I once asked a university student about the real source of the high self-esteem he exhibited. He responded by walking up to the front of the lecture room, wrote his name on the centre of the whiteboard and drew a circle around it. Then he said, “The world revolves around me.” Amused, I told him that one day he will learn that’s not how the world really works.
On another occasion, a school teacher of a private school told me she is not allowed, as a matter of policy, to say anything in the classroom that might affect students’ confidence or self-esteem. She felt this was hindering both her teaching and the students’ ability to learn. These conversations illustrate the importance placed on self-esteem in our society.
Self-esteem: The Lens for Self-evaluation
Self-esteem generally means how an individual evaluates his or her competence and self-worth. According to William James, one of the founders of Western psychology, self-esteem is derived from perceived competence in things that are important to us. Sociologist Charles Cooley identified perceived judgements of others as another source of self-esteem.
On the surface, self-esteem is a familiar household term. Many parents, teachers, and psychological counsellors consider high self-esteem as one of the most important ingredients for success. The subject has spurred endless articles and self-help books.
Let us take a closer look at self-esteem. The question is: do we really understand its modern connotations and its implications for society? Another question is: how does the modern view on self-esteem compare with a revelation-based perspective? This article will attempt to reveal the various layers of this concept and help you develop a healthy self-esteem rooted in Islamic values.
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