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Self Esteem in the Formees

Richard Mathias SVD

A Paper Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Diploma in Pastoral Counselling and Religious Formation

National Vocation Service Centre Pune – 411014. 1999

1 1 1 2 2 2 3 3 3 4 4 4 4 5

Its Nature and Importance…………………… Development of Self Esteem…………………
Knowledge and Acceptance of Oneself……………. Healthy Tension towards the Ideal Self for integration.

1.1 1.2 1.2.1

1.3 1.3.1
1.3.2 1.3.3 1.3.4 1.3.5 1.3.6

Development of Poor Self Esteem……………
Past Experiences……………………………………… Faulty Teaching………………………………………. Unresolved Guilts…………………………………….. Social Factors………………………………………… Unfulfilled High Expectations……………………….. Faulty Thinking……………………………………….

1.4 2. 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 3. 3.1 3.1.1

The Pathological Critic…………………………


6 6 7 7 7 8

Seven Major Sign Posts of Low Self Esteem…… Sense of Self…………………………………….. Relationship……………………………………… Sense of God and Method of Prayer…………….. Other General Observations……………………..


8 9 9 9

Qualities and Role of the Formator………………
Tips to Remember………………………………………
Correct Understanding of the Formees (Be Objective)……….... 3.2

Be Realistic…………………………………………….… Be a Good Listener………………………………………….… Keep Track of the History……………………………………

10 10 10 10 10 11 11 11 11 12 12 13 13 14 14 14 14 15 15 16 16 17 17 17 18 18 18

Formator Facilitates the Growth……………… Self Concept Inventory…………… …………
Self Description………………………………………………. Listing the Liabilities…………………………………………. Listing the Strengths…………………………………………… Exercise………………………………………………………… Celebrate the Strengths…………………………………………

3.3 3.4 3.5 3.5.1

Discovering the Shoulds……………………… Affirming the Worth………………………… Handling Criticism……………………………
Effective Response Style………………………………
Acknowledgement……………………………………………… Clouding………………………………………………………… Probing…………………………………………………………

3.5.2 3.6 3.7 4. 4.1 4.2 4.2.1 4.3 4.4 4.5


Developing Compassion……………………… Prayer…………………………………………

The Practice of Living Consciously……………

The Practice of Self-acceptance…………………

The Practice of Self-responsibility……………… The Practice of Self-assertiveness……………… The Practice of Living Purposefully……………


The Practice of Personal Integrity………………



There is no value judgment more important to human beings than the estimate s/he passes on himself/herself constantly. The nature of one’s self evaluation has profound effect on the thinking processes, emotions, desires, values and goals of the person. The judgment is always related to the physical, social, spiritual, intellectual and psychological component of one’s being. It is certain that to turn the corner at any walk of life, one needs to have a clear sense of identity, competence and self esteem. The person who enjoys high self esteem is able to cope up with the challenges of life by placing the confidence in his/her ability. Countless are the people who are plagued with poor self esteem and are weighed down with bundles of inferiority, worthlessness and inadequacy. This destructive phenomenon is so common among Christians too even though these attitudes indicate a denial of Christian truth. For, the Scripture declares that “ we are His workmanship”, created in Christ Jesus for good works.” (Eph. 2.10); we are sons and daughters of God (cf. 2 Cor. 6.18); we are “the salt of the earth” (Mt. 5.13); “we are just joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8.13); we are “crowned… with glory and honour” (Ps.8.5); we are of dignity and destiny (cf. Rom. 8.30). So the persons who do not experience adequate self esteem are not able to savor the sweetness of God. It is essential to have self esteem for one’s understanding and the knowledge of God. Only the persons who have the confidence in themselves and in God, have the ability to cope up with the challenges of life. The young wo/men who aspire and join religious congregations to be the future consecrated religious are no different from others in the aspect of poor self-esteem. Since formation is a period of information, deformation, transformation and formation, one can be helped out to be drawn towards wholeness from the fragmentations. The formees can be helped out to raise the self esteem to a desirable state thus to enjoy the son/daughtership of God.


1.1Its Nature and Importance
Esteem is a natural and central need which gives rise to a certain security and trust in ourselves enabling realistic evaluation of himself/herse if it is substantially positive and stable. The power of this conviction about oneself lies in the fact that it is more than a judgment or a feeling. It is essential for psychological survival; it is a motivation; it inspires behaviour and it is a fundamental human need. Its impact requires neither our understanding

nor our consent. It works its way within us with or without understanding. (Mc Kay & Fanning, 1987) According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs Self esteem is one of the needs to be fulfilled before achieving the top most need – self actualization. For a Christian, more over a religious it would be the need of self transcendence rather than self- actualization. The one who keeps his/her gaze on this point has to walk through the path of self esteem. Hence the importance of meeting this need. Self esteem as a psychological reality is generated or developed primarily from within. Now the challenge is to know how it is developed and maintained.

