Social Question

wunday's avatar

Is it common to gradually gain in self esteem as you get older?

Asked by wunday (759 points ) January 22nd, 2010

I’m asking for a generalization, knowing full well the pattern won’t apply to everyone. However, it seems to me that people are much more likely to feel lower self-esteem when younger—high school and college, but as they grow older, gain experience and wisdom, they come to like themselves better.

What do you think? Any examples, pro or con? Your personal experience?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

77 Answers

zephyr826's avatar

I feel that most people grow in self-esteem as they get older because they become more comfortable in their own skin. I was a really awkward teenager, constantly trying to be someone other than who I was. I was never comfortable because i couldn’t be honest with myself or my friends. Then, in my early twenties, I started to realize that who i was was a much better version of me than what I was trying to be. With more confidence, I present a much more exciting version of myself.

marinelife's avatar

I did not gain in self esteem until I did personal growth work. I later worked on my own with the book Self-Parenting, which was very helpful in revealing inner dialogues and erasing defensive patterns established in childhood.

I think there are a lot of “impostors,” people in professional positions that do not feel like they belong there in their heart of hearts.

filmfann's avatar

Teens tend to care about what others say.
As you get older, you care less and less about what others think. The natural outcome of this is an increased level of self esteem.

Sophief's avatar

I am actually the opposite. Although I weren’t confident at school, I was pretty normal. I thought I knew me and I thought I knew life. I knew nothing. My self esteem has got lower and lower the older I get. I have no confidence at all. Face to face with people I am no good. Therefore I am a loner in life and that suits me. For people interaction I come on this site.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

This has been the case with me and many others I know – as you grow older, you realize that your teenage hopelessness wasn’t as bad as you thought and that which you cared for doesn’t really matter – this is, however, the case if what you’ve gained in your life through adulthood has been been positive…if a person doesn’t get out of their preconceived notions of what life is supposed to be like, they will continue to have low self-esteem…this will only get worse with age, especially if they feel that getting older is bad.

john65pennington's avatar

Not really. i have never had this problem. but, some people are born with low self-esteem. its in their genes. my whole family laughs a lot and tells jokes. i know of this one person, thats about 40, that never laughs and never has any fun. one day, his face is going to crack because of the long, long look he wears on it. getting older has nothing to do with it. this person was born with a long face and probably will die with a long face. john

Glow's avatar

Not sure about the general public, but for me it did. In highschool, I was at the bottom of low self esteem. Once I graduated HS though, I felt soooo happy to be out and to be around better people that I started working out, lost weight, got in shape and gained self esteem. I also got a job, made some money and bought new clothes that looked great on my new figure and gained even MORE self esteem :) So, I dunno, but I feel like highschool is a big hindrance to teens to gain self esteem. It is just too hard!

Austinlad's avatar

I believe one gains self esteem as he/she gains experience, knowledge, widsom (which is different from knowledge) and confidence, and all that takes time. Plus an open mind and heart.

Snarp's avatar

I think you are dead on, as a generalization. It worked for me, anyway. But I do think there are a significant number of people with self esteem issues that need more help than that.

aprilsimnel's avatar

I’m paraphrasing something I came across last year while doing my own (ongoing) personal growth work:

When you’re 20, you think everyone is judging you.

When you’re 40, you stop caring that everyone is judging you.

When you’re 60, you realize that no one gave a damn in the first place, and the ones who did had way too much time on their hands, so you didn’t need to pay attention to them to begin with, anyway.
____________
I think people who have been severely abused as children might have a rougher time with increasing their self-esteem, but I feel that getting people in that self-loathing mindset to look at their self-efficacy, or their ability to handle things in life, and working from there will lead to an increase in self-esteem. Everyone is able to handle something if they’re alive, no matter how small, and that can be taken into account.

