Self-esteem answers the question, “How do I feel about who I am?” We learn
self-esteem in our family of origin; we do not inherit it.
Global self-esteem (about “who we are”) is normally constant. Situational self-
esteem (about what we do) fluctuates, depending on circumstances, roles, and
events. Situational self-esteem can be high at one moment (., at work) and
low the next (., at home).
Low self-esteem is a negative evaluation of oneself. This type of evaluation
usually occurs when some circumstance we encounter in our life touches on our
sensitivities. We personalize the incident and experience physical, emotional, and
cognitive arousal. This is so alarming and confusing that we respond by acting in
a self-defeating or self-destructive manner. When that happens, our actions tend
to be automatic and impulse-driven; we feel upset or emotionally blocked; our
thinking narrows; our self-care deteriorates; we lose our sense of self; we focus
on being in control and become self-absorbed.
These days, McCarthy says he can view the shooting in perspective. “Really, I don’t dwell on it,” he says. In fact he has been so busy that he missed last year’s thriller In the Line of Fire., which features a Secret Service agent played by Clint Eastwood in a life-and-dealh situation like McCarthy’s own 13 years ago. Still he receives dozens of requests each month to speak about the incident, and he leaves his Orland Park, Ill., home to fulfill as many as he can. “You get thrust into history,” he says, “and you can’t be prepared for it. You just hope you don’t let your head get so big it doesn’t fit on your pillow anymore.”