Self Esteem and Dyslexia

Wise people say it is good to act to change the things you can change, accept the things you can't and even better to know the difference between the two.

You may be a parent or a teacher supporting a dyslexic child. You may be a dyslexic adult wondering how best to help yourself. If so, here is something to bear in mind. The single most important variable that affects the outcome of a person's life is self-esteem. Although prowess at academic and literacy skills is important – and can contribute to positive feelings – they are not more important than a healthy attitude to who and how you are.

A person who has weaknesses in some area of functioning but has good self-esteem is very likely to succeed, be happy and enjoy their life. They will find a way. A person with weak self-regard may lack courage and drive and even find it hard to take satisfaction in the things they do achieve.

When deciding on a course of action, therefore, ask the question; 'What will best strengthen self-esteem?' It might be working extra hard at those areas of dyslexic weakness, those academic, word-based, memory-for-detail, sequential, analytical things. Or it might not. Continuing to strive to get good at skills and activities that fall within ones areas of weakness may only serve to reinforce a feeling of 'I'm not good at stuff'. And that's bad for self-esteem. If someone is trying determinedly to improve, say, reading, writing, organisational or other skills and is consistently finding that they simply aren't very good at them, it might be better to try to find another attitude to the issue.

It’s worth bearing in mind that many skills that are prized in education are not valued in the same way beyond it. School is not the ‘real world’, the be-all and end-all – despite teachers sometimes seeming to believe it is. In the world after education 'getting the job done' is usually more important that doing it in a conventional way. In education, doing things 'according to the book' is usually what pupils are judged on as much as their outcomes.

Also, dyslexics often run into problems when they try to act as if they were not dyslexic instead of acting according to their particular strengths and weaknesses. They are often people who are good at finding their own idiosyncratic ways of doing things. Sometimes these are better than the 'normal' ways of doing them. Often it is an imposed procedure, someone else’s idea of how a task should be done, that is the issue for the dyslexic. It is good to look at tasks and ask what the required outcome is. Sometimes the dyslexic can find another way. And sometimes they don’t need to do it at all

So: act to change the things you can change. If you can improve in a particular skill area, it is good to do so – and good to get help from a dyslexia specialist if s/he can assist in this. This will strengthen self-esteem. But do learn to accept the things you can’t change. There comes a time when you should say; ‘I’m simply not so good at this, I’ll leave it to others to do – or find a way to do it that suits me’. 

This prevents positive self-esteem being damaged or negative self-esteem being reinforced.

And it is OK to be good at some things and not so good at others. Strive to develop a philosophy that distinguishes between those things you can get better at and those you don’t need to try to. Learn to judge yourself by your own values, not those of others. It is good for self-esteem. And self-esteem is the single most important variable that affects the outcome of a person's life.

To contact the author Simon Hopper click here.