Issues and concerns related to self-esteem can create significant difficulty for a youngster’s overall development and progress. Answers to these five questions will give you a pretty good idea of where a particular child or teen might be in terms of self-esteem. These are taken from one of Dr. Sutton’s latest, downloadable e-books, Improving a Youngster’s Self-Esteem (revised). The book obviously contains more information regarding followup, intervention and treatment. CLICK HERE to learn more about the book. We now present, “Evaluating a Youngster’s Self-Esteem: Five Questions.”
There are five questions that pertain to the evaluation of a child or teen’s self-esteem. It is probable that a child with low self-esteem will have difficulty in several of these. Answers to these questions and observations can be helpful in determining management and treatment.
Question 1 of 5:
HOW DO YOU BELIEVE SHE (OR HE) VIEWS HER OWN IMAGE AND ABILITIES?
It’s not unusual for youngsters to have issues with their physical appearance; our bodies stay with us for life. The body is an individual’s direct connection with the outside world, and the only part of a person that others can see, hear, and touch.
Is she confident regarding her physical appearance? If she is not comfortable, is the problem an authentic one, perhaps even one that could be repaired (like crooked teeth)? Or is her issue with her appearance primarily in her own perception only, such as an attractive child believing somehow that she is ugly?
Does she put herself down when it comes to appearance and physical characteristics? What is the nature of her complaints and concerns?
Does she feel up to the challenge of comparing herself and her abilities with age and grade peers?
Sports is another area which showcases a youngster’s abilities, or lack of them. How is she in this area? Competitive sports like soccer and Little League come into a child’s life early on and continue through school and non-school functions and events for years. For some youngsters, the pressure to perform is anything but fun.
Question 2 of 5:
HOW WELL DOES HE HANDLE FRUSTRATION?
Can he handle quite a bit before he “loses it?” Can he creatively use setbacks as challenges to try even harder, or is he overly reactive to aggravation and setbacks?
It’s easy to see how the behavior of an angry youngster can bring about consequences that only create more frustration when the consequences are applied. The frustrated child finds himself in a hole that moves only in one direction deeper, then deeper still.
If self-esteem is a container from which we manage our stress, then some folks carry buckets while others have thimbles. You can size them up easily during moments of frustration. Said another way, a low tolerance for frustration is almost always a tip-off to low self-esteem.
Question 3 of 5:
HOW DOES SHE HANDLE CRITICISM, EVEN CONSTRUCTIVE, WELL-INTENDED CRITICISM?
Does she accept criticism graciously and use it as a springboard for improvement, or does just about ANY criticism bring about a response like, “How come you’re always picking on ME?”
Some youngsters feel they have long since met their quota of mistakes for the rest of their lives! So, when one more is held up in front of them, they’re not exactly happy about it.
Sometimes there is an opposite effect. This is the youngster who had difficulty accepting compliments. This situation is actually part of the same concern.
We all have an image of ourselves as a total person. If that image is a poor one, compliments will be in conflict with it. In other words, the compliment can’t find a place to “fit.” Consequently, the youngster might reject a compliment in order to maintain consistency of a poor self-image and of low self-esteem. One might say that this is self-defeating and that it doesn’t make much sense at all, but it is consistent.
IS HE WILLING TO TAKE APPROPRIATE RISKS?
Life involves risk. The very hope of progress, just about any kind of progress, demands that we take risks; not fool-hearty risks, of course, but age and situation-appropriate risks.
Examples of risks include sports and other areas of competition, the sort of classes a high school student signs up for or seeking that first after-school job. Then there’s the big one for a guy asking a girl out for a date. Life requires risk all the time.
The bottom line of risk-taking is always the same: fear of failure. If that fear is strong enough, one will not risk. But there’s a paradoxical quality to it. Since one cannot experience success UNLESS he takes a risk, a paralyzing fear of ultimately creates more failure.
We might consider here a pattern of an opposite effect: fear of success. The whole notion of success doesn’t fit well with a poor self-image or a low self-esteem. Many youngsters will strive for a consistency of a poor self-image rather than a successful life-style. That seems to run contrary to the laws of personhood, but in more than three decades of working with young people, I have seen it happen over and over again.
Question 5 of 5:
HOW DOES SHE HANDLE RELATIONSHIPS, BOTH WITH PEERS AND WITH ADULTS?
Does she seem to have a number of meaningful friendships that have lasted, friendships into which she is invested? Does she speak easily and comfortably with adults?
At the other extreme we find youngsters who seem socially isolated and withdrawn. They might possibly say things like, “No one likes me!” They might even make friends easily, but have difficulty keeping them.
This youngster might either be uncomfortable with adults or spend all of their time with just one friend or one adult, like a favorite teacher. This might appear to be a very positive relationship, but the deeper message could be avoidance of other relationships. This can become a real problem, especially if that one intense relationship falls apart. And generally, if the relationship is one-sided in its intensity, it will eventually fall apart.
There are underlying issues in such an unfortunate scenario, such as two kinds of fear: the fear of closeness and fear of being socially “exposed” For an adolescent, a stage of growth where peers are such an important part of psychosocial development, just the thought of being “exposed” is quite disturbing. This youngster can be terrified that, if others get too close, they might not like what they see. One way of dealing with this problem is to never, but never, let anyone get too close. But, just like the problem of risk, not letting anyone get close is also self-defeating. ###
A nationally recognized (and now mostly retired) child and adolescent psychologist, author and speaker, Dr. James Sutton is the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network. For more information about the ebook featured in this Special Report, CLICK HERE.