The Self-Esteem Project
How to defend against an overlooked category of violence?
I.B.M. told me the other day, that an organization that does not make you have faith in yourself, is not an organization worth having faith in.
I believe that this is true, about organizations, and about people. Periods of faithlessness are okay, as are all kinds of foul-weather in the sphere of relationships, but because self-esteem powers so much, it is hard to make it too long and too far grokking from other energy sources what self-esteem is supposed to power. When self-esteem gets too low, it is both hard to get self-esteem up again, and it often has complicated side effects. It is a lighthouse inside each person; without it, a person starts to fade away. It is a different effect, than a person making choices that diverge the person farther away from you. A person with little self-esteem is dimmer not just for you, but for everybody.
Self-esteem is more than just feeling good about yourself. It has much more to do with your belief in your capacity to make things good, through both existence and the necessary movement and action that spurs from existence. In this sense, self-esteem is an antidote to both inaction and to nihilism. It is also why kicking a dog when he’s down, to get him to stand back up, often enough does not work (whereas giving him a small loan, or an interesting problem to solve, or a kind word, or possibly most importantly—trust—may work).
Self-esteem is very important. There are ways to cut, erase, or expunge it for a person, either on purpose or by accident. On purpose, it can be done to break down certain foundational structures for a person in order to replace them with your own ideas of what would be good for them—or what would be good for you. By accident, it can be done through carelessness: attacking parts of a person that are holding them up, too aggressively. It can be done through avoidance of your own problems, that then projects into erasing large parts of another person (for example, people who are too rough on themselves, to meet demanding competence goals, and over years erased parts of themselves, can cause the same erasure on another person’s softer parts when interacting with them).
I propose the self-esteem project as a research direction to outline how a person with moderate, full, or low self-esteem can get their self-esteem systems hijacked by external sources. The purpose of this project is both to teach people how to avoid the negative fallout from accidentally lowering the self-esteem of their friends and loved ones, and for people to learn how to be on the lookout for when this is happening to them, and to have adequate guards and tools for dealing with it. This starts with outlining the ideas and developing a vocabulary for talking about this more subtle form of violence.