Self-Esteem and Identity in the Digital Age
I am currently enrolled in a class for my degree entitled Foundation Seminar. It’s a required course for every degree in the Visual Arts Department and I’m not quite sure what they were thinking when they wrote the curriculum for it. While I have really enjoyed the class because it is up my alley as an energy healer and body-centered facilitator, it seems way, way, way off topic for this degree. Granted, it is talking about relationships and dealing with others in the workspace, but it just seems… well… like it really needs to be rewritten. Mostly because many of the concepts that are being taught are archaic and reinforce unhealthy, prejudiced beliefs. Our textbook is Human Relations: A Game Plan for Improving Personal Adjustment and it has some pretty interesting points with which I agree. It’s the teacher and her personal biases and propensity to spout them offensively that I’m finding disagreeable.
We’ve watched a lot of videos and are required to write discussions on them. One of the first films we watched was called Self-Esteem and Identity in the Digital Age. It was a good opportunity to revisit my own ideas about self-esteem and identity…
“Human beings need a sense of belonging. Our identity is shaped by and, in turn, shapes where and with whom each of us feels we belong.”
The opening statement of this video caught my attention because of its expression of a very primordial human need: belonging. In my years of work as an energy healer and transformational coach, I’ve been witness to countless identity crises due to the very fact that the once lost, once abused child has grown into an adult that does not know who he/she is and, therefore, has no sense of belonging.
Our core beliefs and patterns begin developing while we are gestating and continue on until around age six. Ironically enough, the core of us – the ways in which we will respond, act and interact throughout our life – is programmed prior to our ability to logically reason anything out because our brains do not develop that capability until after age six. Therefore, our core is rooted in our childhood emotional experience.
This factor alone provides strong evidence for the need of loving, interactive, supportive parenting, as those early years are the years in which a child is developing their self-identity and self-esteem. As the video indicated, self-identity and self-esteem are two different components of the human experience. However, I have come to understand that the two aspects are very interrelated.
Self-identity is your sense of who you are, what you stand for, your values and how you see yourself. Self-esteem is about believing in yourself and knowing your worth. It was pointed out that self-esteem begins in infancy as babies learn that they are loved. This knowing creates a foundation of love, security, and a sense of belonging and it is upon this infant foundation that our self-identity is built.
The video stated that our sense of worth continues to come from the praise others give us as we go through life. This is where I disagreed with the video. While I do see that the approval of others is an innate human need, self-esteem comes from within and if the foundation of love and security is strong then a child – or adult – will not be influenced positively or negatively by any outside feedback.
One of the psychologists interviewed explained that helping a child to find something they’re confident in would boost their overall self-esteem. What I appreciate about this is that it speaks to the concept of lighting up a person’s life from within them; helping them find their own fire that comes from within and is not reliant on any other person’s input. That is a powerful tool in supporting a person in ongoing development of healthy self-identity.
As is standard when discussing identity/esteem and the internet, they pointed out the barrage of airbrushed images as being a negative impact, while the immediate connection and ability to interact with others through several different avenues as being a positive impact. I agreed with the second in that the ability to connect with other humans, have interactions and share ideas is a fundamental need of any healthy person so yes, it is positive. But it can also be negative, depending on what sort of interactions are going on. And with the first, the images can only have a negative impact if a person chooses to allow the images to impact negatively. For some, those airbrushed images could be a positive influence. It depends on what that person’s foundation was built upon.