On Thursday, the White House held a Conference on Bullying Prevention -- could somebody please say, "It's about time?"
One obvious reason why many men and boys have low self-esteem is excessive bullying. It's almost like a Stockholm-syndrome effect, where a kidnapping victim eventually starts to sympathize with his or her captors -- when exposed to excessive bullying, mobbing, or harassment, a victim can start to believe that his or her tormentors are right in what they're doing. This state of mind is completely self-destructive.
If you take a look at the government sponsored website covering this conference, http://www.stopbullying.gov, you'll be treated to proposed administrative solutions that every school in the country, if not the world, should implement. Goodness knows, it would have been nicer if the schools I went to in my youth had them!
But unless and until every school in this country makes it clear that bullying is unacceptable and that they won't be looking the other way, men and boys with low self-esteem have to expect some of it to fall through the cracks and into our faces. Repeated reference to the Four Pillars is needed to prevent you from falling into the trap that bullies set for you -- adopting their opinions and admitting that their intimidation is somehow correct.
Some of the lesser-watched TV talk shows have sometimes had "look at me now episodes" -- they'll invite on the show someone who used to bully someone else back in school, and describe how nerdy, geeky, pathetic they used to be. And then they'll bring out the victim -- if the victim was male, he'll have developed into a bodybuilder, or had plastic surgery to correct his facial alignment; if the victim was female, she's now a stripper, and not the ugly girl who didn't make cheerleading.
You can't expect shows like that to solve this kind of problem in a constructive and intellectually sound manner. However, this concept in and of itself is so egregious, it requires comment: THE VICTIMS FAILED! They did not decide to be "themselves," they made themselves into what the bullies WANTED!!!!! They became something they weren't, just because they thought the bullies were right and they were wrong! For all intents and purposes, they might as well have said that they "turned out" to be prostitutes, because they sold their values and self-respect to become something attractive only to their enemies!
Men and boys with low self-esteem need to be surrounded with positive affirmations reaffirming their strengths, and not by intimidation and distortion to overemphasize their shortcomings. If it's not coming from the "cool kids" at school, find some other kids and deem them "cool" instead. If it's not coming from your parents (shame on them), find a teacher or counselor to speak with to remind you of your strengths. If it's not coming from your boss, update your resume and work for someone who will respect you. If it's not coming from your girlfriend, break up with her. If you don't see it happening now, then get busy looking for it until it does happen!
Your time on this earth is more limited than you may realize. You can't afford to allow bullies and predators to poison your mind and weaken your self-esteem even further! If you can leave the situation, do it asap! If you can't, then wait until you can!
One disclaimer is needed here, since I can already anticipate some opposing comments: Even with low self-esteem, you must learn the difference between destructive bullying and constructive criticism. Constructive criticism is commentary that is delivered (a) WITH respect for your efforts, but (b) with the intent of pointing out something you did not realize before. None of us enjoy being called out, proven wrong, or shown that we made mistakes. But so what if you made one?!?!? The Four Pillars say that we Exist, Matter, Belong, and Deserve, but they don't say that we're perfect or blameless! We're all human, including the criticizer. But instead of attacking you, this person is trying to show you a better of way of doing things.
If you've had too much bullying in your life, it's not easy to know the difference. One good way to test it is to inquire as to the other person's motives (in a civil and respectful tone of voice). "You think I was wrong? How so?" "What do I need to know?" "What would you do if you were me?" "How would you suggest I go about doing that?" "What's a good way to do it like that in the future?" "Why do you think I should do it that way?" If they can't respond favorably and respectfully to questions of this nature, then they're bullying you. If they can respond with respectful answers to the above, then they're on your side.
Gentlemen, you must be open to constructive comments, but you must also keep our guard up against bullying. As long as you have low self-esteem, people can sense it, and will use it against you. Do everything in your power to NOT allow that to happen.
I EXIST. I MATTER. I BELONG. I DESERVE.