The Importance of Self-Esteem

Self-esteem…… a relatively small word, with HUGE implications! Having positive self-esteem brings with it confidence, motivation, a positive attitude, and the potential for unlimited growth. A poor self-image can be devastating, emotionally crippling, and cloaked in negativity.

Positive reinforcement…… builds trust, a sense of well-being, confidence, and a desire to excel, while negative reinforcement produces uncertainty, a lack of motivation, self-loathing and low self-esteem.

Last week, a student and parent who chose to study online via Zoom throughout Covid, attended their first in-studio lesson since March 2020. This little girl had always been an excellent student and had exhibited continued growth through her online studies. However, over the past few months I had noticed a marked difference in her demeanor. Originally “bubbly”, interested, engaged, and open—as our online lessons progressed, she became somewhat withdrawn, with downturned eyes, and almost expressionless. I had not witnessed anything like this prior top Covid, so I assumed it was just her way of reacting to the stress. I did also notice, however, if she made a mistake, her attention would be directed towards someone or something across the room, and a frown would surface on her face.

The in-studio lesson supplied a clearer insight into this little girl’s situation. As she performed for me, when there was an error, or even the slightest slip, a grunt of dissatisfaction emanated from the parent, accompanied by a cold stare and a head-shake of disapproval. That poor little girl reacted with disdain on her face and sadness in her eyes.

The parent’s obvious displeasure was not only communicated through grunts and groans, but also punctuated with statements, such as,” C’mon—CONCENTRATE!”; and “I don’t know what’s wrong with her!; and “She could do this at home!”, and “I give up! She just isn’t trying anymore!”

I bit my tongue, not wanting to alarm the child, but I did call the parent later, and I am happy to report we had an open, frank and very productive conversation.

Prior to Covid, this parent’s attitude was more relaxed, supportive and compassionate both at the lesson and at home. I do not know what triggered the new-found negativity. The parent was honestly not aware of this behavior or of the impact it had on the child’s performance and attitude towards studying.

“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.”…...Wayne W. Dyer

How we perceive ourselves goes a long way to just how successful we are in our endeavours. When this little girl’s self esteem was high, fueled by a true appreciation for her efforts and positive reinforcement on the part of the parent, she was a confident, motivated young lady. When without realizing it, the parent’s positivity morphed into negativity, motivation and confidence was replaced by agitation, nervousness and fear of failing.

I have a wealth of experience when it comes to the impact negative reinforcement has on self-esteem because I, and so many of my peers are the product of this kind of teaching. The results were not positive, not productive, and not constructive. They left us with a wealth of musical emotional scars.

In my mind, a positive, natural, nurturing environment, although somewhat tricky at times to maintain, is a far better avenue for success in any undertaking—well worth the effort!

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”…...Carl Gustav Jung