1.2Development of Self Esteem
Self esteem is shaped by both internal and external factors. Feeling enormously loved, accepted and valued in childhood s/he gradually grows perceiving the self worth. He anticipates being treated well and lives calmly, hopefully and with enthusiasm He takes delight in being and doing. He experiences aliveness and security within. This self concept which is formed before the adolescence period is from outside forces. During adolescence he searches and tries to have his own identity. Thus the essential component comes into the picture. (Gill, 1980)

1.2.1 Knowledge and Acceptance of Oneself
Objective knowledge of self is attained only when the individual is able to perceive the components of his ego from the ideal self. The more objective and accurate the self knowledge that one has, the better the self esteem. Integration of the negative present in one’s life is very important after becoming aware of what one is ( actual self). (Cencini & Manenti, 1991)

1.2.2 Healthy Tension towards the Ideal Self for Integration
Achieving the right equilibrium between the actual self and the ideal self is essential. Exaggerated distance between the actual and ideal self and the absence of distance may be present in one’s life. Those who are with unrealistic and very high ideals feel impossible to attain the ideals. Whereas some others think that they have already reached the ideal self. But in reality merging of actual self and ideal self do not take place in both cases. Optimum distance between accessible/unattainable and attractive/demanding values is necessary to create self esteem. As the actual self progresses the ideal self also progresses. It is the whole person who grows together with her self esteem. One must discover herself as the actualizer of values and the effective ability to actualize them give her self esteem, the esteem that keeps her stable and positive, and effective. (Cencini & Manenti, 1991) But this is obviously not the case for all. On the following pages, a few common causes for the development of low self esteem will be discussed.

1.3Development of Poor Self Esteem
1.3.1 Past Experiences
Our present self esteem is often the result of past conditioning. If we grew up in a household of criticism, rejection, and disapproval the true self is violated and rejected. We may have quietly acquired a negative self image too. This kind of environment only creates a sense of insecurity, inadequacy and inferiority. A continual lack of psychological support, appreciation or encouragement results in an attitude of self contempt and rejection. When people, in any relationship, are subjected to a spirit of condemnation, belittling, and disapproval, a gradual feeling of self hatred and dislike begins to develop in our opinion and evaluation of ourselves.

1.3.2 Faulty Teaching
One of the important causes of poor self esteem among the people especially among Christians is faulty teaching. They attack any attitude of self love or self esteem as being a subtle form of pride. They embrace a false humility which is nothing more than selfinflicted condemnation. The inflexible rules and ‘shoulds’ of the family, and society are inculcated into the minds of the persons. To feel safe and cared for we adopt the beliefs and values of them. In our need to please our parents/care takers we may have accepted unconsciously or consciously these values and attributes. When we do not live up to these values, rules and ‘shoulds’ we estimate ourselves as bad or useless people. Formees with highly value-laden words like self-sacrifice, service, commitment, and dignity feel bad and depressed once they are not able to live up according to their expectations. If children are informed , ‘you should give importance for others first; you should not feel anger; you should serve others; you should be well competent; you should never feel sexually attracted to man etc. then consider the consequences for the practice of living consciously with self assertiveness.

1.3.3 Unresolved Guilts
Poor self esteem can often be the consequence of long standing unresolved guilt. It can torture them with an overwhelming sense of failure, inadequacy and wretchedness, It means that they have not fully accepted the God’s unconditional love and His forgiveness. Haunted with this idea, it is found hard to forgive themselves or to forget their former transgressions. The guilt that is created within brings forth self condemnation, remorse and deep seated disappointment in them which reinforces the sense of inferiority and failure. (Grosh & Greed, 1983)

1.3.4 Social Factors
The influence of the society has a tremendous impact on one’s self esteem. Society pressurizes certain values, standards and expectations which can cause an individual to feel second rate and inferior. Persons can be rejected or biased because of ethnic background, social status, colour, caste or religious upbringing etc. The chronic feelings of second class

status produce a nagging interior pain that renders the person too self conscious to respond with esteem. Thus free-floating hostility results from the perennial need to win which leads to competition (to have happiness for a moment) And the failure of the person leads again to inferiority complex and poor self esteem.

1.3.5 Unfulfilled High Expectations
All grow up with high ideals or lofty ideals but all these expectations cannot be fulfilled. When the ‘dreams always remain as dreams’ person falls into a ‘failure cage’. The more severely parents require perfection; the more vigorously will the child’s super ego make comparable demands. (Gill, 1980) One might think that s/he is valued only when s/he performs in ways that enhance the parents’ pride. So she desperately strives to win the attention and approval of others. When the elders/parents/authorities set high expectations on one without calibrating to the child’s level of development she finds difficult in fulfilling it she is not capable for the particular task. Her failure in the particular task again reinforces a growing sense of inadequacy, incompetence and inferiority.

1.3.6 Faulty Thinking
All our ‘tapes’, all our ‘scripts’ and ‘mind-sets’ are little more than belief. These beliefs either builds us up or tears us down. Though most of our beliefs are completely relative prolonged negative thinking will lead to poor self image. It is so deeply rooted that many ruin their lives because thinking patterns have tremendous influence on the emotions, attitudes and will. (Grosh & Greed, 1983) The pessimistic view of themselves constantly affirms their feelings of uselessness maintaining self doubt and self criticism. On a very deep level, ‘I am not O.K.’ is felt and constant prediction of oneself takes place within the person negatively. These are the different major reasons for the development of poor self esteem. The negative inner voice which is developed from the childhood comes gunning for every chance to devalue or degrade the self worth.

