SELF-HELP AND SELF-ESTEEM
Part 1. Contemporary time can be easily characterized as the century of Self. Considering it critically, there is no simple answer whether it is right or wrong.
Anyway, Human is an issue of top priority of modern times. Centuries, when sacrifice was demanded, or when human life was neglected, are far away. In modern life, everybody’s right to be happy and successful is highly respected, appreciated and widely recognized. Any person is encouraged to live full life, with all its precious joys, in order to comprehensively participate in world affairs and feel as demanded and priceless member of society.
At first glance, there are no external obstacles on the route to happiness, however, the sorrow, pain, desperation still have not disappeared from our lives. People still are prone to feel themselves as miserable losers, even though the general policy of humans’ abuse has passed away. The answer is that there are multiple cases, when our level of satisfaction or any other pleasant mood, state or feeling directly and solely depends on our self-understanding, which is embodied in certain amount of respect towards ourselves. It is surprisingly, but so many issues, which seem to be matters of exclusive sphere of external evaluation, are indeed the issues, which can be resolved solely on individual level, including own personal history.
If considering this very direction, so many terms emerge, which are to be precisely clarified (self-respect, self-esteem, self-help, self-strength, self-discipline etc). All of them have one common feature, correct understanding of which is crucial to catch their main motto, namely – that all person’s powers and weaknesses are rooted in his or her mind. However, there also are some distinctions between these terms, so I will pay attention to their clarification during further explanation of self-help and self-esteem as different notions with slightly different goals and structure.
In fact, this theoretical comparison of similarities and distinctions may be illustrated with a simple practical example. For instance, in common situation when a particular person faces certain hardships, e.g. financial, personal or professional, he or she is able to use positive thinking or personal introspective analysis in order to increase belief in own strength. In this simple example, mentioned methods belong to self-help conceptions, whereas belief in personal power refers to self-esteem.
If researched more profound, certain aspects of self-help strategies and particular links with self-respect and its effect on our productivity are to be highlighted. Fundamental knowledge in the field of self-help belongs to crucial minimum of necessary information, needed for every human in hard times in order to balance own mental health.
The most common pieces of advice and the most widespread techniques of self-help are seemed to be rather easy in application, but nevertheless – efficient and workable. For instance, among the most popular is the discipline with one’s thoughts, which are to be selected even more scrupulously and properly than one’s clothing. This seemingly easy recipe is not so easy in day-to-day practice, as it demands a lot of patience, devotion and motivated work in order to control usually uncontrolled – the flow of our thoughts, where despair and anger frequently neighbor with sympathy and tenderness.
Even great spiritual leader and mastermind Buddha is believed to have said: “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world. What we think, we become” (Adams, 2012). This metaphoric conclusion is caused by great inspirational effect that our positive thought are empowered to make. Perhaps, it may seem not very trust-worthy at first, however the habit of positive thinking is possible to evoke changes of global scope. It is explained by mere fact that our minds are engines of lives, and only from them, the reality is dependable.
The other popular and effective techniques – visualizations, affirmations – seem to be rather different, with various methods of application, however, they, similarly to discipline in thoughts are concentrated on one simple idea that our understanding of ourselves and the way of thinking – is the one and only thing that matters. Hence, psychologist William James encourages us to create ourselves with no fear or anxiety: “If you want a quality, act as if you already had it. Try the “as if” technique” (Adams, 2012). These self-help strategies are based on the aforementioned principle of visualization.
What is interesting, aforementioned techniques of self-help are in very close relationship with our imagination of self-esteem. These two notions are strictly dependable on what we think about ourselves, how much we appreciate own accomplishments, how differ our dream and expectations from our real experiences. Summing it all up, self-help and self-esteem differ in their scopes, as self-help is mainly a general concept of improvement of own physical and mental state without any medical intervention in the general sense, whereas self-esteem is a indicator of successfulness of self-help practices. Simultaneously, their main concepts are centered on the one and only common notion – level of self-respect, which is rooted from personal understanding of own achievements and failures.
Another important aspect to be considered is what self-help and self-esteem may mean in contemporary times if misunderstood. For instance, nowadays self-help is being slowly, but surely transformed into popular marketing strategy, which is maliciously used for commercial goals. Because nowadays bookstores are filled with millions of self-help books, some of them, obviously are valuable for personal growth, but the common majority consists of clichés and advices that do not work. Hence, unfortunately self-help is a growth industry that can boast a remarkable crop of overnight millionaires among its motivational authors and presenters (Adams, 2012).
No doubt, it is rather complicated to define, which of self-help books Delong to masterpieces in the field of psychology, and which represent just business appetites of rapid contemporary word. In addition, there is no special technology, how to distinguish workable book from unworkable one. It is a common situation, when self-help recipes, which are not appropriate for particular people, turn out to suit for other people.
