By Okeke Chibueze
It has somewhat become a norm in our society today that people wallow in low self-esteem as a result of the feeling of inadequacy. Self-confidence is that pride, belief and certainty you have in yourself which enables you to boldly stand among your peers at any point in time with your head held high because somehow, you have found a number of things about your uniqueness which makes you stand out in any place and these things have raised your pride and belief in yourself. While we want to consider the many advantages of self-confidence, it is quite sad that many of our young people grow up with very low self-esteem and as such always see themselves as lacking in one way or the other, unfit for their society or at worst, miserable before their peers.
A lot of things contribute to this in so many ways and thus, rob our children and youths the joy of living their lives and fulfilling their purpose in life. At the same time, there are a lot of dangers associated with this and I will do the much I can to enumerate these factors while proffering solutions as well. Self-confidence in a child helps him remain positive in many ways and this, in the long run, contributes positively to the society at large because it also influences his attitude towards life, his peers and fellow members of his immediate society and beyond. It is quite understandable that parents are the very first and most influential teachers a child can ever have, and with this in mind, we will also agree that parents have some major roles to play in boosting the self-confidence in a child as he grows up. This is why we have the disparity in the attitudes of children when they converge at various places like school, religious institutions among others.
It has somewhat become a norm in our society today that people wallow in low self-esteem as a result of the feeling of inadequacy.
Today’s article will be focused on the various factors that militate against a child’s self-confidence, hoping that this will also help us change some of the ways we have contributed to this worm that eats up our children and youths, thus, tearing away the fabrics of our society in consequence. From my research on this issue, I have come to understand that chief amongst the various factors that destroys a child’s self-esteem is Comparison. This is true for both children, youths and adults alike, and in most cases, the one who compares always sees the subject of his comparison as more fortunate and in a better condition than himself. This in turn makes him feel inferior, and thus demeans his own fortunes and positive conditions around himself. A quick look at the various aspects of comparison will help us understand the many destructive blows it deals on our children, youths and the future of our society.
- Parental Comparison:
While it is notable that a child has many forces and challenges to deal with as he grows up, it is also important we understand that these challenges amount to nothing if that child has the strong backing of understanding and supportive parent parents. It makes the growth and development of the child more comfortable, fun filled and most importantly, complete. However, when the home front also becomes a battlefield for the child, it becomes a more difficult task for him as he looks to external influences for solace and this can be very detrimental to the growth of the child. The following subtopics will focus on the various areas parents, through unfair comparison, upset their children. It is important that parents and intending parents learn some from these and ensure positive contributions to the growth and development of their children as there are more negative and opposing forces a child has to battle with as he grows up than the positive.
- Peer Comparison
A number of times children are faced with the constant bashing from parents who are eager to spur them into being like other children around them. Without recourse to the different factors playing out in their lives, and of course the various purposes for which they are born, they continually rob it in the face of the children that they are not doing enough, not because they really are not, but because they are being judged by the yardstick of other children around them. With this constant discomfort from home, from those who should be a source of encouragement to the child, he begins to seek out those things which make his peers “better” while playing down on his own uniqueness and special qualities. Gradually, the child loses focus of his own dreams, goals and aspirations and begins to live just to satisfy the expectations of his parents.
Another harm this does to the child is that it alienates him from his parents and peers at the same time. First, the child is no longer comfortable around his parents because he feels unworthy of them since he is not able to meet their expectations of him. Thus, he is left alone facing the challenges of his age without any aids. His determination to prove his parents wrong sets him in a competing state with them and so he is struggling to succeed against all odds, not because he has a plan on what to do with the success when attained but because he just wants to prove those who said he cannot wrong. His feelings of inadequacy and inferiority keep him away from responsibilities he should live up to. As a result of constant negative comments from home, he finds it difficult to live out his potentials both at the home front and in the larger society. Among his peers, even when he is of excellent attitude and character, he feels unfit and insecure, seeing more of his weaknesses than his strengths. This keeps his confidence on himself and his abilities on a very low scale and once this happens, his mindset remains at that point of insecurity, unworthiness and he sees himself as a social misfit.
Generally, parents should understand that each child has a unique purpose for which he is born, and they should do well to help the child discover that purpose, pursue it in his own unique way, and make no form of comparison between one child and the other. Worthy of note is the fact that even children born of same parents do not grow into the same types of adults. The diversity is what makes each man useful to his generation and this should be well appreciated, nurtured and harnessed until the fruit thereof is seen and enjoyed by the society at large.
- Comparison with Parents
“When I was your age”. I guess you have heard those words from your parents, guardians or older persons around you. It is with words like these that parents and elders remind their children or younger ones around them of how slow or backward they are in the comity of children and young persons. For instance, when a child does not perform up to expectations, you hear the mother or father say something like “when I was your age, I was always at the top of the class.” “When I was your age, I was already fending for myself and did not have to continue depending on my parents”. At times it is comparison between what the children of a neighbours are doing for their parents and what you are not doing for yours. “Mama Nkechi’s son just bought her a new car, and here you are still trying to pay ordinary house rent”. Gradually, these young persons begin to feel inadequate and unfit for their generation. With time they begin to see more of what they had not done and less of what they had done. Dissatisfaction with themselves begin to creep in so much that even when they are making good progress in some areas of their lives, they still feel they are doing nothing because that yardstick with which their parents judge progress is not affected positively.
Parents who do this mount unnecessary pressure on their children who in turn run to the society for help, thus creating the risk of them falling into the wrong hands. When children from this kind of home come together, they begin to build a chain of support for each other which, if not checked, may result into social vices like cultism, drug addiction, theft and robbery, etc. These youths try to find solutions to the pressure they face on their own and so explore options which they think will give quicker response to their needs, and since they are without guidance, everything works for them and this leads them into many ditches.