1.4The Pathological Critic
The term ‘Pathological critic’ is coined by one of the psychologists by name Eugene Sagar for describing the negative inner voice that attacks and judges the person. Though all have a pathological critic within, the ones who are with low self esteem prone to have a more depravious and vocal pathological critic. It is busy with underestimating the self worth through blaming the person for things that go wrong in life. It compares one to others and finds one wanting. It also sets high impossible standards of perfection, but strikes you down for the imperfect performances. The critic does not boost you or encourage your strength and achievements. The attributes that go on within the person like, “you are stupid, lazy, good for nothing, small, incompetent etc., make the low esteemed person believe that all of them are true. (These phrases contain the memory of the past and one may feel the weight as

the critic says the word) Affirming the negative ideas – even through reading the friend’s mind – is done by the pathological critic. A low self esteemed person often count the times of her/his failure. It is the pathological critic which drags you over and over again through the painful scenes. The incidents where one felt hurt, rejection, sadness and embarrassment may come as train of thoughts in to the mind of the person. The ones with low self esteem depend on the critic to help them cope with feelings. Though there is a temporary relief of our not-o.k. feelings through positive reinforcement, the critic further undermines ones sense worth. (Mc Kay & Fanning, 1987)


2.1 Seven Major Sign Posts of Low Self Esteem
For raising the self esteem, it is necessary to throw away the old warped mirrors, old tapes, and programming. This will help the formees to learn accurately and perceive accurately their balance of strength and weaknesses. This chapter deals with a clear and accurate self-description. There are different ways of assessment in the field of psychology which may not be always reliable. The physical assessment is preferred to them since there is also the active participation of the formees. The major signs that one can identify in them are: blaming, sensitive to criticism, inappropriate response to flattery, cynicism, seclusion and timidity, feeling of persecution and competition. It goes on and on as a vicious circle in the low esteemed persons.

Seclusion and Timidity Inappropriate Response to Flattery Feeling of Persecution Sensitive to Criticism Competition

Blaming Cynicis m

Sensitive to Criticism

2.2 Sense of Self
Persons with low self esteem are discontented and suffocated within the structures of the Institution. They feel incompetent and inferior to others and they complain of being needy or dependent, of feeling guilty, and of doing nothing right. Loneliness which is errupted due to inferiority becomes overwhelming and they go into loneliness and self-pity. Due to the should compulsion they feel they can never measure up and they do the comparisons and judge that others are better. The cause for discouragement, hopelessness and self-pity is attributed to others. (Grosh & Greed, 1983) If the formee is asked how she feels about her life, she may answer, “It is going well” but deep within she feels differently. The nagging feeling that she is not doing anything very important disturbs her. When it is asked about the self they talk about the abilities that they enjoy but they do not direct their attention towards themselves. When asked about the good qualities formee feels uncomfortable, embarrassed. (They were made to feel that saying good things about self is being boastful. It is easy for them disclose of their deficiencies.) (Gill, 1980)

2.3 Relationship
The ones with low self esteem lack the capacity to love anyone deeply. It appears as though she neither needs nor wants anyone to be very close to her. They are frightened of self-disclosure too, so they put a false front trying to bolster with false accomplishments. Majority of the cases is loners, but they are inclined to turn to others, usually one at a time, for emotional support and reassurance. Her relationships are directed more towards what she can achieve from others than she can contribute. The infantile pattern of relationship behaviour she manifests indicates a lack of developed capacity to contribute to the community and apostolic aims that require psychological maturity. (Mc Kay & Fanning, 1987)

2.4 Sense of God and Method of Prayer
For a low self esteemed person, God is a judge, a police man who controls the universe and she believes that she cannot meet the standards and she cannot respond to God. He is experienced untrustworthy and there is no warmth in the relationship with God. (Grosh & Greed, 1983) The individual without living in the present moment prefers to dwell either in the past and its failures or on a threatening future. She finds difficult in doing meditation and contemplative prayer due to the wrestling that is going on within. Prayer often is in a monologue form, giving stress on asking mercy and forgiveness from God who is omnipotent, judge or all powerful.

2.5 Other General Observations
Low self esteemed person seeks the safety of the familiar and undemanding goals. A sort of complacency is seen due to the lack of set ideals. The higher the self esteem the more we hope to experience in life. Here they spire less and achieve less because paths itself tends to be self-reinforcing and self perpetuating for them. There is absence of drive to express oneself and the richness that is present within. The urgent need is mainly is to ‘prove oneself’. (Branden, 1994) There is uncertainty about one’s own thoughts and feelings, together with the anxiety about the listener’s response. Thereby the communication becomes evasive and inappropriate. As behaviourists would say, there is a free-floating kind of hostility among them which shows up in their “tendency to notice with irritation, the faults they see in the behaviour of others, be extremely demanding and critical toward themselves and others; argue tenaciously until they win their points, turning conversation into details, have an intense need to win in sports, games and other extra curricular activities and becoming extremely angry when they lose; be hyper sensitive to criticism or uncomplimentary remarks and appear even when smiling, tense and ready to quarrel.” (Gill, 1980. P. 29) They suffer from chronic indecisiveness because of the fear of committing mistakes. The Self imposed demand to do everything perfectly and without mistakes is also another driving force.


“The glory of God is man fully alive.” Says St. Augustine. It is only when one experiences sound health of mind , body and spirit s/he can be fully ‘alive’ in God. There is a close relationship between self esteem and this ‘aliveness’ in God. “Growth towards self

acceptance and belief in the Lord’s unique love for oneself are the key steps in the process of becoming free to live as Christians.” (Grosh & Greed, 1983) P. 23) I as a formator am in a responsible place to help those under my care to develop and maintain a strong and reliable sense of personal wrath; for I know the way, show the way and go the way. I am positioned to show forth the acceptance which is the very core of esteem. The formee with good self esteem has the best chance of being a happy and effective religious later. When I give them the gift acceptance, when I really see, value and appreciate them, I provide them with spiritual and psychological armor for the remaining period of life.