Moreover, common exaggerated attention towards self-esteem, respect etc may negatively influence humans’ minds, which are hazardously close to become close and indifferent to feelings of others, as their key habit is concentration on own problems. Additionally, it is illustrated by the simple example of what term “self-esteem” means in different languages. For instance, in many dictionaries, which translate it to other languages, the first meaning is, obviously, “self-respect, confidence in one’s abilities”, however, apart from this common meaning, it is also translated as “arrogance, lordliness”. The point is that caring about ego cannot be recognized as one that does not worth respect, however, the dangerous border between self-esteem and neglect towards others may be crossed easily.
This simple linguistic remark comprehensively reflects main psychological approaches to self-esteem, which differ from neutral assessment of adequate level of self-esteem to different disorders, which are linked both with its top-heavy and underrated levels. Naturally, inadequately low level of self-esteem affects our life in many hazardous ways, as constant diminishing of own abilities and the contempt of own potential are not appropriate helpers on the route to success. At the same time, too high self-esteem is rarely a solution to all kinds of situations. In contrary, it is likely to make us indifferent and arrogant, disable to distinguish our guilty faults from simple occasions or accidents.
Another alternative point, which I estimate as rather worth attention, is the theory that our success does not demand exclusively very high self-esteem. It means that different people act and think in different ways, and to part of them it is better when do not hold vain hopes, and to the other part, for instance, the low self-esteem after particular failure may turn out to become a springboard for new achievements.
Taking all these considerations into account, my conclusion is that self-help is usually aimed at boosting of self-esteem by various thinking methods. It is commonly accepted that self-esteem is more preferable to be high rather low, but it is up to particular person to define it.
Part 2. A) Cognitive dissonance is one of crucial theories in psychology to be discovered and understood. It was born because of efforts of Leon Festinger - American social psychologist, who is famous all over the world due to considered theory as well as social comparison theory.
The main sense is in the following: humans tend to feel discomfort when facing inconsistencies. Formally speaking, the state of cognitive dissonance occurs when people believe that two of their psychological representations are inconsistent with each other (Cooper, 2007). Such state is easier to be reached than it may seem at first glance. Cognitive dissonance is not a rare case of considerable gravity; it is a common phenomenon, which takes place comparatively frequently and is not a serious threat for mental health, but rather a valid fact to be considered for the goals of psychological analysis.
For instance, a regular discrepancy between our expectations, fantasies and reality may evoke cognitive dissonance. Another widespread example – disparity and non-conformity between our established and long-rooted beliefs, ideas and our actual behavior in particular situation, which occurs to be opposite to your anticipated views and persuasions. All this regular situations are transformed into cognitive dissonance, which is known to be consciously and unconsciously avoided as undesirable embodiment of disharmony.
This scientific theory is applicable not only in theoretical psychology, it also enriches practical approaches to understanding of conflicts. To begin with, it answers on reasons of unpredictable changes of mood or flashes of anger. Moreover, it explains that conflicts, raised on the grounds of discrepancies, are naturally avoided by us, as cognitive dissonance causes significant discomfort, which is necessary to be extinguished.
Part B) Banal nationalism is a practice of regular representation of national identity, which is propagandized in media, state policy in order to semi-artificially maintain national spirit. Even if considered under critical prism, such policy cannot be totally blamed as deceitful one. Actually, it is not a secret that nations are constructed socially. In other words, in this sophisticated process a lot of social interrelated factors do take part, namely – social consciousness, common history and traditions, patriotic feelings etc. Naturally, that without mentioned uniting phenomena any nation could not be alive.
However, it is not always possible to keep in memory historical events etc, but spiritual unity is an irreplaceable element for nation’s prosperity. Consequently, particular measures are applied in order to make everybody feel as a part of one family. To the most common ones belong anthems performing in school/workplace, use of national symbols during manifestations, holidays. Moreover, they are along with us in unnoticeable way every single day( for instance, banknotes are decorated with national symbols, national clothing is encouraged to be worn not only on national or religious holidays, but also every day).
Furthermore, media plays significant role in the advocating of banal nationalism. Politicians, social representatives usually pay attention to words, which unconsciously make the audience to feel itself as one family, so the crucial words of banal nationalism are often the smallest: “we”, “here”, “the people” (Hutchinson, Smith, 2000).
As a result, banal nationalism is applied widely and serves important role in the forming of nations as independent units.
1. Adams, L. (2012). Revelations of Your Self-Help Book Secrets: Neuroscience and Psychology of the Self-Help Literature as it Reveals the Challenge of Understanding Thought Projection Outside Our Human Brain. Houston: Strategic Book Publishing.
2. Cooper, J. (2007). Cognitive Dissonance: 50 Years of a Classic Theory. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.
3. Hutchinson, J., Smith, A. D. (2000). Nationalism: Critical Concepts in Political Science. London: Psychology Press.
4. Smith, J. (2014). Beyond the Myth of Self-Esteem: Finding Fulfilment. Moreland: Acorn Press Ltd.