From the head's desk: 26 July 2019
At an assembly last week, I read an extract from Life’s Greatest Lessons by Hal Urban (2003) to the girls. The passage was about self-esteem. The teachers and I are aware that self-esteem is often the determining factor in an individual girl’s choices, her ability to achieve and her general well-being. Self-esteem often remains elusive throughout a woman’s life and it is a continual challenge to separate the inner self from the ego. The age in which we live also means that exposure to and interaction on social media may undermine the development of self-esteem or hamper the maintenance of a healthy self-esteem. Our girls face this challenge every day.
I share the extract below, with the hope that it will lead to a valuable conversation between you and your daughters.
From Dependence to Independence
There is a time in our lives when both our self-image and our self-esteem are determined by other people. When we’re small children, our lives are dominated by adults and older kids. We see ourselves through the messages we receive from them. Good messages, good self-image. Bad messages, bad self-image. The point is that when we’re at a tender age, we respond to the messages we hear most often. We form a picture of ourselves, and then we develop feelings that are consistent with it. We tend to become what we’re told about ourselves.
But one of the most important things to understand about self-esteem is that as we get older we have to learn to think for ourselves. We need to realise that we have a choice about how we’re going to respond to the messages from other people. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” It would follow, then, that no one can make you feel anything without your consent.
It’s what we believe about ourselves that counts. Whether we were treated rightly or wrongly as children, our self-esteem is now our responsibility.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that other people aren’t important in regard to our feelings. All of us need to be told from time to time that we’re loved, appreciated and valued. We need our hugs, too. It’s not only necessary, but fantastic, to be affirmed by other people. But we can’t sit around and wait for others to applaud us in order to feel good. We have to do things that make us feel good about ourselves even without the praise. Then when it comes, it reaffirms what we’re already feeling. It’s a great bonus.
Other people can do a lot for things to make us feel good. But ultimately, how we feel about ourselves is the direct result of what we do and what we think. Real self-esteem is respect that we have to earn from ourselves.
Head of school