SeventhSense's avatar

I think true self esteem grows if you are willing to do the work at understanding yourself and your patterns. When I was younger I imagined I had a level of confidence but my world was only so big and it was based on a lot bravado. As I’ve gotten older, experienced more love and loss, and vulnerability I’ve realized that life and people are not as simple as I once imagined. Life has humbled me and some of my dreams have been dashed. As difficult as life has been and continues to be, my esteem now comes from a true reckoning of my strengths and weaknesses and my acceptance of other people’s. I am only 50% of any relationship. To live my truth while allowing others the space to have theirs is what I value now. Nevertheless to never abandon my truth, for it is my essence and life path. Likewise to not shirk from conflict for it represents my passion.

BoBo1946's avatar

A mild-mannered man was tired of being bossed around by his wife so he went to a psychiatrist.

The psychiatrist said he needed to build his self-esteem, and so gave him a book on assertiveness, which he read on the way home.

He had finished the book by the time he reached his house.

The man stormed into the house and walked up to his wife.

Pointing a finger in her face, he said, “From now on, I want you to know that I am the man of this house, and my word is law! I want you to prepare me a gourmet meal tonight, and when I’m finished eating my meal, I expect a sumptuous dessert afterward. Then, after dinner, you’re going to draw me my bath so I can relax. And when I’m finished with my bath, guess who’s going to dress me and comb my hair?”

“The funeral director,” said his wife.

SeventhSense's avatar

@BoBo1946
Sounds like Bette Davis.

aprilsimnel's avatar

@BoBo1946, that totally reminds me of the Marriage Guidance Counsellor sketch from Monty Python. “A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do, and there ain’t no sense in runnin’. Now you gotta turn, and you gotta fight, and you gotta hold your head up high!” “YES!”

BoBo1946's avatar

@SeventhSense oh my gosh, that lady could play the “bitch from Hell,” with best of them. She was a GREAT actress!

janbb's avatar

For many like myself who were damaged in childhood, it was not just the natural process of growing up, but going through therapy with some very competent therapists who helped me gain self-esteem. Now that I’ve achieved some basic liking of myself, I can use new experiences, friendships and solitude to enhance my sense of self.

CMaz's avatar

That is a great question! :-)

For me… Knowledge brought wisdom. Wisdom brought confidence.

Confidence has given me a great sense of, “am I suppose to be listing to you.”
You know… Talk to the hand.
That knowledge/attitude pretty much channels out having to concern myself with insecurity.

Cruiser's avatar

Self esteem comes from fighting your way through all the BS A-holes throw your way in life to where you finally realize there is nothing at all wrong with you just the way your are. No therapy needed.

SeventhSense's avatar

Yes you’ve got to love her. And I know Kim Carnes sang about her but for my money it’s Madonna who has the Betty Davis eyes. Kind of a subtle haughtiness…actually Bette Davis was probably less full of herself than Madonna :)

aprilsimnel's avatar

Whoops. Wrong thread.

Janka's avatar

Yea, I think it’s fairly usual. Not universal, of course, but usual.

BoBo1946's avatar

@SeventhSense yeah Modonna has accomplished more than her talent should ever have allowed. She is not beautiful, sings okay, but she has STYLE! Made her LOTS of $$$!

Oh, she can dance!

SeventhSense's avatar

@BoBo1946
Well I disagree. She definitely has talent that Britney Spears never had and she created an industry and genre for every pop princess that came after her from April Levigne to Miley Cyrus but I think she’s just a world class C U Next Tuesday.

philosopher's avatar

What I have gained is better judgment and the ability to accurately read people . I do not trust easily. I sense dishonesty. It is more difficult on here.
I always had confidence but I am more secure now. I do respond to excessive flattery. I do not have much of an ego anymore. I am me. Not interest in most people’s assessment of me. I do not care if people do not agree. I prefer they do but I will not change my mind without Scientific document.

