DR. WALLACE: What does the term "self-esteem" really mean? I always hear people talking about a "lack of self-esteem," but I never hear anybody say that someone has an abundance of self-esteem. Can someone have too much of it? Is it a good trait to have? I hear a lot of teachers and counselors at our school mention this phrase, but it is not entirely clear to me what context they are referring to. I want to have good traits, not bad ones, and I'm willing to work on improving myself by learning and developing good habits. Can self-esteem become a habit? — Curious, Denver
CURIOUS: Having self-esteem is feeling that you matter and you have importance to other people, to the world and to yourself. People with high self-esteem see themselves as confident, proud, well-liked, happy, talented and so forth. Those with low self-esteem often feel lonely, tired, angry, bored, fearful and worthless. It is good to have a healthy amount of self-esteem without it turning into conceit or arrogance. Much of life is driven by our attitudes; my advice is to know you are an important person who matters to many others (and to yourself as well). Treat yourself and your body accordingly. Be proud of who you are and how you treat others. This is one of the most important lessons any student of life can learn.
And yes, developing a healthy dose of self-esteem can indeed become a habit. Focus on your strengths, skills and talents, and also on how much you mean to many important people in your life. Think positive thoughts or affirmations along these lines, and know that you are a highly valued person. Make it a habit to respect and like yourself — without becoming arrogant — and you will be well on your way to developing the excellent habit of having good self-esteem.
SHE WANTS TO JOIN THE ARMY
DR. WALLACE: My mother and father were both in the military. In fact, that's where they met. I have wanted to join the Army ever since I can remember. My parents are all for it, but my two older brothers don't like the idea. They keep telling me that the military gives a girl a very bad reputation and society "looks down" on girls in the Army. Of course, this makes my mother furious. I graduated from high school recently, and my plan is to enlist in the Army shortly.
Besides learning new skills, the Army has promised to partially pay for a college degree that I can start while I'm still in the service. Please give me your opinion. I am a loyal reader of your teen column. — Army Girl, Topeka, Kansas
ARMY GIRL: You sure know how to say the right words to get your request answered. First of all, let me say that your older brothers are not in touch with reality. Today, women play an extremely important role in the military. The jobs they perform are done with as much or greater skill than their male counterparts. There is room for many valuable young people of both genders in today's military. The service provides a chance to experience growth and develop jog skills, self-reliance, discipline and camaraderie. On top of all of this, each individual who serves can count on being looked up to by a grateful nation.
The military cannot damage a person's reputation. It's what one does or does not do while in the armed services that determines one's reputation. From what I gather from reading your letter, I am confident you have what it takes to succeed. I say go for it, as you feel this is your calling at this point in your life.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.