3.1 Qualities and Role of the Formator
The formator is an inspiration to the formees as she exemplifies and mirrors a healthy, affirmative sense of self. When I as a formator witness fairness, they may grasp the attitude of fairness; when they receive compassion and see it offered to others, they learn to assimilate compassion; when they see self-esteem, they may decide it as a value worth acquiring. (Branden, 1995) As a facilitator for the formees, formator herself understands that she is a wounded healer; broken and then moulded for touching the broken fringes of the formees. This quality of self awareness and self acceptance enables the formator to look at her formees in a positive manner. And she tries to liberate others from the shackles of brokenness to the realm of wholeness. Listening and accepting stance of the formator helps the formee to be open and free to share. Allow sufficient time for the formee to go slowly, since each one has got her own pace for growth and development. Super imposing or pressurizing to perform/behave in a particular manner before she is ready will make her less confident and she may again go to a stage of worthlessness.

3.1.1 Tips to Remember Correct Understanding of the Formees (Be Objective)
First and foremost as a formator I am to recognize the unique abilities and talents of the formees thereby to reinforce them and help them recognize what is special about themselves. Reinforcement of positive qualities can be done by noticing the abilities and pointing it out to them. Find also occasions to appreciate the formees for their abilities. As a formator I am able to understand their behaviours in the context of who they are. Seen in the particular context, even the negative behaviour can be understood well. Thirdly the formees who are really seen and understood by the formators will be authentic. They neither have ‘show off’ nor hiding. When the formator accepts all of the formee (the goodness and weakness) formee can accept herself and that is the hall mark of good self esteem. (Mc Kay & Fanning, 1987) Be Realistic

Be sure that you do not keep an unrealistic high ideal.

Having reasonable

expectations depends on the maturity avoids conflicts and disappointments. Make them know clearly about your expectations, providing choices when possible, gives the formees a sense of control. Be a Good Listener
Be a good listener to them. I need to be able to take care of some of my own needs before I can be a good listener. The most powerful and effective instrument I have as a formator to build self esteem is the language I use. I need to acknowledge the feeling of the formee and be generous with the praises. (Kent, 1994) Try to avoid over generalization since they emphasize the negative behaviour and ignore the positive. Give positive feed back which would be helpful for the formees to have a joyful and spontaneous life. Avoid devoting time to point out each formee’s faults and failures without ensuring that more time be spent informing her of the good qualities she embodies if not she is humiliated rather than humbled. (Mc Kay & Fanning, 1987) Keep Track of their History
The progress of the formees must be recorded in clear cut terms. Let the formees be in the know of their improvement. Remind them of their capabilities, skill, understanding more adventurous. They are compared to previous months or year. Thus she learns to trust to her skills. (Mc Kay & Fanning, 1987)


Formator Facilitates the Growth

Since self esteem is a consequence which is generated internally, the formator or anyone in that case, cannot work on self esteem directly. To raise the level of self esteem in formees is to create a climate that supports and reinforces the attitude and behaviour that strengthens self esteem. (Branden, 1995) Much of the formator’s efforts will be spent helping the formees to re-discover the true self and accept that self hood. During the personal sessions with the formee, formator tries to make her understand the self concept. This is encouraged only after having a good rapport/relationship with the formee and only when she is ready to share about herself. Making her to do a self concept inventory is useful.

3.2.1 Self Concept Inventory
This is helpful for the formee to create a clear and accurate description about self. The usual tendency is to magnify the weaknesses and minimize their assets which is due to the strong feeling of inadequacy and due to the comparison. Encourage the formee to write down as many words or phrases as possible in the following areas. Self Description

Self description on physical appearance, personality, sexuality, how she relates to others, how others see her, performance in the community, performance of the daily tasks of life, mental functioning etc., are to be written down. After finishing this inventory, instruct her to put a plus sign for the items that represent strength and minus sign for those items that she considers weaknesses or would like to change. Listing the Liabilities
Here the formee is asked to put down the item that are marked with minus on the left hand side of a fresh sheet of paper, leaving three lines between each item for making the changes. The assurance that everyone has liabilities and the total acceptance of the formee by the formator assist her to be in freedom. Explain to her to revise the negative items and put down on the right side of the paper using non-pejorative, accurate language. Encourage her to be specific and write the corresponding strength wherever required. Later revising of each weakness on the left side of the list is required. Allow the formee to set her own pace for this exercise. Listing the Strengths
Guide her to list down all the items marked with a plus and check the items on the revised weakness list which corresponds to the strength. strengths are absent encourage her to add. If any of the corresponding Exercise
A fantasy exercise can be done to remind the formee on the compliments that she received, the good people she has loved and admired and the qualities that they possessed etc. Once the exercise is over encourage her to write down those qualities on a sheet of paper. Now the list is complete and can be used as a tool for introspection. Add the qualities that you appreciate in others. Go over the list again and again; rewrite them in complete sentences ; polish the negative qualities; dwell on the strengths and new self description. (Mc Kay & Fanning, 1987) Celebrate the Strengths
Formee appreciates and remembers the assets daily especially when she feels most down on herself. Help her to have the daily affirmations through repetitions of the assets. The reminder signs are another method of stressing the strengths (which can be pasted in front of her table) in her. Active Integration is another step. Here the formee selects everyday three strengths from her list and recalls specific examples and times when she clearly demonstrates them. It is essential to be accurate and committed to fight against the critic. (Mc Kay & Fanning, 1987) As the formator deals with the formee she understands that there are a number of rigid personal rules (right-wrong, good-bad dichotomy) which create ‘should compulsion’ within her. This ‘shoulds’ attack the self esteem by taking moral concepts and since it often

demands behaviour that is impossible or unhealthy it is apt to help the formee to discover her ‘shoulds’.


