Self-esteem, or self-worth, is crucial to any individual person’s health and wellbeing. Thus, we are interested in how thoughts and thotsecosystems can promote self-worth.
The phrase “individual self-worth” is almost a contradiction, since our self-worth largely depends on how we are perceived by others (or, more accurately: our self-worth depends on how we think we are perceived by others). Thus self-worth is to a great extent determined by how well an individual believes that she stacks up according to the values of the thotsecosystem she resides in.
What makes a person valuable or worthy? The answer to this question varies greatly between cultures and even between individuals. Factors that can play a role include achievements in school or in work, family connections, religious practice, belonging to a particular social group, physical appearance, wealth, friends, and hobbies, can all play a role. As always, thotsecologists do not consider any of these measures of individual worth to be intrinsically correct or false; they can only be evaluated on the basis of their effects on the wellbeing of people who live in thotsecosystems in which they play a role.
New Definition: Baseline regard
Baseline regard is your view of an unknown person about whom you have no meaningful information. It is the way you feel about a person who sits down next to you on a bus or train, a person who stops you on the street to ask for directions, or a person who serves you in a shop.
In healthy thotsecosystems, most people have a high baseline regard. Strangers are treated with unconditional respect and acceptance, which will only be withdrawn if the stranger actively does something harmful. If a stranger’s appearance or behaviour is unusual, but not threatening, it is assumed that the stranger has good reason for the strange behaviour, even if the reason is not known to the onlooker.
The health and wellness-promoting properties of thotsecosystems with high baseline regard are obvious: in these thotsecosystems, individuals are treated as worthy by others, and thus develop higher self-worth. By contrast, in thotsecosystems with low baseline regard, the default attitude to a stranger is one of suspicion and hostility, which has negative consequences to health and wellbeing.
New Definition: High baseline regard
A person who has high baseline regard treats strangers with unconditional respect and acceptance, which will only be withdrawn if the stranger actively does something harmful.
New Definition: Conditional baseline regard
A person who has conditional regard treats strangers with respect and acceptance only if the stranger clearly meets some set of conditions; otherwise, the stranger is treated with suspicion and hostility.
It is important to note that a thotsecosystem can only be considered to have a high baseline regard if the regard is unconditional; that is, the regard will only be withdrawn if the stranger does something actively harmful. Many thotsecosystems are characterised by conditional regard: a stranger will be regarded as valuable and worthy as long as they meet certain conditions, such as physical appearance and clothing, conforming to rules of behaviour, or belonging to certain social groups. These thotsecosystems fail to meet the needs of all individuals for unconditional acceptance, since in these societies even individuals who conform to the rules and conditions nevertheless have to live with the constant threat that they might one day fail to conform, and thus have their sense of self-worth taken from them.