BoBo1946's avatar

@SeventhSense hey, “talent like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder!” cool my friend!

partyparty's avatar

@BoBo1946 Love your answer… where do you find them LOLL

BoBo1946's avatar

@partyparty glad you like it…we must have our fun!

SeventhSense's avatar

@BoBo1946
Again, I disagree. Taste is subjective but talent is rarely not recognized. I never liked Michael Jackson that much but I couldn’t deny he had talent. As per Madonna, likewise no one stays on the charts through three decades without having talent.

Snarp's avatar

Way off topic now, but I used to denigrate Madonna, and I’m still not her biggest fan, but as we both got older, I could no longer deny that she had phenomenal talent. And she’s smart as a whip. The same is true of Prince.

BoBo1946's avatar

@SeventhSense she has talent, but not my likings…never liked her voice! but, that is a personal choice! Not everyone loves to listen to Elvis..I do…and love Jim Morrison!

But, you are correct…she has talent. She can dance..lol

BoBo1946's avatar

@SeventhSense got to run…later #7!

wunday's avatar

Where is a moderator when you need them? Could we please return to the topic? Please? You can start your own question for whatever it is you are talking about. And I use the term “talking” advisedly.

janbb's avatar

Yes, this is a great thread and I was about to “stop following” it. Let’s get back to the topic, please.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

I’m more like @Dibley . Depression has put my self confidence near zero. I was downright cocky as a teenager, thought I was the smartest guy in the world, college degree at 18, etc,etc. Then real life hit me. If I had stayed in academia maybe things would have been different. My self-esteem has gone from superstar in my teens to good in my twenties, adequate in my 30s, first bout of depression in my 40s. Recent events slammed it down again and it’s not coming back.

wunday's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land Don’t be so sure about that. Only a few weeks ago, I believed that. I have no idea what happened, but it’s different now. I’m not taking it for granted, though. Each day is another day, and I can’t expect any more.

Hmmm. This isn’t all that helpful, is it? I wish I knew exactly what happened. I remember that when I learned to read it was like this. One day the letters looked like a bad drawing, and the next I could read. I suppose I had been working at it all along, and maybe it accumulated to the point where I could actually feel pretty good about myself (a very novel feeling). Honestly, I feel like a different person.

But you know what depression does to you—how it makes it impossible to see anything positive? You know that the depression is doing that to you. Reality is different. Change out that timing belt in your head, and your thoughts will be very different. Keep working at it. (After all, what else can you do?) You’re a very bright guy (and you know it, despite the depression). You’ll figure this out and make it happen. Who knows, maybe you’ll come back here a changed person, too!

God! I wish I could take you by the hand and lead you to the promised land, but I can’t. You have to take yourself there. I plan to still be here when you get here. I will not forget what it was like. Not never.

CaptainHarley's avatar

This nonsense about “self-esteem” is one of the biggest loads of bull-hockey ever perpetuated upon the American people.When I was in personnel, if an applicant started in with the “I just feel really good about myself” tripe, I would ask him or her to tell me what they had actually done. If they didn’t have a string of accomplishments of steadily increasing difficulty, I would tell them that we weren’t interested in their “self-esteem;” that they should go out and actually DO something constructive and THEN come back and talk to us.

Snarp's avatar

@CaptainHarley I think that’s entirely missing the point of what self esteem is.

wunday's avatar

@CaptainHarley Yeah. You want to read my mind? I have a list of accomplishments this long, but until about a week or two ago, I thought they were for shit. Just because someone has low self-esteem doesn’t mean they are not a good worker. In fact, often they are better workers, because they think they have a lot more to prove.

So I do agree with you that someone who boasts about him or herself without showing me the proof is out the door like that. But I’m going to also look carefully at people who do not present well if they do have a list of a lot of accomplishments, despite the fact they aren’t selling those accomplishments.

I’ve heard so many bad stories about HR. They seem to send over completely unsuitable candidates far too often, while missing the good ones. I’m sure there are good recruiters, but a lot of them don’t know what the hell they are looking for, and even if they do, they don’t recognize it when it’s sitting in front of them.