Discovering the Shoulds
The values that one learned during childhood may not fit the formee when she is in her

adolescence or in later period because she lives in a different time and place having different hopes, and aspirations than what she had in her childhood. When the ‘shoulds’ don’t fit, conflict arises with the basic needs. As a result of this, one may choose deprivation of the need or value which leads either to loss or guilt. Here the role of the formator is to help the formee get in touch with the beliefs and not the feelings. When she understands that the ‘should’ undermines her self-esteem, she needs to block the self-talk through ‘mantras’ by encouraging her to identify the original need that created her ‘should’ and the reason why it does not fit now. (For e.g., ‘you should not make mistakes’ and the should mantra can be ‘not making mistakes was important to my mother. But no body can grow without making mistakes. If I worry now, I will stop growing.) Now help the formee to formulate her own mantras. Starting with the very grievous ones and encourage her to use it every time. The critic gives you up if it hears continuously. If the formee is suffering from chronic guilt and self blame help is to be given to recover from it through series of sessions with her. Here the formator stresses on the forgiving love of the Father too. (Mc Kay & Fanning, 1987)


Affirming the Worth

The formee with low self esteem feels low about her self worth. Often times she measures her worth on the basis of achievements or activities. Here the formator makes her understand the meaning of self worth in a different sense. Describe to her that no matter what happens in her life, no matter what she does or is done to her, her human worth can’t be diminished or increased. Encourage her (through a fantasy meditation) to remember the times when she felt good about herself, the times when she felt o.k. about self. Formator tries to explain to her that the personal worth is an internal experience and it is always shining, even when she is in the shadows. (Mc Kay & Fanning, 1987) Help the person to focus upon the Lord while looking beyond disliked parts of the self. Reflection and sharing on the Scriptural passages, on “Look at the birds … Aren’t you worth much more than birds? Can any of you live a bit longer by worrying about it” (Mt. 6.26-27); “You are like salt for all mankind” (Mt. 5.13); together with the formee will be an aid to raise the self worth. The ultimate goal of the formator must be to make her understand the worth of ‘being’. Another method of raising the sense of worth is through an exercise . Each one is to be given a sheet of paper. After writing their names on the top let them place the paper on the table. Ask them to stand in front of the paper in a circle form and instruct them to write down 8-10 assets on each paper after looking the names on the paper. Once when everyone

finishes, each one is asked to pick up their paper and read it. This exercise will help the individual to believe in the assets. Thus she may come to know the assets thereby the person feels o.k. about self. The formee may gradually stop comparing with others, stop the freefloating and ego-built hostilities and other coping mechanisms like competition, jealousy and cynicism etc., since she looks at herself from a different angle.


Handling Criticism
Though the formee now gradually understands her self worth through different

exercises and self disclosure, she may not be able to welcome the criticism easily. As a formator discussions on causes, types and the way of criticism can be done. Make them realize that thinking poorly about themselves because of such criticism is a mistake. Understanding of these facts is not sufficient but the formees have to adapt effective response style. Role plays and discussions on this theme will be benefited by the formees.

3.5.1 Effective Response Style
Effective response is through assertiveness without attacking or surrendering to the critic. Through assertiveness one clears up the misunderstandings, accept the right thing and ignore the rest . The techniques which can be adapted by formees are: Acknowledgement
Acknowledgement means simply agreeing with the critic in order to stop the criticism by following four steps like say, ‘you are right’, paraphrase the criticism to the critic to make sure what s/he is said; thank the critic and explain to self if it is appropriate. Usually very fewer critic persists after acknowledgment. Example: “Sister, you are very careless. You did the work haphazardly” Response: You are right. I should have done well. Thank you for telling me. Clouding
This style is used when the statement of the critic cannot be agreed fully and when it is neither constructive nor accurate. Here one agrees only to a part of it, or agreeing in probability or in principle. Example: “You are not reliable. You forget to do what I have said. I just can’t ever count on you.” Response: (Agrees only a part): “You are right that I forgot to do what you have said.” Response (Agreeing in probability): “Yes, you may be right.” Response: (Agreeing in principle): :You are right, if I am not reliable on this, you may not be able to count on me.” Probing

Probing is done to clarify the intent and meaning of the criticism when it is very vague. Thus one is able to get the information correctly. There by she can acknowledge it or use one of the forms of clouding. (Mc Kay & Fanning, 1987) Since the formees are living in a group there is much room for criticism and misunderstanding. So it is beneficial for them to have daily personal exercises. Encourage them to be aware of what is happening in self and in others, when the statements are made. The formees with low esteem are battled with the critic which prompts them to judge and criticize others. The exercise that is described below will be helpful. The work area, the persons whom they meet, the situations etc., are to be considered as the laboratory.

