Sunday, January 22, 2012

Self-respect & Self-esteem セルフリスペクトとセルフエスティーム

I had never heard of a word, "self-esteem" until I moved to America thirty-three years ago, and yet it is a word you hear all the time in our culture in the U.S. On television shows, in books and at schools, "self-esteem" seems to be a "required" element in people and children.

When I used to work as a freelance interpreter and translator in my 20's this word always gave me a headache. In Japanese we don't quite have an exact same translation. Many Japanese dictionaries translate it as "pride" and/or "self-respect." I think that the closest word would be "self-respect," but they have different meanings.

"Self-respect" is something you create and cultivate within yourself. It is simply the feeling that that you are important as a living being, and accepting who you are. "Self-esteem" is more dependent on how you are perceived by the other, and it fluctuates by their evaluation and judgement of you. Of course, this is my own opinion, and I may be wrong. However, I am very uncomfortable when I see a Japanese dictionary translating "self-esteem" as "pride." Pride is too much of self-worth, I think. Self-esteem is rather a healthy level of self-worthiness. Again, this is only my opinion though.

"Self-esteem" is such a celebrated thing in the American culture. Too much "self" is considered as a taboo and a shameful act in Japan, and perhaps that is why we don't have that particular word in the Land of "和" (harmony). As my mother always says, "Moderation is the key," I also believe that a certain amount of self-esteem is a good idea, but cultivating a good quality of self-respect is the real key to our real happiness :)





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