In our previous chapters of the self-esteem course, we talked about what self-esteem is, how school contributes to our low self-esteem and the sources of our beliefs. Today, let’s explore how we form our social identity and how it can contribute to our self-esteem.
Psychologists claim that we have a social identity. From the moment kids see themselves as part of a family, they start forming their social identity. Our self-esteem, which is what we think about ourselves, is greatly influenced by the groups we associate ourselves with and by what they think and do. For that matter, our family is our first social group.
If you want to understand the influence of the groups on our life, put yourself at the center of a circle and draw bigger and bigger circles around you for your family, friend, work colleagues, acquaintances and so on. The closest the circle to you, the more influence you allow this group to have on your life.
Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are
The social identity theory claims that people adopt a social circle that supports what they already think of themselves. People choose the social group they believe will make them look better. If they look better, they can feel better about themselves and avoid isolation, loneliness, anxiety and negative feelings and thoughts.
The social identity is the motto of the group you associate yourself with. For example: if your kid hangs out with kids who are good in sport, your kid will adopt the belief that “sport is good”. But if your kid wants to hang out with the group that thinks “sport is for jocks”, he will have to adopt the rules of that group and avoid playing sports.
The sense of belonging, which is the basis of the social identity, is such a strong need that people, kids and parents alike, will compromise many values to fulfill it. Remember Will from the movie Good Will Hunting? He wanted so much to be part of his group of friends, he pretended to be a janitor, instead of living up to his extraordinary brain potential.
This need for belonging is so strong it is the reason celebrity or sports fan clubs are so popular. It is also the reason people feel pride when someone from their hometown or country has won a prize.
The social identity seems to be out of the parents’ control, because it is highly influenced by the social groups the kids associate themselves with, but in fact, the family is the first and most important social group and kids, whether they like it or not, adopt their family’s rules, at least until adolescence. This is why the teen years are the hardest for parents (and for the teens).
For the first time in their life, teens face a conflict between their self and social identities and juggle between them until they find the right balance. Teens carry this conflict into adulthood and constantly struggle with the need for uniqueness (the foundation of their self-identity) and the need for belonging (the foundation of their social identity).
As a person, if you would like to enhance your own self-esteem, consider the people to spend your time with.
As a parent, if you would like to contribute greatly to your kids’ self-esteem, help them choose the best of friends.
Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but really great ones, make you feel that you, too, can become great
This post is part of the series Self Esteem Mini-Course:
- What Is Self Esteem?
- How School Promotes Low Self Esteem
- Beliefs and Where They Come From
- Social Identity
- Service Your Self-Esteem
- Your Self-Esteem Checklist
- Get Rid of Your Doubts
- Assertiveness and Self Esteem
- How to Be Assertive
- Self Esteem Mini-Course (10): Beliefs of Assertive People
- Self Esteem Mini-Course (11): Ronit Baras’ Success Experience Theory
- Self Esteem Mini-Course (12): Ms Self Esteem has an Identity Crisis
- Self Esteem Mini-Course (13): Conflict Resolution
- Self Esteem Mini-Course (14): Watch Your language or Lose Your Kids’ Trust
- Self Esteem Mini-Course (15): War between Two Minds
- Self Esteem Mini-Course (16): What if
- Self Esteem Mini-Course (17): What do I Think?
- Self Esteem Mini-Course (18): What?
- Self Esteem Mini Course (19): Damaging Kids’ Self Esteem
- Self Esteem Mini Course (20): Boosting Kids’ Self Esteem