People-rating is like judging a book by its cover. Let us say the rating is directed at yourself. You start by evaluating one of your personal traits: how you look, what you are like at sports or study, how you do as a worker or parent. Or you focus on something you have done – a behaviour.
You then rate (evaluate) the trait or behaviour concerned. You decide whether it is worthwhile or has value. So far so good. If you stopped there, you would have no problem.
But, like most people, you probably go a big step further and expand the rating of that one trait or behaviour into a rating of your ‘total self’. You end up saying things like:
I did a bad thing, therefore I am a bad person.
I said something bitchy – this makes me a bitch.
Because I cannot handle his arguments, I am dumb.
I lost my temper with the kids today – this shows I am hopeless as a parent.
It’s as though, in some magical way, one part of a person becomes the total person.
This does not make sense. People are mixtures of positive and negative traits. But a single rating of your ‘total self’ suggests that the rating applies to all of your many traits and behaviours. Not only is this an overgeneralisation, but you can never know every one of a given person’s characteristics and actions anyway. People-rating, too, implies that someone has always been this way and always will be – but, in reality, people are always changing.
People-rating also implies that there is a universally accepted guideline for judging the worth of people. To rate yourself as, say, a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ person, suggests that you have some kind of standard of what is a good or bad person to which you can compare yourself. But there is no such standard with which everyone would agree. The standards which do exist for judging people and their characteristics change between different periods and differ between social groups. People who behave aggressively for instance, may be defined as ‘courageous people’ in wartime – but in periods of peace regarded as ‘violent criminals’.
Note, too, that people-rating is based on the irrational process of demanding. If you are comparing yourself with some kind of standard, this says that you believe you should, somehow, be living up to that standard. In other words, you are operating on some kind of ‘universal law of human behaviour’. But where does this universal law come from? Your own head!
Unfortunately, most of us engage in self-rating to some extent. You are probably doing it when:
You forever strive – no matter what the cost – to achieve and succeed: at work, as parent and homemaker, with your possessions, or even your recreation.
You feel guilt or shame when you do not live up to what you expect.
You get anxious about trying anything which may involve a risk of failure.
You compare yourself with other people.
You worry about how others see you.
You get defensive, hostile, and feel hurt when you think someone is criticising you.
You go out of your way to seek approval from others, conforming to what they expect and putting their views before your own.
You often check your opinions with others, because you do not value your own judgements.
You put up a false front with grandiose talk, attention-seeking behaviour, or trying to be one-up on others.
You underrate and neglect your talents, thinking you are not good enough to enjoy pleasurable things, and reject compliments by saying you do not deserve them.
The problem with ‘self-esteem’