Most of us will be familiar about how the judicial system works. You’re accused of a crime and if there’s enough evidence to back up the alleged crime you’re arrested, charged and brought before the courts. For even that much to happen there has to be evidence, witnesses, fingerprints, or maybe CCTV.
The next step is that the accusation is brought to court and the prosecution presents the evidence to a judge / jury about why they believe you’e guilty. Then it’s the turn of the defence to argue why you’re not guilty and argue in your favour. The judge and jury consider the evidence for and against and to reach a conclusion that you’re guilty they must be convinced that you committed the crime beyond all reasonable doubt. There can be no room for misinterpretation or doubt of any kind. So in most cases if you are found guilty it is because there has been enough evidence to convince a judge and 12 people that it is beyond any doubt that you did it.
Now I want you to imagine a different scenario. A Garda spots you on the street and for no good reason only they don’t like the look of you, you look dogdy, arrests you and brings you before the courts accused of something. The only evidence that they have is that they feel that you look guilty of something. That’s the only evidence, a feeling. In this scenario the prosecution presents their evidence to the court that they believe you are guilty because the Garda and the prosecution believes that you are, no other evidence, just that. In this scenario there is no defence present, just the prosecution. If our judicial system worked this way, based on feelings alone to convict and no defence, then there will be only one outcome…..
Everyone would be sent to jail with no more evidence to justify it other than a “feeling”. I’m not sure we could ever have enough Gardai or prison spaces to cope if this was how our judicial system worked and if it did work this way I think you’d have a pretty angry and resentful population that would revolt at the unfairness of it all. I’m not sure there’s anyone (beyond the characters in the Handmaid’s Tale) who would agree with or be happy with such a system. It all sounds a bit mad and unworkable.
The Conviction of Self-Esteem
It may surprise you that as unfair as the above scenario sounds, that is exactly what happens with a lot of the people I work with who have a less than positive view of themselves. I hear all too frequently the following types of comments
I‘m “weird, boring, ugly, a nuisance, thick, unlikeable, unlovable, too fat, too skinny, too short, boring”
No-one likes me
Everyone hates me
I’m not good enough
I’m a burden to my friends and family & they’d be better off without me
If you’re someone who consistently thinks these kinds of things then would it be any wonder if you had poor self-esteem? How could you feel anything else but bad believing these things?
And what standard of evidence generally supports these beliefs?
Well I feel like I’m weird, boring, ugly, a nuisance, thick, unlikeable, unlovable, too fat, too skinny, too short, boring”
I “feel like”
Would you be happy to be convicted in court, found guilty, based on a feeling? Feelings are very real, they can be uncomfortable, we can feel overwhelmed by them, but they usually pass and they’re a pretty poor standard of evidence for anything.
But lets be real here, is it realistic that no-one will ever think we’re weird, boring, unlikable etc. Of course not, it’s theoretically possible, maybe even likely that some people might think that. But if we’re to come to such a far reaching conclusion that we’re all those things and we’re not “good enough” then surely we need to make damn sure that we have considered all the evidence first (with feelings being pretty poor evidence) and that evidence is so sure that there is no room for doubt.
Our justice system is based on a concept of balance of probabilities. Both the prosecution and the defence are given equal opportunities. For many people I work with, they do not afford themselves such an opportunity and instead experience something called a confirmation bias
What this means is that they believe that they’re not good enough and then selectively (consciously or unconsciously) find information or feelings that confirms what they believed from the very beginning, that they’re not good enough.
So what’s the alternative?
Is the aim to go from believing that we’re worthless to thinking we are the greatest thing ever to happen to mankind (thinking of a few public figures recently who likely think this and would you really want to replace feelings or worthlessness with narcissism? ). Probably not a realistic or helpful aim.
This is where our justice system comes back into play. If we are to be drawing such serious conclusions about our self-worth then we need to make sure we have considered all the evidence in a balanced way. Lets take me as an example. Languages are not my strong point, all I can remember from German is how to say I’m a 12 year old pencil, not terribly helpful phrase to have.
I have literally no music ability beyond pressing play on spotify (how much more do you need really?). In college I got a white electric guitar, amp and 5 guitar lessons and one and a half lessons in the teacher refunded my money, seemingly I have no rhythm? Do these limitations mean I’m useless at everything? Hopefully not. I’m an average-ish golfer, reasonably good with technology, half decent GAA coach and when needed an expert waffler.
So overall in terms of self-esteem, a mixed bag, as most of us are, good at some stuff, average at lots and not great at some stuff. All of this will balance out on the scales of self-esteem, we’re neither good nor bad, as usual mostly somewhere in the middle, and that’s good enough, a concept we’ll be coming back again and again in these blogs.
And for the most part for most people Good enough is good enough