3.5.2 Exercise
• • Watch television, read the newspaper etc., without making a single judgment. When the companions do not do the duties; when they do not make use of the time in a proper manner; when others have a show off; when others do not follow the rules and regulations of the formation house, move on without judging them • Spend a few moments chatting with the least favourite person, notice the mannerism, style, way of talk and so on. Do so without any judgment. Understand that she has made the best choices available. • Spend some time in the past recalling the incidents/scenes when others disappointed you or you disapproved of yourself. Re-live in the situation, unroll the actions without any judgment. Remind yourself that everyone chooses the highest good. • When companions/friends gossip about and judge others withdraw yourself from them or resist the temptations to join them. You can mildly suggest that ‘so and so …….. is not so bad’ and excuse yourself from the group. (Mc Kay & Fanning, 1987) Once the formees undergo different exercises and are broadened their understanding about themselves, there is a probability of developing disappointment and may displease with self. Sessions on developing compassion must be given to the formees.


Developing Compassion

In fact the essence of self esteem is compassion for oneself which enables the person to understand, accept and even forgive oneself. One starts seeing herself good. They are helped to see themselves as limited yet gifted and unique. Compassion to oneself keeps the critic away because it is when one feels compassion to self, she begins to see the sense of worth. (Malone, 1996) The three basic components of compassion are understanding, acceptance and forgiveness. Formator helps the formee to understand herself better through various exercises (which are already mentioned) thus she is helped to understand others too as she

stops listening to self-talk and give ear to others. Acceptance is a difficult part since one has to acknowledge the bare facts about self without judging the values and by putting aside her feelings. Once when one understands and accepts the facts she is guided to let go of the past, reaffirm self respect in the present and look toward a better future. She is guided and helped out to forgive others through exercises and is encouraged to follow Christ who is the model. (Mc Kay & Fanning, 1987)



Formator as a person of prayer listens to the movement of the Holy Spirit calling the formees into relationship with the Lord (a call toward acceptance of self as good, unique and loving) helping her gently to listen to the unconditional love of the Lord. (Grosh, 1983) Loving accompaniment of the formator with a warm regard for the formee as a person of unconditional value without evaluating her behaviour or her feelings help the formee to see God as loving and caring one. The formator helps the formee to taste the love of God in abundance. She guides the formee to listen to the Lord who is speaking through the scriptures, “I have called you by name, you are mine.” (Is 43.1); “You are precious to me.” (Is 43.4); “You will be called by a new name.” (Is 62.2); “As a groom is delighted with his bride, so your God will delight in you.” (Is 62.5). The formator is attentive to the images that come often in the mind of the formee. The images that are seen by the low esteemed persons are (tree, rock, bird, insect etc.) mainly from the nature. She the formator helps them to expand their image of God and scope of God’s love. She encourages to go with the flow of life. She helps the formees to experience God in the cave of their hearts. They are helped to encounter God who is within, and around them, and in the situations of life. Thus growing in self in all the aspects will strengthen them in their relationship with God. A realization will dawn in them that they are wonderfully made for a real ‘aliveness’ in God. Once the formees have come to the ‘stage of aliveness’ encourage the practices that strengthen self esteem. The practices are discussed in the next chapter.


One of the leading pioneers in the field of psychology especially in the concept of self esteem, Nathaniel Branden has derived six practices which he calls it as Six pillars of Self esteem. He is of the opinion that the practice of these generate unmistakable benefits in the

level of performance (self-efficacy and self respect). If the formees understand what these practices are, they themselves can commit to initiate them in their lives. These practices are: 4.1 The practice of living consciously 4.2 The practice of self-acceptance 4.3 The practice of self-responsibility 4.4 The practice of self assertiveness 4.5 The practice of living purposefully 4.6 The practice of personal integrity (Branden, 1995. P. 66)

4.1The Practice of Living Consciously
We believe that consciousness is the highest manifestation of human life. “To live consciously means to seek to be aware of everything that bears on our actions, purposes, values and goals - to the best of our ability, whatever that ability may be – and to believe in accordance with that which we see and know.” (Branden, 1995. P. 69) By living consciously the formees are helped out to be aware of the motivating values which are harmful or irrational. Hence the importance of living consciously is the first pillar of self esteem.

4.2The Practice of Self-acceptance
Self acceptance is very much inter connected to self esteem. When one has self acceptance she understands her self worth. It is also a sort of self affirmation of what one is. There is a willingness to experience the facts of our being which is a pre-condition of change and growth. Self-acceptance also entails the idea of compassion, of being intimate friend to self .

4.2.1 Exercise
This exercise can offer a profound learning experience for the formees. Ask the formee to stand in front of the mirror and look at the body. Notice the feelings as it is observed. One may find happy and easy to look at some part, and some parts not. Check the impulses (impulses to escape, to flee from awareness, to reject, deny, disown etc.) Once you become aware of these impulses, focus on the image for a few moments longer and say to self, “whatever my defects I accept myself wholeheartedly.” Repeat this exercise for a few times meaningfully. When this exercise is done twice in a day (preferably morning and in the night) one soon begins to experience self-acceptance which results in the development of self esteem (Branden, 1995) This sort of exercise helps the formees who have got low self esteem due to the physique. One can rebel against the memories, thoughts, emotions and actions which pose the problem of inadequacy, so also the non-acceptance of the assets because they pose the

challenge of responsibility. So the practice of self-acceptance is considered as the second pillar of self esteem.