- Comparison with Models
In the course of their growth, most persons have established idols in their hearts of someone they consider role models. These role models were probably not known during their days of incubation while they built their profiles, and some may not even afford you the full details of what they had to go through to get to where they are.
Thus, the followers are left to continually wish, “One day I will be like him” while groping in the dark as regards to how to be like him. Every event or show that will have this “idol” in attendance is a “must-attend” for these followers as they derive this inexplicable satisfaction from watching him perform or deliver a speech after which they go back to their homes or endeavours the same way they came. This remains a routine and of course, they join the discussion and analysis around the latest events or programs in town. Somehow, they create a comfort zone for themselves such that as far as they can keep up to date with the life of their “idol” they are satisfied. Idols exist in every sector of the society from entertainment (music, sports, movies, etc.) to politics, religion to academics, etc. it is said that you can reach a man you look up to. Thus, haven made an idol of their role models, they create a false climax in their mindset which keeps them within a confine and thus, they do not bother growing beyond the said level. These idols become their scale for measuring what is good or evil, what is acceptable and what is not. They have no sense of judgment on their own, and even that which they detest, once done by their idol, they find ways to excuse such actions because as far as they are concerned, “he cannot be wrong”.
- Comparison with Past Generations
There is a constant change in every aspect of life as we move from one generation to the other. This change is seen in cultural, religious, economic, political and social aspects of the society. For instance, there were days when, in Nigeria, the only religions known were Christianity, Islam and African Traditional Religion. At first it was African Traditional Religion before missionaries of various other religions came in with the colonial masters. In the areas of cultural and social changes, the early Igbo men never knew what it meant to bow when greeting an elder except in the case of a traditional monarch. But today, it is gradually becoming a norm in Igboland that you bow when greeting an elder. This can be credited to the cultural interaction between Ndigbo and their Yoruba neighbours. Before now, marriage between a man and a woman could be arranged by the two families and to strangers will become man and wife without knowing each other beforehand. But today, there is need, not just to meet and know each other but to also decide whether or not to marry, how long to date or court before marriage, check compatibility status and of course, medical fitness of both partners too. All these are examples of generational changes and evolutions that have continued to happen from one generation to the other, and these make it clearly unfair to compare a present generation with a past one in relation to the upbringing of a child.
We spend a lot of times comparing our generation with past ones in so many areas, forgetting that each generation comes with its own uniqueness, negative and positive, and what makes them stand out is their ability to coordinate these factors for their own good. For instance, my mum once told me that her mother never stopped beating her brothers when she deemed it necessary even when they were above thirty years. This she has said a number of times in her efforts to emphasize her belief that “okwuru adigh akari onye kuru ya” (an okra tree can never grow bigger than its owner). Thus, she believes you must remain submissive to your parents’ will no matter your age, and when you don’t, you get the necessary punishment whether beating, scolding or manual labour, irrespective of your age. Imagine this kind of example in a generation where the society is trying to do away with the cane as a means of correcting a child. Then the example of females not having a say in Igboland in the days of yore. But today, women are building economic and political empires while their husbands (for those who are enlightened) give them full support. These examples are deemed necessary so as to help us understand that with each generation comes new developments and new challenges too which cannot be compared or used as a yardstick to judge one another. We have seen many youths being motivated by the feats achieved by men like Aliko Dangote who, according to history, started his business with N500,000.00. According to these motivational speakers, “if he could do it then, you can as well do more now” while we forget that the factors at play during his time and ours are not the same. For instance, he started business during the industrial age while we now exist in the information age. Two the economic and political factors are not the same as he had less to compete with, and also gathered more supports than the average Nigerian youth can boast of today. Three, he existed when we prided in our natural resources which were our means of economic buoyancy but today, we have become so lazy that if it is not “oyel money” then it does not get any form of support from the government of the day. Finally, he started business at a time when the government was responsible for the citizens but today, the government cares less about your welfare. You are only remembered when your votes are needed to afford them another four years to steal and squander the resources we once boasted of.
Generational comparison has made a lot of young persons lose their sense of pride in what they do, say or believe in. Gradually, we have lost our sense of clear understanding of some basic factors that determine what happens in a society and this continues to eat us up as our children and youths are further confused. This has kept the younger generation in perpetual state of being second fiddles to the older. We just want to hold on to the judgment of the older generations as the only yardstick for measuring our sense of values. Even when it is clear we are just being used as sycophants and “political halleluyah boys” we remain “loyal” because we believe we cannot attain relevance without such blind loyalty, and on the other hand, it puts money in our pockets and food on our tables. Unfortunately, we are, among other woes, cursed with some elders who would rather keep us from seeing some basic truths because they know that we would rock their comfort zones if made aware of certain things. In order to keep us subjugated, they continue to inject into our skulls the sermon of “youths of nowadays are lazy’ while they keep dolling out stipends to keep us dependent on them.
- Societal Comparison:
One major challenge we have continued to face as a people irrespective of the societal enclave or demarcations is unfair and unnecessary comparison with others who, according to us, are same with us but are probably some steps ahead depending on the criteria of measurement. In making these comparisons, we forget or ignore the fact that every society has to go through the various stages of civilization, and while some move more slowly through the stages, others are faster depending on the specific factors at play in each society or societal enclave. We will do a little survey of some of these forms of comparison below as we hope to redirect our minds to some basic facts we have thus far ignored in crave to be like others.
…To be continued next week Friday