When we attempt to label people with disabilities we are faced with a very broad spectrum of issues and concerns. There are millions of people suffering from various disabilities.
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. As we consider the connection between self-esteem and social pressures for a disabled individual, how many variables must be considered in determining the emotional drawbacks associated in the attempts at social adaptation and self-esteem for a disabled person? There are over 50% of our over-65 years of age individuals that have some level of a disability. That’s 32 million people!
On top of this, 33 million people of all ages are labeled as severely disabled and in need of special day-to-day assistance. Cancer and heart disease are the leading causes of impairment in the United States. Chronic pain suffers accounts for 86 million Americans, which falls in line behind cancer and heart disease. When we look at long-term severe disabilities, stroke is the leader. Here’s a few more statistics: • 1. 5 million Americans experience traumatic brain injury annually • About 11,000 United States individuals suffer traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) • Approximately 230,000 people live with SCI in the United States
Some individuals have unique stresses that hinder strong self-esteem. First, it’s critical to point out that a disability can range from dyslexia to mental illness to physical and cognitive impairments. They may have physical handicaps, attention deficit problems, or emotional disturbances. This can be compounded social pressure of ethnicity, race, or even environmental issues such as poverty or alcoholism in a family. However, regardless of someone’s setback in life—whether they are verbal or non-verbal, suffer emotional disturbances, or paralysis—everyone can develop positive self-esteem.
How a person feels about themselves is the catalyst toward making a happy, successful life. For, every individual has a right to be happy. It’s a choice, not something you have to earn. No one can ever take that away from someone. Unless the social pressures of adapting to society gets in the way. The late Christopher Reeve is an excellent example of someone who never allowed a physical disability to alter his smiling presence. Mr. Reeve believed that there is something positive to be gained out of every experience in life. His loss of motor functioning did not alter the empowering self-esteem he carried to his dying day.
Even when the odds were stacked against him, he continued to promote how valuable life is, and he cherished it. Self-esteem, however, for many people suffering from disabilities can cause havoc on their own life. Emotions can drain people to a state where they physically shutdown, losing desire. This desire can be in direct relation to social pressure. For our youth, peer pressure can have an overwhelming impact on performance, both in school and on the home front. For individuals who suffer from a learning disability, their differences, regardless of how small or large, can magnify the issue of social pressures.
Once the social pressure is felt, its emotional weight can create other problems. There is a connection between social pressures and low self-esteem; For, we must also consider environmental and social stresses like poverty, neglect, or parents suffering from alcoholism. All of this can destroy a disabled person’s self-esteem. These environmental concerns and social pressures can take its toll and destroy hope. Sometimes hope is the main factor fueling disabled people as they attempt to hurdle life’s self-esteem challenges.
An individual with poor self-esteem might be more inclined to settle for lesser accomplishments, both, in the classroom settings and in life. He or she may suffer through humiliation, depression, and lack of ability to earn respect from others. At the same time, low self-esteem can make a disabled person seek favor from social groups to gain a sense of belonging. Many times, however, this may not be positive or healthy. For example, drug and alcohol abuse can pressure any individual, and those with disabilities face even greater challenges due to the separation they feel through social pressures in peer groups.
Hearing impairment, for example, in some disabled individuals can lead to denial. As a hearing impaired individual struggles to socially adapt, he or she is bound to face esteem issues. Here, it’s the social stigma of succeeding in society that fosters this lack of self-esteem. The extra effort required to communicate in society causes social pressure and can, in turn lead to depression. About 100 million people nation-wide—that’s 40%—are affected by hearing loss, in one way or another. This statistic is rather staggering. For the disabled population, hearing loss create a greater percentage of psychological problems than other disabilities.
True, it is apparent that there is a connection between self-esteem and social pressure but there are underlying problems that must be considered. Firstly, part of dilemma surrounding disabled individuals in relation to self- esteem and social pressures is unsubstantiated—the results are mixed. This inconsistency is based on parental perceptions (Gresham & Reschly, 1986; Sater & French, 1989), teacher perceptions (Bursuck, 1989; McKinnery, McClure, & Feagan, 1982), and peer perceptions (Garrett & Crump, 1980; Kistner & Gatlin, 1989; Vaughan, Hogan, Kouzekanani, & Shapiro, 1990).
Among the above three perceptions, some of the studies found positive results and some were negative. Thus, according to these statistics, there is conclusive evidence that these parallels are unfounded. On top of this, there are also differences found between various males and females in relation to self-concept, as well as students in regular and special education classes. The topic of mainstreaming further blurs this evidence. So, even though self-esteem issues are apparent within the spectrum of the disabled, similar self-esteem issues are apparent in the mainstreamed individual.
Thus, it is unfair to label the disability as the reason for low self-esteem. Secondly, from another stance, in order for people to feel self-esteem they must rate themselves against a set of criteria. They rate themselves in comparison to other people’s successes. Often times, people can feel good about themselves if they succeed at something. However, the problem comes when we don’t measure up to that success. Also, is it really hard to feel good about yourself just because you are a kind, decent person?
This is another challenge to interpreting self-esteem and how it affects disabled or non-disabled people. Also, what makes a person feel down about themselves? It goes back to the measuring device. So, the act of rating oneself becomes the real issue that can lead to emotional problems such as depression. It’s the measuring device that sets up loss of self-esteem
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