Self-Esteem and Aging
The level of our self-esteem is not set once and for all in childhood. It can grow as we mature, or it can deteriorate. There are people whose self-esteem was higher at the age of ten than at the age of sixty, and the reverse is also true. Self-esteem can rise and fall and rise again over the course of a lifetime. Mine certainly has.
My experience is that most people underestimate their power to change and grow. They believe implicitly that what was true yesterday must also be true tomorrow. They do not see choices that – objectively – do exist. They rarely appreciate how much they can do on their own behalf if they are willing to take responsibility for their lives. With the proper motivation, genuine growth and an improved sense of self-esteem are attainable goals.
Self-esteem is fluid and ever-changing. As we age, it is imperative we remain mindful of the importance of self-acceptance and self-respect.
One area where issues of age continually arise is in the professional sector. On occasion I have counseled older men and women who found themselves unemployed, passed over in favor of people a good deal younger who were in no way better equipped (or even as well equipped) for the particular job.
In such circumstances, those involved often suffer feelings of reduced personal effectiveness. Such a feeling is only a hairline away from a sense of diminished self-esteem, and often turns into it. Avoiding this trap takes an unusually strong-willed and assured kind of person. It requires that the person understand that forces in play are beyond their control and should not impact their self-esteem.
Conversely, I have also worked with highly talented young people who suffered from a reverse form of the same prejudice, a discrimination against youth in favor of age- where, again, objective competence and ability were not the determining factors.
In both circumstances, it is imperative to recognize that external factors beyond our control are at play. Allowing such factors to negatively impact your self-esteem is a mistake.