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Filling the Bucket of Self Esteem

March 29, AD2013

\"Chelsea

Self esteem. A modern essential.

Self esteem was a term invented by Sigmund Freud. The concept has taken wing since then, enhancing other modern philosophies. In the modern world, ever increasing affirmation of self esteem is key through political correctness (not offending anyone), relativism (everyone is right in whatever they think) as well as in the media, educational and parenting philosophies. High self esteem is seen as essential to happiness and fulfillment as a person. Even though this movement has been criticized from all corners, it still seems to be on the rise. Catholic schools run \”self esteem\” courses in religious education and retreats. If you aren\’t parenting to increase your child\’s self esteem then what are you doing?

I recently saw a quote that had gained much popularity in social media: \”Parents need to fill a child\’s bucket of self-esteem so high that the rest of the world can\’t poke enough holes to drain it dry.\” – Alvin Price.

Although I haven\’t read Alvin Price\’s work, I disagree with the quote above.

Don\’t get me wrong, it is important to love your child, to let them know they are loved and to encourage them. However, when the primary goal is to make self esteem central, this becomes egoism pure and simple. It leads to narcissism.

Self esteem can be easily be knocked – by appearance (in a world of ever increasing beauty ideals), by hormones, by peers, by test scores, by sports games and by criticism. Everything is temporary. A child who is built up on his skill at sport, her good looks, an IQ, his friends, or by his parents could lose those things in an instant.

Parents who aim to solely fill a child\’s bucket of self esteem will fill them with unreal expectations that the world was created for them and that they can do no wrong.

Our education system has removed \”fail\” from its vocabulary, as it is harmful to self esteem. I don\’t know about the American system, but in New Zealand students get \”Not Achieved\” and the whole education system is about gaining basic credits in any way possible and resitting tests in order to get as many students as possible to pass. That way no one really fails. I recently spoke to a former teacher who said that one of the reasons she left teaching was she found that parents and children were becoming so hard to deal with. They thought the sun shone from them. Parents couldn\’t see what their children were really like, and children were arrogant, hard to correct and couldn\’t deal with failure. Studies have shown that self esteem has little to do with actual success in education. In one study, Korean and Japanese math students rated themselves with less confidence in their abilities, compared to American students, yet consistently had better scores.

The lack of dealing with failure is evident in the high suicide, depression and substance abuse rates with our teens. In my small country of New Zealand (population around 4 million), 80 teens (15-19 year old age group) commited suicide last year, compared with 56 the year before. In the United States, 4600 young people lose their lives to suicide each year.

Its hard work to constantly need to be full of \”you\”, when the world tries to \”poke holes in you\”. The world pokes holes to make you a better person. To refine you and encourage growth. Being unknockable creates vanity and pride.

Better than self esteem is the Truth that each and everyone is created by God with Purpose. That each one of us is of value as a child of God who was created with love in the image and likeness of the creator. Christ teaches us to deny ourselves, and that all we do gives credit to God, not to ourselves. However through this perspective, this purpose, comes a greater love for oneself and others through seeing all people as beautiful creations of God.

We are filled by giving. God created you for love. To recieve love and to give love. As Mother Teresa once said “For love to be real, it must cost—it must hurt—it must empty us of self.” Jesus himself said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).

The Church Fathers define sin as, \”the love of oneself to the point of despising God\”, if this is the case then it is obvious our world is full of sin, as love of self has become natural and justified beyond the love of God. Pelagianism was a 5th century heresy that was rejected at the Council of Ephesus. It was very similar to all this talk of self esteem. Pelagius taught that man is born good and that he can save himself by his own efforts without any need of help from God. This heresy has been reborn, disguised and accepted in the 21st century. It is indoctrinated from as early as an infant can watch Sesame Street.

The knowledge that you were created by a higher power for a specific purpose is an adventure. A mission to find out what God created you for, to fill yourself with passion, to give that gift back to those you meet through love. No matter the setback, the hurt, the loss. You are going to fail. There will be peaks and troughs. Christ\’s life was filled with sufferings and temptations but in that suffering he was able to rejoice because he was doing God\’s will. You were made for more that this. You were made for eternity. Life is a small trial compared to the promise of eternal happiness beyond.

© 2013. Chelsea Houghton. All Rights Reserved.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Chelsea Houghton is editor of Restless Press, as well as a columnist for Catholic Stand, Ignitum Today and NZ Catholic. a 27 year old mother who lives in Christchurch, New Zealand with her husband and four children under the age of five. She has a Media and Communications degree from the University of Canterbury and in the past has worked for the Journey of the Cross and Icon for World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, for the Christchurch Catholic Youth Team and running the Theology of the Body for Teens programme and training to various groups.

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  • Maria

    I think this post is totally ignoring the outstanding issues and problems that exist in respect to self-esteem. Why is the self-esteem bucket only filled by parents? God can fill that bucket too. Self-esteem isn’t about narcissism. It is about loving yourself. Respecting yourself. Learning how to protect your virtue, humbling your self to God. The world fills the bucket and just as easily, those good things people say, the likes you get on Facebook disappear. But why separate self-esteem from God? God can fill that bucket and move our hearts with much sturdier and long lasting stuff.

