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Youth, elderly share more than you think

July 1, 2012
By CATHY BROWNFIELD - Family Recovery Center , Salem News

Moms must have said forever, "We never see ourselves as others see us." Machiavelli had a little different spin on that thought, writing that people know about us only what we allow them to know. And there is some discussion about a relationship between self-esteem and narcissism. Self-esteem is good to have. Narcissism is not so good. What is your perception of your Self? What do you let others know about you?

Self-esteem is how each of us perceives our Self. It's our worth as a person. Do you really know your Self?

We determine our worth by how we appear and how well we do what we do (domain self-esteem) and by how we understand ourselves (global self-esteem.) High self-esteem, our behaviors, goals and coping strategies, leads us to succeed in our relationships, at school and at work. Low self-esteem puts us at risk for mental health issues like antisocial behavior, depression and substance abuse.

Researchers say that, on average, we experience high self-esteem as children. Esteem drops at adolescence (more girls than boys), increases in adulthood and drops again in old age. Did you notice that adolescents and their elderly grandparents have a lot in common in that respect? Youth and Elderly are transition points in life.

Life for young people speeds up and gets more complicated socially, biologically and cognitively: puberty. Moving from grade school to high school, and for some, college. For the elderly, health and brain function decline. Retirement takes them from the productive working life they had to a less demanding way of life with the children grown. Mortality adds social and family losses to further make holes in their lives. Nobody wants to be the last one standing.

Everyone needs to feel good about themselves but burdened by life's trials that may be easier said than done. You can work on improving low self-esteem, how you feel about yourself. Are you struggling with crises at home or on the job? With your spouse/partner? Has there been a major change in your life, such as the loss of a loved one or a job loss? You can see why low self-esteem might be related to depression.

What do you think about yourself? "I can't do anything right," "I can't do this," "I'm a loser." People live down to expectations, or up to them. Which is it for you? For your child? Is the self talk realistic and accurate? Or do you dwell in the world of Negative? "I blew that, now everyone knows I'm an idiot."

Are you really a loser or have you talked yourself into it? Take the time to think about what "normal" is and put positive thinking in place for you. ("I'm positive I'm a loser" doesn't qualify as positive thinking.) "I can't do this. I'm a total failure" becomes, "I did the best I know how. I am not a failure." "I really messed that up so now everyone knows how stupid I am" becomes "I made a mistake. I'm human. And I learned from that mistake." "I must've made my friend angry because he hasn't answered my e-mail" becomes "My friend has a life and must be busy. He will get back to me when he can."

Stop putting yourself down. "I don't deserve anything better," is just plain wrong. Everyone needs hope, something good and positive to hold onto.

Here's where narcissism can be problematic. High self-esteem is a healthy image of self. You like and accept yourself as you are. You don't see yourself as better than everyone else. You aren't entitled to special treatment and your goal isn't to exploit others. You think positively and give everything you do your best effort.

Those who suffer low self-esteem and become narcissistic give the impression that they are highly valued, superior to all others and are entitled to whatever they want.

But that face they are presenting is a fraud. They may give the appearance of believing they are special, are superior, but that is just a smokescreen to hide the worthlessness they perceive within themselves.

There's a song"Don't worry. Be happy." It's documented that a healthy self regard is good for you. Positive life outcomes lead to enhanced health and well being.

Family Recovery Center promotes the well being of individuals, families and communities with education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and other mental health issues. For more information about our services, contact us at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468 or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. FRC is funded, in part, by the United Way of Northern Columbiana County and the Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.

 
 

 

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