And what the hell kind of game is “bull hockey?” It sounds really sexist. Why don’t the cows play, too?

SeventhSense's avatar

@wundayatta
Listen. Bulls tried the integrated game but the cows were always complaining that it was too rough and they just got in the way. Not to mention those exposed udders. It was seriously distracting for the boys. I mean naturally the team was horny but come on.

daemonelson's avatar

People just stop giving a shit.

YARNLADY's avatar

In general I believe that as people go through the experiences that life throws at us, it could go either way. Many people experience more and more successful outcomes, and that increases their self esteem. Some others can experience the same, but because of chemical imbalance, their self esteem suffers. Physicians recognize this as a disorder they choose to call depression, and it is treatable.

The general public misuses the word depression to refer to temporary set backs that we experience in our everyday lives. That misuse often leads to lower self-esteem when the person fails to recognize the temporary nature of the feeling.

YARNLADY's avatar

@CaptainHarley Your opinion seems to be limited to a very narrow interpretation of self-esteem. While in and of itself, self-esteem is not necessarily a specific task-oriented accomplishment, I would suspect that people with elevated self-esteem would make much more motivated employees than low self-esteem. To discount it out of hand the way you have stated is to do your company a grave disservice.

downtide's avatar

I didn’t gain any self-esteem until two things happened. First, I came to the realisation that I am transsexual. Identifying that and admitting it to myself made a big difference. Secondly, I found a job that I am actually good at, instead of doing because it was the only low-skill job I could find. Having a job that I enjoy and am skilled (or naturally gifted) at increased my confidence by a massive amount. Best thing that’s ever happened to me, IMO.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@wundayatta Thanks so much for the support, my friend

CaptainHarley's avatar

@YARNLADY

I was an Employee Relations Manager for two of the largest corporations in the world. I was totally disinterested in whether someone felt good about themselves. As I stated earlier, if they didn’t have a series of accomplishments of steadily increasing difficulty/complexity, we weren’t interested in them. It’s a truism that personnel departments seek to weed out rather than search for the best. On a bad day, we would get 100–200 applications, so you can see why some personnel people use the “round file” at every opportunity. After a number of years in employee relations, I became responsible for the entire process at a major facility. I made sure that primary considerations for employment focused on ability to perform the job, and nothing else.

SeventhSense's avatar

@filmfann
Not caring what others think is not always equivalent to self esteem.
There are many who don’t care what others think who are simply indifferent.

filmfann's avatar

@SeventhSense Not listening to what other Teens tell you is a good start towards self esteem.
Teens are not very supportive of each other.

philosopher's avatar

Insecure people are always pretending to be what they perceive others like .
I show the same person to everyone.
I have not felt the need to be a phony most of my life.
Playing a role at work is not the same as being a phony in all of your life .

wunday's avatar

@philosopher I disagree. There are people who are insecure with low self-esteem who are exactly who they are. They know who they are. They are just unhappy and unable to believe they will ever be happy, and their view of themselves is that, whoever they are, it sucks, so no one would ever think they are any good. But they know exactly who they are, and never try to be anything else, knowing it’s hopeless to even try.

YARNLADY's avatar

@CaptainHarley I assert that choosing an employee based on such a narrow criteria is a mistake. To overlook a quality that could very well produce an exceptional employee is very short sighted.Some of the most successful companies in existence today were founded by people with more self-confident enthusiasm than experience.

philosopher's avatar

@wundayatta
You are lucky not to know the egotistical manipulative people I have to deal with .Fortunately I have managed to get most them out of my life.
Some people will do anything to control you.Some people need to control things to feel secure.
No one needs to be as unhappy as you speak of. People should be themselves and be accepted as who they are. We are unique individuals. We do not all need to be the same. Our common bond is we are Human; and imperfect. No one achieves perfection. Those who believe they do are fooling themselves.
I appreciate each persons talents and accept the imperfections. I concentrate on the positive. I will not dwell on the negative. Life is too short.

wunday's avatar

@philosopher I think I understand what you are saying, and indeed, we are talking about different versions of depressed people. The kind I’m talking about are acutely aware of how imperfect they are. That’s the problem. Despite the fact that they know it is impossible to be perfect, they still expect it of themselves, and seem to be powerless to lower this expectation. No. Not powerless. It’s just very difficult.

