy Turner, Mental Health-Emotional Health, 2008. Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Human Relations. Self-Esteem as a Sociological Concept'. 9 October.

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