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Dealing With Self-Esteem

Western Producer  September 16, 1993

Q: What books do you recommend about building self-esteem, and also about jealousy, which I know is a result of low self-esteem? And, do you have any “magic words,” that might convince a man to read them?

A: If people could be convinced to do what is good for them, people like myself would be able to work ourselves out of a job very quickly.

Men generally have problems in admitting that they have problems. They are afraid to look at themselves emotionally, for fear of what they might find. Jealousy is an unacknowledged fear. The man is afraid of losing the person he is jealous about, but is unwilling or unable to admit to that fear.

As a result, his jealous behavior oftens brings about a self-fulfiling prophecy. Because of his emotional, verbal or even physical abuse, his partner finally has to give up her feelings for him, because of her finally recognizing her own need to survive, emotional or physically.

Jealousy can be related to self-esteem, in that a man may choose to see himself as unworthy of someone else’s love and affection, and then act as if his own perception is how the other person actually feels. In other words, because he believes he’s not loveable, he now believes the other person doesn’t love him.

And, if she doesn’t love him, then she must, in his mind, love someone else. And, if she loves someone else (he may not even know who he thinks this person is), he must do something to break up that supposed love relationship. or else he will lose her.

And, in time, his jealousy, and his resulting abusive behavior towards her, will certainly cause him to lose her. A stupid and vicious circle.

People don’t have low self-esteem. They just refuse to get in touch with the basic self-esteem that we all have. Instead of acknowledging their abilities, skills and positive experiences, they pre-occupy themselves with anything and everything that goes wrong in their life. Instead of realizing that they are worthy, they choose to treat themselves as unworthy. And, then, they often wonder why they feel so bad.

Believing you have low self-esteem is only self-defeating, and self-destructive behavior.

There are many good books on the subject of self-esteem. The problem, of course, is to interest these men in reading them.

Unfortunately, not too many books have been written on self-esteem specifically for men. Ones which have, which I recommend, are MEN’S WORK by Paul Kivel (Ballantine), FACING THE FIRE by John Lee, and several books, THE NEW MALE, THE INNER MALE, THE HAZARDS OF BEING MALE, THE NEW MALE-FEMALE RELATIONSHIP and WHAT MEN REALLY WANT, all by Herb Goldberg. These are all available in paperback.

Two other excellent books for men which are no longer in print, but which you may be lucky enough to track down in a public library, are THE ART OF HANGING LOOSE IN AN UPTIGHT WORLD and HEY MAN, OPEN UP AND LIVE, both by Ken Olson.