Trust and Self-Esteem are inter-related. The ability to trust affects our total self-esteem and the degree that we rely on “defense mechanisms,” those mental and physical patterns we use to protect our own ego, self-esteem, and self-concept. Junior is going to need some good defense mechanisms and someone that he can trust. The less trust we have, the more we rely on defense mechanisms. Our ability to trust greatly affects our ability to “survive” emotionally and to develop constructive “coping skills.” As we trust more, and the trust proves warranted, we can develop more constructive skills, skills built upon our strengths.
“Ha, ha! Bring me that (pointing at a bench of tools). No, stupid, not that, that hammer, don’t you know what a hammer is?
(Junior picks up the hammer, turns, trips over a lightcord, dislodges the light, and nearly drops the hammer.) What the devil are you doing, you clumsy lout? I said, ‘Bring me the hammer!,’ not ‘Mess up the light!’ Pick up your lazy feet, you no-good-nik!”
The “ego” may be described as the thinking part of self that evaluates instincts, drives, and urges from the unconscious “id.” “Super-ego” is the self-critical, thinking part of self, or “conscience.” “Ego” considers what the “conscience” or “super-ego” says, and what urges arise from the “id” while we decide how to act.
Junior may adopt the low-esteem evaluation of himself that he hears from a “significant other,” and behave in ways that perpetuate that opinion of himself. Also, he may use the same speech pattern toward other children, get in fights, and generally receive attention for negative behavior. A kinder approach and response to Junior by his “significant others” can help him overcome his ineptness, be “an over-achiever,” be happier and kinder to others.
“Self-esteem” is what you “judge yourself to be,” or the sum total of what you think about yourself, good, bad, or O.K. A short test for self-esteem is the Self-Esteem Inventory (SEI) developed by Stanley Coopersmith (1975). (For professionals to purchase see http://www.mindgarden.com/products/cseissc.htm.) If Junior scores 100%, it indicates that he has a strong defense mechanism and is denying one or more problem areas. A score in the upper range indicates that he does not deny his problem areas, and he has other good, supportive relationships. A mid-range score would indicate average esteem problems. A low score would indicate more severe problems that require special attention. Classroom exercises in esteem building benefit all the children without singling anyone out, which could make him or her feel worse. Family counseling may be necessary.
The SEI is used mostly with children in educational settings. A review of the items checked can give you a good idea of areas in which help is needed. Usually those areas have to do with relationships with parents, peers, and thoughts about self-worth. A longer version of the test is used with adults.
“Self-concept” is the totality of your views, not only about what your are, but how satisfied your are, and how you act toward self, family, others, and God. A test for self-concept, “The Tennessee Self-Concept Scale,” (TSCS) was developed by William H. Fitts, Ph.D. (1965) and is useful both in counseling and therapy. It measures a total score for self-esteem and eight aspects of self: Social, Moral-Ethical, Physical, Personas and Family Self plus Identity, Behavior and Self-Satisfaction. The newer 2nd Edition (1996) can be used with children as young as 3rd grade reading level and is available also in Spanish. Professionals may purchase at http://www.wpspublish.com/store/p/3066/tennessee-self-concept-scale-second-edition-tscs2
In my master’s thesis I used both the SEI and the TSCS to test junior nursing students. I concluded that the SEI is an inexpensive, time-saving, screening test that could be especially useful to intervene early in problem areas and to identify persons who need more intensive therapy. (See Appendix D in “At Eden’s Gate: Whole Health and Well-Being or go to _________.)
Important as self-esteem and self-concept are as indicators of individual mental health, the “soul” is more important; more than either self-esteem or self-concept. The soul is the living, deciding, acting being, that animates the body. It is the individual, “I,” “Myself,” and “Me,” with an emphasis on a relationship, or lack of a relationship, with God. It is sometimes called the “spirit” or “inner self.” Sometimes “psyche” or “Mind” is considered a definition of “soul.” The soul is that part of self that, through God’s direct help and help from others, can do something about our own circumstances, attitudes, and behavior. “Will-power” increases in the soul as the inner being is empowered and strengthened by God’s Spirit.
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to b e strengthened with might through the Spirit in the inner man, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:14-21.
If Junior knows that, no matter how others treat him, God loves him and cares for him, his spirit will not be utterly crushed. He knows he is a valued human being. He will be able to maintain the self-esteem needed to be a productive, caring, good citizen. Jesus severely condemned those who put stumbling blocks in the way of children. Let’s give them good reasons to trust and good building blocks for their self-esteem and self-concept.