    Secondly, while I agree about focusing on God’s love and plan for us, you have not addressed the core issue. These kids struggling internal with themselves, with their self-esteem and self-worth, don’t know that plan. Have not come to fully realize God’s love and plan for them as persons. That is a failing of parents, families, schools and of the Church. We may have failed to teach failure, accountability and responsibility to our kids. Bout our greatest failing as a community and a Church body has been the lack of outreach and education to families, to these kids in being the catalyst for that encounter with Christ.We need resources and education for families, for parents especially, if we want to instill His message into hearts.

  • Riki

    AT MY MOTHER’S GRAVE

    The rain flushes my tears away
    it’s cold and the sky is grey
    I’m praying, shivering in that chill
    No answer though, it’s complete still

    I try to reach you and bemoan
    beyond that black marble stone
    I had to tell you so much more
    do please listen to me, I implore

    Now that you are so close with the Lord
    my sorrows, troubles at your feet I stored
    I love you, I love you, you were so brave
    I wish I could touch you thru that grave

    Suddenly the sun breaks through
    I take this as an answer from you
    my heart warms up and is accelerating
    while my whole person is jubilating

    Your radiant light is my Noah’s ark
    which surely does dispel the dark
    you’ve always been my example
    in everything, extremely ample.

    Thank you Lord for my mother.
    Rita Biesemans March 1997

  • Riki

    TO MY DEAREST MOTHER

    My eyes, pregnant with tears
    My heart crowded with fears
    My ears longing to retain
    Your sweet voice, once again

    Oh mother, why ?
    Why? Must you die?
    So far away from me
    That I did not foresee

    Is this a blessing or a curse?
    It makes me feel even worse
    This cry of my heart
    Is tearing me apart !

    Rita Biesemans, October 7 1995

    my mom died 3 weeks later, I was always so close
    to her and now I couldn’t be there at all and she knew.

  • Riki

    I had saintly parents who loved their 9 children from the bottom of their heart :

    TO My FATHER, My COMPASS, My GUARDIAN

    Father from whom my life did sprout

    very proudly from the rooftops I shout

    what an exceptional father “thou art”

    our Heavenly Father did set you apart

    to fulfill a strenuous multitask

    raising 9 kids, what more could you ask.

    you forgot about yourself completely

    you lived your life very discreetly

    it was all about us, your kids

    never about you, Heaven forbids

    father, thru all the years of hard labor

    you never acted as a ferocious dictator

    you loved us with all your might

    having you as our dad was a delight

    everybody could always count on you

    you never said no even if you wanted to

    father, the one we always relied on

    except now that you are gone

    to join our mommie your beloved wife

    forever together now in the afterlife

    telling you “I love you” the pain does soften

    I wish I would have told you this more often.

    Rita Biesemans, Father’s Day 2013

    dedicated to my father who died on the same date as my mother November 1st but 12 years later.

  • Riki

    SWAN SONG FOR “MOTHER” EARTH

    In this world so full of pride
    it’s all about ME, set God aside
    the pressure is on to collect fancy titles
    forcing others to listen to our recitals

    Man wants to live in his own perception
    twirling in a pool of vile deception
    following the voice of the great deceiver
    acting as satan’s true believer

    How can there be any peace
    how can the world’s fire cease
    if we see ourselves as the center of the earth
    which we cover with blood and dearth

    We’ve lost the sense of right and wrong
    we can as well sing our swan song
    and we dare to call her “MOTHER”
    while it’s her we try to smother

    “Mother” earth is taking revenge
    she shows her face as an avalanche
    “how can you do this to us” we ask
    “well simple, you didn’t fulfill your task”

    In maltreating her, we defy our Creator
    He placed us here to be her curator
    but even in the Garden we didn’t behave
    and chose to become satan’s slave.

    The Father begs us to open our eyes
    to turn back to Him and be wise
    if not, the dice will be cast
    die will “the dead hand of the past.”

    No greater blind than he who does not want to see
    No greater deaf than he who does not want to hear

    Rita Biesemans, July 31 2014

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  • C O E X I S T E N C E

    “COEXIST” the latest command
    of the “New World Order” band
    live and let live
    no need to forgive
    for there ain’t no sin
    each living their own spin

    Coexistence a cold and loveless word
    in a cold and loveless earth
    for they have declared God dead
    and worship themselves instead
    mankind in his selfish pride
    orchestrates the worldwide divide

    but LOVE will return as LOVE
    He begs us to throw in the glove
    to run away from the dragon
    to escape the devil’s paddy wagon
    to turn to the Eternal Light
    be our heart broken but contrite

    He will cleanse us thoroughly
    from all sin and iniquity
    we will live as brothers and sisters
    no need to send us any twisters
    no more armies, no more wars
    no more enemies at our doors.

    be watchful, children, be on guard
    keep Me constant in your heart
    My return date you don’t know
    but Myself suddenly I will show
    in a new and peaceful Jerusalem
    a new birth in a new Bethlehem

    Rita Biesemans November 18 2012

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