Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Stress and Self-esteem

One thing I've really become fond of in my writing lately is that by continuing to introspect on articles after I publish them I tend to come up with further integrations that can lead to sort of "sequel" posts. It's really been helping me in my thinking, which is the primary aim in my writing a blog to begin with. This time I made an integration from my post on repression, and I've learned that periods of strong negative emotions can actually be a manifestation of low self-esteem. Just like how panicking over the small things in life may reveal some deeper, very important repressions of more significant issues, how one responds to stress can reveal how one estimates one's worth.

I was thinking about this during the Valentine's dinner rush at my restaurant on Saturday, when I had to take on washing dishes, stocking dishes, replenishing cooler supplies, and watching cooking items all at the same time. It was demanding, but exciting and invigorating, the stuff I live for in restaurant work. What struck me as interesting to think about during all this is to how my stress was non-existent despite the long and constant demand that I pay the utmost attention to everything. I started thinking about what it indicates of a person who would panic during such a situation. I remembered that it could reveal a fundamental stress, which the situation would add to and cause his tolerance to collapse, but I also noticed that it could reveal that a person may emotionally experience an estimate of himself.

Judging yourself has a different emotional impact than that of judging others. If you judge someone else as evil, then logically you'll experience contempt, loathing, anger, and more, and perhaps a motivation to prevent this person from spreading his evil to others (whether ideologically or physically), but if you pass that same estimate on yourself it has a different effect. Sure, one could experience the same emotions, including an addition of depression, but it causes different psychological effects and invokes motivations for different types of actions. It could easily eliminate one's motivation to foster friendships, pursue ambitious goals, take the best care of oneself, and so on. If you judge yourself as evil, then logically you'll feel as if you're not worthy of achieving these values, and in that emotional state you wouldn't be able to value the consequences of those pursuits even if you did obtain them. Judging others to be evil can motivate oneself to disassociate from them, speak out against them, and so on, but to do the same to yourself can easily ruin one's emotional health and sap all energy for value-oriented action.

In self-esteem a similar situation exists. Self-esteem is generally your estimate of yourself, and to have self-esteem means to estimate yourself as competent (in whatever context), a good person, and worthy of and able to obtain values. To not have it means to estimate yourself as incompetent, a bad (or at least "not-good") person, and unworthy of and unable to obtain values. Not having self-esteem is not as bad as judging oneself as evil, but it can really have a strong impact on one's actions and ability to cope with stress.

In my own thinking during that Valentine's rush, I noticed that being provoked to stress during rush periods may indicate that the person has low self-esteem, most probably due to irrational ideas about ability. If the person were to hold the premise, say, that ability is innate and cannot be practiced or cultivated, then an inability to perform his responsibilities properly or competently might cause him to establish a lower estimate of himself since he'll necessarily believe that self-worth is innate too. A stressful situation, therefore, would manifest to a person his "innate incompetence" and cause him to feel stressed or distressed at witnessing what he believes to be proof that he simply can't better himself to become more skilled as time passes; he believes he's stuck in that state.

I used to hold onto this premise as a small child, and it really affected my willingness to learn things. If I couldn't grasp something instantly, then I would quickly give up on it, believing it to be forever out of my grasp. As such, I quickly passed from phase to phase of trying out things that interested me, but near-instantly giving up on them when I tried them and discovered I didn't have an "innate" talent for them. Like most children, I wanted to grow up and make video games, but I never seriously pursued the course since the programming books I rented from the library were way above my head.

But this premise can easily be changed out. There's little substance to the notion that skills are innate, and while people may show an innate ability at learning and becoming competent in one area faster than others (e.g. playing the piano), in the end it's always the case that you need to exert effort to learn and develop your skills constantly. To make an emotional change in this regard, one really only needs to make explicit the premise that's irrational, refute it consciously, explicitly adapt the better alternative, and cite the new premise in mind whenever the old premise might be experienced emotionally. I believe that successful emotional change is 99% making the correct identification, which there is minor demand for altered actions afterwards.

If a person were to experience stress in the form I described above on a busy night for a restaurant, then the stress could easily be allayed by repeating over and over in one's head that one is merely inexperienced and that continued practice and exertion will lead to better skills and ability in the future. Such mantras may not help the person boost his competence right then and there, but it should do well to ease his stress, clear his head, and allow him to concentrate more intensely on the matters at hand rather than his self-doubts. Over time the new premise, that talent is not innate and can be developed, could even assist him in his endeavors by granting him the motivation to continue with his pursuits and practices no matter what his mistakes. He will then be able to earn his talent without psychological resistance.

The reason why I say that identification is the primary in changing one's emotions is because I've noticed that in my own subconscious I've been able to make drastic emotional changes just by shining a light on my premises, before I even have the chance to alter my actions accordingly. For example, I was able to cure my anxiety towards roller coasters instantly just by identifying what exactly made me so thrilled to ride them. After examining my experiences, I noticed that I was afraid that it was likely I could get injured while riding them: a beam that looked low looked like it would behead me, loops made me think we might fly off the track, and the harness felt like it could accidentally come unlocked and let me fall. I realized that while all of this can and has happened, it's incredibly unlikely that it will happen, and that accidents that do occur remain to be a rarity. Thereafter -- even before I tested myself on a ride -- I no longer experienced any intense emotion towards a ride. In fact, I've virtually lost my capacity to experience any sort of thrill on a roller coaster, and when I do ride them I concentrate more on the passing scenery, the discomfort of the shifting forces, and whether or not the ride was almost over. Even a ride that gave me an entirely new experience left me virtually unaffected, instead provoking me to contemplate what kind of knowledge and intelligence was involved in constructing the machine. Having identified what at root made me experience adrenaline, I made it so I no longer experienced intense emotions during a ride.

Just merely engaging in introspection can lead to rapid emotional changes, even before you have the chance to do anything about it. Not only can an inability to deal with stress reveal some deep repressions within a person, but it can also reveal that they have low self-esteem by fact of having adopted the premise that they can't deal with the situation a per their nature. By shining and keeping a light on this premise, the stress can easily be abated, eased, and cured. You just need to remain introspective on your premises and emotional nature.

As to myself, my best way of keeping myself concentrated on my exertion rather than the busy-ness of a restaurant as such is to treat every situation as a fun challenge to improve myself, and that as I get better I can only push myself to perform better beyond that. Besides, whatever mistakes I do make isn't going to make the costumers rebel and call for my execution, right?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comment Etiquette

1.) Do not use vulgar swear words that denote sexual activities or bodily excretions.

2.) Employ common sense manners when addressing the author or other commenters.

Additionally, you're welcome to present contrary and challenging positions within these guidelines, but please do not assume that my lack of response, even if I commented before, is evidence of my endorsement of your position.