4.3The Practice of Self-responsibility
To feel competent and happy one needs to experience a sense of control over the existence: meaning to say that ‘I am responsible for my actions and attainment of my goals. One knows that her life is what she makes. There is an ownership of what she says and does. The practice of self responsibility builds up self esteem. When this practice is taken into consideration morally. One is morally entitled to treat others with mutual respect a goodwill. Self responsibility entails certain realization on one’s own responsibility (responsible for the achievement of her/his desires, responsible for the choices that one makes, responsible for the level of consciousness that one brings to her/his work and relationships, responsible for how one prioritizes the time; responsible for the quality of communication; responsible for choosing the values; responsible for raising self esteem etc) but is does not mean that a person is responsible for everything that happens in her/his life.

4.4The Practice of Self-assertiveness
Self assertiveness both supports self esteem and is a manifestation of it. And one of the ways we build self esteem is through self assertiveness. It means respecting one’s own wants, needs and values and seeking appropriate forms of their expression in reality. Assertiveness equips one to stand up for oneself, to live authentically, to speak and act from the inner most convictions and feeling etc. One realizes that the life does not belong to others and she is not the one to live up the expectations of others.

4.5The Practice of Living Purposefully
To live without purpose is to live at he mercy of chance and by living at the mercy of chance and by living with a purpose one uses the persons for the attainment of goals that are already chosen. It is the goal that lads one forward. Living purposefully entails taking responsibility for setting goals and purposes, being concerned to identifying and the monitoring actions to reach the goals etc. It can be said that a life without a purpose can hardly be a human life and living purposefully applies to every aspect of our existence where we live and act by intentions.

4.6The Practice of Personal Integrity
Here the term integrity means congruence – congruence of ideals, words, behaviour, principle and beliefs etc. The more one lives with integrity the more one enjoys good self esteem. If our principles lead us toward self destruction it is essential to review the principles. Very often our practice of integrity exhibits inconsistencies. When we live

consciously with right convictions and explicit choice the integrity follows as an end product. Practicing these six pillars of Self esteem will help the formee to be effective and competent in the level of performance.

Formator who is given the responsibility of facilitating the growth of the formees has a major role in developing the self esteem of the formees, as it is the road to wholeness. Affirmations given by formator energize the formee. When one is affirmed and supported she is able to do more since her capacity to accomplish seems increased. Much of the formator’s efforts will be spent helping them to discover a true self and to claim that selfhood. Having the good concept of oneself, the formee returns to a rich inwardness, to her well spring knowing that she is capable and lovable. She creates her own happiness independent of circumstances and persons around her. Since it is certain that the Lord wants us to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. I think it is a good time to find out all we can about effective ways of helping the formees to fulfill the second of these two divine requirements – an appropriate love of one’s self.

1. Bednar, R.L. , Wells G.M. & Peterson S. R.: Self Esteem. American Psychological Association, Washington, 1991 2. Branden, N.: Six Pillars of Self Esteem. Bantam Trade Paperback Edition, U.S.A., 1995 3. Branden, N.: The Psychology of Self Esteem, Nash, Washington, 1969 4. Cencini, A & A. Manenti: Psychology and Formation. The Pauline Sisters Bombay Society, Mumbai, 1992. 5. Gill, J.J.: Indispensable Self Esteem (1990). Human Development, Lc Jacq Publishing Inc., Vol. 1, No.3, pp. 26-36 6. Grosh, G.R. & Greed William E.: Dealing with a poor Self image (1983). Human Development, Lc Jacq Publishing Inc., Vol. 4, No.1, pp. 21-24 7. Kent, M. R. : Falling in love with Yourself. Pandit Press, New York, 1994 8. Malone, J.: The Self Esteem of Women (1996). Publishing Inc., Vol. 17, No.2, pp. 5-7 9. Mc Kay, M & Fanning Patrick: Self Esteem. New Harbinger Publications, U.S.A, 1987 Human Development, Lc Jacq

1. 2. 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4.1 2.4.2 3. 3.1 3.1.1 INTRODUCTION WOMEN TODAY Church And Women Issues of Women Women and Patriarchal Culture Traditional Religious Women Religious and the Church NON-ASSERTIVNESS Causes of Non-assertiveness Dependency

2.4 Religious Women Today of abandonment Childhood of Religion 3.1.2 3.1.3 3.1.4 3.1.5 3.1.6 3.2 4. 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 The Family Relationships Schooling Spirit of Sacrifice The Inner Child Religious Formation ASSERTIVENESS Self-esteem Assertive Women in the Gospel Empowerment of Women Feminism: Hope for the Future Assertiveness Training WOMEN IN THE 21ST CENTURY Women Religious - 21st Century The Church of 21st Century – in relation with women CONCLUSION

5. 5.1 5.2

Self Esteem

Help Your Children Feel Good About Themselves
From the moment our children are born, we influence their education, beliefs and values, and the way they look at and handle life. We are not, however, the only ones who influence our children. Their friends, the media, and the advertising industry in general, send them appealing messages. These sources try to convince them they can have fun, be successful, or have exciting adventures through certain unhealthy behaviors. As parents, we cannot stop this from happening. We can, however, help our children become strong enough to know how to resist various pressures found in the environment in which they are growing up. We need to teach them to feel good about themselves as individuals and to have high self-esteem. We should teach them how to express themselves about what bothers or pleases them. Teach them to respect the opinions of others and not to let others disrespect them. Teach them techniques to help them say NO when they are offered things that go against their own beliefs and values.

