Writer’s Name: S.F. Hardy
Title: Embodied on the Inside Reflecting on the Outside
Self-esteem is an intangible element of one’s self embodied on the inside reflecting on the outside. Simply put, self-esteem is ones value for self. Dictionary.com defines self-esteem as: “A realistic respect for or favorable impression of oneself.” Everyone possesses self-esteem whether it is high or low; although internal in nature, it is shaped by external influences that vary from one individual to another. Value of self will aide in the establishment of one’s path, dictating ones tolerance and outlook on life. A balanced self-esteem is warranted as too much esteem as well as very little, can both be destructive.
The increasing number of suicides committed by young children should serve as a reminder to the importance of self-esteem building in the national community. Just as self-esteem is molded by external influences it is also torn down by such. Family, media, educational systems, and interaction with other children all shape children’s value of oneself.
“Go sit down fast tail girl,” Ms. Fisher yelled with a contorted face. The memory of my first grade performing arts teacher remains with me today. She almost broke my spirit, except I was surrounded by loved ones who had very positive offerings to offset Ms. Fisher’s negative ambivalence. I must admit, I was a very precocious young girl, but not without reason beyond my control. One, I was the youngest grandchild next to my brother, which meant I was always around adults, spending very little time with other children my age. But most significantly, at that time, I was being sexually molested by my maternal uncle causing me to act out in ways that was not becoming for a young lady. Like Ms. Fisher, no one was aware what I was faced with at home, however, being an adult in a position to motivate and inspire, it would have been ideal for Ms. Fisher to attempt to determine the reasoning behind my behavior rather than break me down.
Rather than internalize Ms. Fisher’s negative underpinning, I learned indirectly how not to treat others. The summer of 2010 I had the great opportunity to student teach. As you can imagine, there were dozens of budding personalities in attendance, all special and unique. There was one young girl who stood out and it was not because she was pleasant. In fact, she was the exact opposite. While other staff whispered about the girl and her home life, I took it upon myself to develop a relationship with her. In doing so, I realized why she behaved the way she did. Although I didn’t condone it, I put myself in a position to help her change her behavior and attitude by talking with her and demonstrating behaviors different from what she was accustomed to. By the time summer school was over, the once unpleasant little girl had bloomed into a very personable young lady.
Although the building of self-esteem should begin at home it’s not realistic in this day and age to expect that it will in all cases. With more broken homes and less emphasis placed on family, media and the likes of music and music videos are replacing the human element of self-esteem building. With this, children, young girls in particular are taking what they see in videos from the images portrayed by the people in the videos as reality. When this reality cannot be met, the viewer’s self-esteem is affected negatively, ultimately leading to unhealthy self-destructive choices and behaviors. Misled children eventually become unguided adults who perpetuate unrealistic ideologies that affect the African-American community as a whole.
Programs underscoring the importance and development of self-esteem must be reinstated in schools. I remember the I Like Me contest, where children would draw pictures on how they perceived themselves. The illustrations were displayed in various public building throughout the city for all to view and learn from. This program was invaluable to the health and self-esteem for inner city youth.
"If you empower women, you can change the world…” said Meg Ryan. Because women are natural born leaders, I believe it will take unity among us to build healthy well balanced self-esteem amongst girls and women in the African-American community. There are exercises, classes, web-sites and books that exist to aid in the development of self-esteem. First a common understanding must be realized in the weight self-esteem carries and then we have to all get involved in building the self-esteem of the youth and reversing unhealthy self-esteem of adults.
Each of us has a responsibility to endorse positive self-esteem if we are to see young women in our communities flourish to their full potential. Detroit authors, Sandra Epps author of Girl Power Discover the Princess Within and S.F. Hardy author of The Empress’ New Hair are making great strides to promote self-acceptance and self-esteem within their community.
Resources for developing positive self-esteem