How Men and Women Develop Self-Esteem

Question: You have stated in your books that men and women develop self-esteem in different ways. Would you explain that?

Answer: Men and women have the same needs for self-worth and belonging, but they typically approach those needs from a different angle...especially if the woman is a stay-at-home mom. A man derives his sense of worth primarily from the reputation he earns in his job or profession. He draws emotional satisfaction from achieving in business, becoming financially independent, developing a highly respected craft or skill, supervising others, becoming "boss," or by being loved and appreciated by his patients, clients, or fellow businessmen. The man who is successful in these areas does not depend on his wife as his primary shield against feelings of inferiority. Of course, she plays an important role as his companion and lover, but she isn't essential to his self-respect day by day.

By contrast, a stay-at-home mom approaches her marriage from a totally different perspective. She does not have access to "other" sources of self-esteem commonly available to her husband. She can cook a good dinner, but once it is eaten, her family may not even remember to thank her for it. Her household duties do not bring her respect in the community, and she is not likely to be praised for the quality of her dusting techniques. Therefore, the more isolated she becomes, the more vital her man will be to her sense of fulfillment, confidence, and well-being. Let's reduce it to a useful oversimplification: men derive self-esteem by being respected; women feel worthy when they are loved. This may be the most important personality distinction between the sexes.

Dr. Dobson Answers Your Questions

By Dr. James Dobson

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