Help them Express their Thoughts and Emotions
Just like us, our children experience tension, stress, anguish, sadness, anger, and joy. And just like us, they are relieved when they can talk about their problems with a parent who knows how to listen without criticizing them or ignoring their feelings. To teach our children to say what they feel, we must get to know them, and we should also learn how to identify their emotions. Often children are not able to recognize their own emotions, such as sadness, anger, or frustration. Their feelings get all mixed up and they can’t sort them out. When something like this happens, they don’t know how to talk about it and they turn it into a problem. Therefore, they often decide to stay quiet. This is when we can help them recognize and express their feelings successfully. When we notice our child is silent, worried, in a bad mood, and keeping to himself/herself, we ask him/her what’s wrong. Generally, he/she answers, “nothing.” We need to figure out what is behind the word “nothing.” Maybe he/she is afraid, angry, sad, or in pain. Often, when we keep asking what’s wrong, he/she still doesn’t answer. But, if instead of talking, you hug him/her, and show your affection and support, you will give him/her time to start talking about how he/she feels. Likewise, we must listen to our children to help them express their emotions. In other words, we should listen without censoring or judging them or minimizing the importance of their problems. Even though we may perceive something as simple or “foolish,” the same thing can give our children cause for great worry. When we teach our children how to express themselves freely, we affirm their identity and self-esteem, which will help them become emotionally healthy individuals. With these values, they will become sensible human beings who respect others. They will have firm convictions and will know how to make their own decisions.

Help Them Strengthen their Self-Esteem
No one doubts that love is a fundamental part of helping our children grow up emotionally healthy and sure of themselves. However, when we are told this love includes trusting,

supporting, and respecting them so they can feel secure, we usually ask ourselves, “Are we doing the right things to help them achieve this?” When we shape children with high self-esteem, we are molding individuals who love themselves: in other words, people who take care of their health, accept themselves for who and what they are, are respectful and not let others disrespect them. Also, they are sure of themselves, and recognize their values and strengths, as well as their limitations. These qualities will prepare our children to deal with pressure and not feel forced to go against their beliefs in certain situations. Here are some things you can do to help them:
• Accept who and what they are. We often tend to compare our children with other young people… “Oh, if you were only like your brother…” or “Why can’t you be as smart as ‘so and so?’” We may not realize these statements make them feel rejected as individuals and weaken their opinion of themselves. Show them genuine interest. Showing interest in your children means more than providing them with food, shelter, and education, or buying them the clothes that they want. Their interests, anxieties, worries, the things they like, and their friends are also part of them. By being genuinely interested in these things we learn how to listen to our children talk about different matters and help them express themselves when they have difficulty saying something directly. For example, children may say, “If I were like that person,” or “I am so ugly,” or “Why am I so dumb?” When they say negative things about themselves, it could mean something is wrong. Don’t ignore this. Helping them have confidence in themselves is extremely important for them to have self-worth and high self-esteem. Children’s relationships with trusting adults who value their successes help achieve this. We should celebrate their efforts and victories, instead of just criticizing bad behavior. Similarly, when we as parents reaffirm our own values, we strengthen our children’s identity and give them a sense of belonging. We make them feel like important members of the family, where their opinions are respected and their feelings are considered. We love them as they are—with their good traits and shortcomings. Helping them overcome boredom. When communication in our family becomes a series of orders, quarrels, and scolding, we fall into a bad routine. We shouldn’t forget how worthwhile it is to share a variety of fun activities with our children. For example: We can go for a walk in a park, play a sport, or cook together. By doing these activities we will interact more with our children and have more frequent conversations with them. We will better understand them, and this will help them overcome their boredom.

Help Them Develop Assertive Behavior
Being assertive implies that someone is able to say “Yes” or “No,” depending on what he/she really wants and thinks about each situation. As parents, we worry about teaching our children good manners. For example: we want them to greet someone in a friendly way, listen to others without interrupting, etc. While this is important, we also need to teach them to have firm convictions: to know how to say “NO” whenever they want to, and how to express their opinions and respect those of others. From the time they are little, we should instill this in them, by showing them we respect their decisions, the things they like, and their opinions. When we accept a “NO” from them, we show them we have confidence in them and that they can express whatever they want without fear of punishment. This is also how we reaffirm the confidence they should have in themselves.

Set a Good Example
Our habits and attitudes concerning the use of alcohol and drugs have a great influence on our children. If we use these substances, it is very likely that our children will too. On some occasions we adults practice unhealthy habits to solve our problems. For example: How many times have we said or heard a friend or relative say: “I’ve had a terrible day; I need a drink?” We have to make it clear that that is not the best way to deal with pent-up tensions, nor is it the best example we can set for our children. They need to understand that resorting

to the use of alcohol to relax or relieve stress is not appropriate. We need to show them how to be responsible and to know how to make healthy decisions about avoiding the use of these harmful substances. There are ways to prevent our children from imitating certain habits. For example: If parents drink alcohol at home, they should not involve their children in this activity by asking them to help prepare drinks or to serve beer so the adults can chill out and relax. Set a good example for your children by drinking responsibly and in moderation. Abstain from drinking on holidays or at parties. Learn that there are other ways to celebrate, and teach your children about them.