Self-awareness and relation with others

Through self-awareness, linked to the development of language, everyone builds up a self-concept that develops in one’s relation with others.
Self-esteem is the result of the overall assessment of the person. He feels himself more or less acceptable, with pleasant or unpleasant feelings according to his way of reacting to the judgment of people who matter in his life.

Components of self-esteem

The social role, love of others, and desire for eternity are the components of self-esteem.
The role in the social context is characterized by the ability to make achievements in connection with others. It contributes to social inclusion and to the sense of belonging. Concentration camps have condemned many people to social death by depriving them of that role.

Love of others and desire for eternity

As much as and even more than social success, love of others preserves self-esteem and can mitigate the effects of failure.
The desire for eternity is expressed in the wish to leave behind something more lasting than the fragile satisfaction due to the work done or to the approval of some persons. Then we search for “an immutable and absolute criterion of acceptability“, perhaps the criterion “of being worthy of the love of an Eternal Being“.
The emphasis on self-esteem varies according to the interpretation that everyone actually makes of it.

Failure and negative self-esteem

A failure can be explained by an external cause or a personal weakness. But ascribing any failure solely to internal deficiencies of the person furthers cyclical negative self-esteem. “I am never successful because I’m stupid …” “I must be stupid, because I am never successful“. We therefore refuse any effort deemed unnecessary in advance.
Poor health, excessive submission, credulity toward negative judgments, poor education and a “tendency to denigrate others” to protect oneself by way of compensation characterize a negative self-esteem which can come up to mental disorders.

Personality disorders

An elusive personality “suffers from chronically low self-esteem” and sees the others as “potential adversaries“.
A narcissistic personality feels superior and uses others to achieve his ends, while having to resort to psychiatrists.
An anxious personality built up scenarios to anticipate situations he considers as dangerous. “Protecting oneself … and avoiding any danger” or challenging hampers maturity and healthy relationships, without egocentricity.
A personality suffering from a persecution syndrome has delusions which resit to “any argument“. He builds up a sophisticated defense system to preserve his self-esteem threatened with disintegration “.


A more or less long-lasting depression can be triggered by events, an illness or the death of a loved one, a job loss.
Chronic depression is linked to low self-esteem: eg. a feelings of rejection, of worthlessness among women who had lost their mother in childhood, who are lacking marital intimacy or or who have no profession.
Depression interferes with memory, concentration, reflection and social relationships and can lead to self-hatred.
The absence of the mother during infancy appears crucial in the risk of depression as shown by the three stages of reaction of hospitalized babies: protest with weeping and looking for the mother, despair, detachment with withdrawal into themselves.
Thus attachment or separation have an influence on self-esteem and personality functioning. However, a perfect relationship with parents is not essential and its absence does not explain all potential psychological disorders.

Christian approach to self-esteem

The Gospel calls Christians to a Christian and responsible approach to self-esteem, which accepts just therapies as “an effect of the common grace”(Matthew 5.4-5) and takes account of the Gospel requirements in the areas of renouncing oneself, of moral absolutes, of the reality of sin and of salvation by grace.

C. S.

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