No one needs to be as unhappy as you speak of.

How I wish that were true. For many of us, it’s not something we have so much control over. Our brain chemistry puts a huge barrier in the way of any kind of happiness at all. Fighting that can be a years-long effort, and some people never get it right. It’s not an issue of “needs.” It’s an issue of capability. It’s kind of like saying “no one needs to have leg bones.” Yeah. True. But what kind of life would that be?

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

My life was totally dedicated to pleasing another person. She’s gone and the whole structure of my life collapsed with her death. There are many things that I could or should be doing, but to what end? Even finishing my PhD would only be done in her memory, only because she wanted me to do it. An empty shell, collapsing from no framework.

A cautionary tale, I suppose. Don’t build your own self-esteem around another person. Easier said than done.

philosopher's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land
I admit my life is linked with my Husband and Son.
My Son is Autistic and despite that I am very anti-drug; since Seventeen we have had to give him Abilify . Some people have chemical imbalances in their Brains. Many people that do are actually very intelligent people.
I know Bipolar and high functioning Autistic people that are brilliant.
I do not think we have the right to judge them. If they do not harm us we should respect them as they choose to be.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land

Have you ever considered seeing a grief counselor? It sounds to me as if you are “stuck” at some point in the grieving process and could use a bit of help being able to continue. At the ripe old age of 66, I’ve been through my share of grieving and it’s often not easy. You seem like a bright, personable person caught in a web of circumstances, some of which are beyond your control just now. We all lose people from time to time. We owe it to them to pick up the pieces and continue living… for both of us.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@philosopher @CaptainHarley Thanks. I’ve done the counselling route. I either don’t relate to them well (Aspergers) or they don’t seem to be able to tell me what is grief vs depression. They seem to just want me to take the meds and go away. I’m on max dosage of Paxil right now and it doesn’t seem to do anything, other than a certain “don’t give a damn” feeling (better than suicidal I suppose). It’s been less than 3 months since her death, I know that I have to get off my ass and do something, but it all feels so hopeless. My lifes plans all revolved around Meg.

partyparty's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land One step forward each day… don’t look back.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@partyparty that’s what I’m doing, existing day-by-day.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land

What would Meg tell you right now if she could talk to you?

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@CaptainHarley I feel mixed signals, either “joining her” or going on with what we planned, but alone. Finishing the PhD is one thing I could do for both of us, since she didn’t live long enough to complete hers. Maybe a short-term goal, but enough to get past a barrier in my own mind. Motivation and getting free of the depression is stopping me. The creative thoughts won’t flow.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land

You know she wouldn’t want you to cut your own life short, for any reason. If I were you, I’d do my best to finish my PhD, then do my best to live the sort of life she would have wanted you to live.

wunday's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land Are you looking for advice?

I’m worried about your experience with therapists. Have you tried many? Do you have financial concerns with seeing them?

What kind of PhD are you going for? Do you have any interest in your research at all, or was your entire motivation based on doing something for Meg?

Anyway, I think that if you focus on the “so what” portion of your prospectus, it might give you more of a reason to do the work. Helping others is a reason to do your work, although, in my opinion, if your work doesn’t really help others, you should find something else to do. That’s what I’ve always been about. ‘Course when I felt like I’d failed to make any difference whatsoever, it didn’t help much that I had been trying to help. I’d rather be helping than trying.

