Identity And Self Esteem: A Look At Self Verification In African American Literature

3392 words - 14 pages

Individuals are born into families, races, cultures, and countries, but have little awareness of their individuality as very young children. The psychological sense of being separate individuals from their families or caretakers appears to be of little importance until they recognize themselves as separate selves. This is true for all human beings in all cultures, but for races or cultures who have been marginalized, having a separate identity and gaining self-esteem appear to play an even more important role. This essay will look at African American literature from a psychological perspective. From Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs to Zora Neale Hurston's Delia in "Sweat" to James Baldwin's John in Go Tell It On the Mountain, group and individual identity, in conjunction with a high level of self-esteem, are critical factors in determining the successes achieved by individuals and literary characters in the African American literary tradition. Without this sense of group identity, individual identity, and self-esteem, the African American character becomes like Richard Wright's Bigger Thomas and can not survive.

Self-esteem is an important component of human growth. Abraham Maslow's psychological theory argues for a hierarchy of needs composed of a pyramid of five levels. "Beyond the details of air, water, food, and sex, he laid out five broader layers: physiological needs, needs for safety and security, needs for love and belonging, needs for esteem, and the need to actualize the self, in that order. " (Boeree)

Maslow argued that few reach the highest level of self-actualization. According to his research, only about 2% of the population reach that level, and most of those were historical figures-Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt (Boeree). However, according to Dr. Boeree's understanding of the self-actualization level, this level includes "the continuous desire to fulfill potentials, to 'be all that you can be,' … [and] is a matter of becoming the most complete, the fullest, 'you' -- hence the term, self-actualization." If this theory is applied to some of the individuals and characters in African American literature, it could be argued that some manage to reach the level of self-actualization or at least the level of self-esteem, which is so important to identity, despite the denial of food and safety, and in the midst of prejudice, poverty, and/or slavery.

Before applying this theory to individuals and characters to be reviewed in this essay, however, it is worth considering another more recent theory about self-esteem in conjunction with Maslow's. Alicia D. Cast in "A Theory of Self-Esteem" argues the following:

[S]elf-esteem is an outcome of, and necessary ingredient in, the self-
verification process that occurs within groups, maintaining both the
individual and the group. Verification of role identities increases an individual's worth-based and efficacy-based self-esteem. The self-esteem built up...

Find Another Essay On Identity and Self-Esteem: A Look at Self-Verification in African American Literature

Grades and Self-Esteem Essay

1954 words - 8 pages Death of a Salesman, and research performed by the American Psychological Society (subsequently renamed the Association for Psychological Science) show how grades and self-esteem share a direct correlation. In Death of a Salesman Biff and Bernard both demonstrate how grades and self-esteem correlate. In Death of a Salesman, Willie Lowman’s son Biff fails math in high school, because of this failure. Biff loses his self-esteem and therefore is

'confidence' and 'self-esteem' Essay

991 words - 4 pages capable of, at some point, producing a right answer. He produces this, if you will, artificial confidence in his mind, which we refer to as self-esteem. He is capable of thinking that he is a good student, whether he actually is or not.An expert on the topic of self-esteem, Nathaniel Branden, states, "to grow in self-esteem is to grow in the conviction that one is competent to live and worthy of happiness" (7). Accordingly, a person can have

Dating and Self Esteem

778 words - 3 pages Single adults partake of many activities to seek dates and find mates. Many useadvertisements in local newspapers to attract possible candidates for a relationship.Others go to single's clubs and bars to find their potential soul mate. The type ofactivities people choose are dependent on the person's self-esteem and self-confidence.The information for this research was obtained from the article "Self Esteem of PersonsSeeking Dates Via Bars

Obesity and Self-Esteem

925 words - 4 pages very negative self-image. This can lead to an array of problems that affect the person in a way that is much more direct and difficult to deal with than physical problems. While the problem is known to affect men, it strikes women much more often. The models and celebrities in the media that set the standard for what women should look like are thinner than 90-95 percent of the American female population (Seid p.6). This is an unrealistic

Self Esteem

1249 words - 5 pages had its past horrors and present presumptions, it does not seem to have an affect on self-esteem. In fact, African Americans and most other minorities on average have a higher self-esteem than Caucasians. (2)An individual's opinion of oneself has a directly connected to how they live all parts of their life. It influences the kinds of friends they choose, how they get along with others, the kind of person they marry, and how productive they are

Self-Esteem

1105 words - 4 pages of the self, consisting of a persons’ positive and negative self-evaluations.” (Brehm, 1999). Although most people have high self-esteem, there are various ways in which self-esteem can be measured; for example when someone is referring to a persons condition at a specific moment in time it is referred to as a “state”. If the condition is something which is an average over a period of time it is known as a “trait”. Someone who has low

Self-Esteem

1368 words - 6 pages factors that affect in a bad way our self esteem some of them being stereotypes, our own mind, bullying but also factors that affected in a good way like family, Sterotypes is the factor that most affects us in a bad way our self-esteem. We as humans have a tendency to want to fit in, and in wanitng to fit in we have to live and look according to societies standards.Many of this standards are established by famous people, magazines, television and

Self Esteem

1895 words - 8 pages throughout an individual’s lifetime. The researchers where studying three main points in this study. The first point to see if individual’s self-esteem changes when they leave high school and enter adulthood. The researchers predicted that self-esteem would have a nonlinear pattern at first but then it would start to increase in young adulthood. The second point that was studied was to determine if structural characteristics, such as individuals

Self-Esteem

1208 words - 5 pages ourselves.When we look at ourselves, do we raise our feelings of self-esteem when our behaviors are admirable, successful, or moral and lower it when we behave in less than admirable, successful, or moral ways? Self-esteem means you can continue to consider yourself as an OK person despite being less than perfect. As humans, we have a wonderful array of complexities and contradictions.We may be misunderstanding the experience of self-esteem if we

Self-Esteem

1999 words - 8 pages young from our parents or our peers. Self concept is changed through out life from how people look at you and tell you what you are to them, if they say a person is nothing then that person will believe it for as long as it takes to get over it. Self esteem is the affective or emotional aspect of self and generally refers to how we feel about or how we value ourselves, also known as one's worth (Eshkol, 2002, pp. 35-36).As people's outcomes in life

Building a Positve Self Esteem

1116 words - 5 pages positive self esteem. Many factors can allow students to have a sportive self esteem. Moving on, teens have many self esteem issues, yet the problems between boys and girls are different.Boys and girls both tend to look at themselves in the mirrors because they care about their appearance. Both genders worry about their body image, but unlike girls, boys don't really talk about the development of their bodies to close people. According to

Similar Essays

The Relation Between Self Esteem And Incarceration Rate: Among African American Males In The Foster Care System

904 words - 4 pages African American males in the foster care system, a 3x2 contingency table will be used. The table will include both percentages and numbers, based upon the statistical significant on a .05 level with a chi- square test. Projected Results The results will show that the participants that indicated on the questionnaire, that they have been incarcerated scored lower on both the Rosenberg and the Revise Janis and Field self-esteem test. The participants

A Child's Self Esteem Essay

1115 words - 4 pages with unmotivated teachers, ignorant peers, doubting parents, and possibly not knowing, or not being able to afford, the trends of the time. Such burdens are unmistakably the main causes of low self-esteem. Too often, teachers of all subjects lose their patience and desire to teach. When this situation occurs, a student who already doesn’t have a fair amount of confidence in him/her self is unable to achieve the necessary praise and cooperation

Self Esteem In Women Essay

1071 words - 4 pages our perceptions of ourselves and consequently lead to a lack self-esteem and self-confidence. Family and friends can also make you feel inadequate as a maturing teenager by criticising, instead of complementing you. This can be a real confidence knock as clearly, if anybody receives streams of criticism about their look they’re going to start not liking themselves and pride in their appearance will completely shatter. We shouldn’t care what

Self Esteem And Grading Essay

824 words - 4 pages Death of a Salesman, and research performed by the American Psychological Society (subsequently renamed the Association for Psychological Science) show how grades and self-esteem share a direct correlation. In Death of a Salesman Biff and Bernard both demonstrate how grades and self-esteem correlate. In Death of a Salesman, Willie Lowman’s son Biff fails math in high school, because of this failure. Biff loses his self-esteem and therefore is