Do you have a cohort of grad students you can get along with? What about your advisor, or any other professors? I think it’s a little more convenient to find folks to hang with in academia, but still, you have to go after it, which is kind of impossible when you’re depressed.

fluther did wonders for me. I think you are using it that way, too. Hang on. Stick around. You’ll make friends (and you have already), and I’ll bet you’ll find yourself ever so slowly coming back out from under that miasma that depression is.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@wunday @CaptainHarley Thank you for your concern. I’m not currently associated with any university. I left the PhD program over 30 years ago when I entered the Army. It was always a “loose end” that I had indended to deal with after retiring. Although I was a military engineer by profession, my real passion has always been history. My uncompleted thesis is on the battleship race 1890–1914, from a technological and political perspective. Since my original work was done at the height of the Cold War and was drawing parellels, much of my work will have to be reconsidered from a purely historical context of a century ago.
The problem I have with counselors is not financial. Very few know anything about Aspergers Syndrome, much less how it relates to greif and depression. Except for my wife and her tiny circle of friends, I was never able to deal with other people with anything approaching intimacy. My military career was all procedures, problem solving and mimicking the public behavior of officers I respected.
Since Megs death, I’ve isolated myself in a small cabin about 200 miles from the home we built.. I was a solitary person before we met and I’ve returned to that status now. I know that I will have to return to “her” world to finish my doctorate, Dartmouth being the only school likely to accept my thesis proposal (my alma mater, family connections, etc). Being around people who loved her and had recieved her help (she was a psychological counselor) just seem to throw me backwards
I’m pretty much past the breakdown, no longer actively suicidal. I still often wish I were dead or wish it had been me rather than Meg, but I’m not going to act in that direction. The AS at my age is untreatable, grief has to take care of itself. I have to get on the right meds to get rid of this depression in order to move forward. Any kind of “social” cure is out of the question, the AS rules that out.
Currently, I live a life of forced routines, solitary; my only routine contact with others being the internet (almost exclusively Fluther). Waiting for the meds to do some good, little if anything so far

CaptainHarley's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land

We have similar backgrounds, and there were periods in my life when I was pretty much solitary. Although I never got to begin my Ph.D. ( having taken a mercifully brief detour to law school ), I have recently decided to pursue that long-time goal of mine.

It’s very gratifying to hear that you are no longer suicidal. I obvously didn’t know Meg, but I would be willing to bet that she would be deeply distressed if you sill were.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@CaptainHarley Our interest in bikes is similar also. I have a ‘38 ULH. I just have to put one boot in front of the other, do what needs to be done, get my head on straight (meds?) and live my life for both of us now. Thanks, my friend.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land

You’re more than welcome, bro. Sounds to me as if you’re headed in the right direction. When things start to bother me, I go riding. It clears my head. : )

CaptainHarley's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land

BTW, don’t forget that you’re grieving for yourself as well as for Meg. You’ve lost the one most dear to you in life, and that loss is grievous. You’ll discover that as your grief for Meg diminishes, so will your grief for yourself. It helps if you start remembering the happy times more often than the loss. So long as we live on in the hearts of those who loved us, we are never truly gone.

SeventhSense's avatar

You guys need to get a room. :P

CaptainHarley's avatar

@SeventhSense , please STFU. LOL! Hey! I DID say “please!” : D

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@CaptainHarley I’m trying to turn my focus to the positive things now. Congrats on your remission! @SeventhSense I hope that you will never have to live through the things that we have. We’re just offering each other support. Pax?

CaptainHarley's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land

You’re on the right track then, bro. Just keep on keepin’ on. : )

augustlan's avatar

[mod says] Let’s get back to the actual topic, please.

Also, for what it’s worth, both @SeventhSense and @CaptainHarley seemed to have been joking, in a good-natured way.

Response moderated

Answer this question

Login

or

Join

to answer.
Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
or
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther