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Self-Esteem and Lunch Room Tables

Harrison Barnes
By May 10,2024
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True self-esteem comes from within, not from the acceptance of others. When your sense of worth comes from within, you free yourself from comparisons with others and will enjoy a greater sense of internal security. You will no longer be bogged down by the experiences of others and can become much more self-reliant.

From ages 13 to 17, I attended six different schools in a variety of cities and countries. I never found attending these new schools all that difficult.  What I disliked, though, was penetrating the pecking order of the lunch tables.  This was especially important in middle school. Here, there were rigid social distinctions between groups of kids and where they sat. When going to a new middle school, I figured out that I would need to sit at least for a week or two with the “undesirables” before being brought up the social pecking order a bit.  This required befriending the right people, being invited to a better table, and then no longer associating with the people I had sat with initially. I would then potentially have to repeat this process with different groups over a few months until I got to one of the top tables.

I eventually ended up at a private school where this dynamic did not seem to occur as much. I found the entire process a total pain in the ass, and it was something I never enjoyed. It was phony, took a lot of effort, and distracted me from more important things I could do with my time.  It was also something that people seemed to take seriously.  In fact, many people never stop playing this game. Rather than lunch tables, it becomes about the parties you are invited to, the people you travel with, and more.

To my astonishment, when I was visiting my grandmother in a retirement community when she was in her mid-90s, I noticed a pecking order to the tables in the community dining room as well.

A pecking order in the lunchroom may not seem like a big deal to some.  If you have not had to switch schools and arrive at a new school with zero friends, perhaps this pecking order posed no issues for you.  However, for me it was stressful. The reason this was stressful had to do with the fact that I needed to be accepted.

Everyone out there needs to feel accepted, praised, and important. There is nothing more essential than this. If you make someone feel unimportant and not accepted, he or she will quickly turn into an enemy and may even turn violent. In the tragic cases when kids have gone to school and shot it up, most of the time, these kids felt like outsiders and unaccepted by the main society. The same goes for people who go to prison and others who have problems in society. If you make someone feel unaccepted and unappreciated, then they are going to lash out.

In every instance where I have been in a serious conflict with someone, the conflict has arisen out of something I have done to make the person feel unaccepted and unappreciated. In situations where people have become very close to me and have been my supporters, I have made those people feel appreciated and accepted. Making others feel appreciated and accepted can make a tremendous difference in how others feel about themselves.  Even for adults, the people you know and who accept you can have a huge link to your self-esteem.

All over the world there are various sports teams, and with them come sports fans. These sports fan may wear colorful jerseys, fly flags from their cars, and do many other things that increase their feelings of association with the team. I believe that many of these things are done for people to increase their feelings of acceptance and belonging.  Although no one on the team may know who they are, these fans have a sense of acceptance based on their association with the team and the identity they have created around this association.

When I was 15 years old, I moved in with my father after living with my mother my entire life. Originally, I was going to attend the local public high school for three or four months before moving permanently overseas to Thailand to complete the rest of high school. My father lived across town from my mother, and when I arrived at the new high school, I figured I would be there for about twelve weeks. I had no interest in playing social games and trying to rise the social hierarchy—I had done this at the previous three schools I had attended over the past few years and was tired of it.

Instead of basing my self-worth on who I was associating with, I decided I would just keep to myself since I was going to be at the school for such a short time. I would grab a quick lunch and then would head to the library or take a walk around school. To me, this seemed to be the easiest option. It was difficult at first and felt like going “cold turkey” from what had been competitive social climbing and a sense of worth based on being above others in the school’s social hierarchy. Suddenly, my self-worth and self-esteem had to come from within. This was the start of ninth grade for me, a time when social acceptance assumes a profound importance in the typical teenager’s life. Here, I let it all go. This was one of the best decisions of my life and taught me some incredible lessons about self-esteem.

For most people, self-esteem is tied up with being accepted by others.  In fact, for many people, their feelings of worth and adequacy are tied up with things like (1) being the best compared to others, and (2) having more of something than someone else. Worth becomes tied up with external things and methods of comparing ourselves to others:

  • If your worth is based on external factors, then you are likely the person who thrives on rumors and pushing other people down.
  • You probably also believe that there are scarce opportunities for advancement, rewards, and money.
  • You are concerned with possessions, rankings, your group associations, and how you compare with others.

If your feelings of worth are based on how you feel you compare with others, then this is not self-esteem—it is pride. If your feelings are based on how you feel you compare with others, then you will never feel satisfied for long because someone better will always come along, something better than what you have will always come along, and a better ranking or association than you have will soon replace what you are holding on to.

If you have true self-esteem, then you have confidence in yourself that external factors do not influence and come from within. Self-esteem that comes from within is the most powerful and best type of self-esteem. Because your worth comes from within, you feel a sense of abundance, because comparisons do not limit you to others.

Sitting on the sidelines for several months before moving overseas taught me that comparing myself to others was a waste of my time. Instead of looking at others, it forced me to look entirely at myself. Relying on yourself for your emotions gives you a greater sense of internal security and puts you in an entirely original life position. The lessons I learned from this time helped give me security so that I would not get bogged down by what others thought of me and, instead, could rely on myself for my feelings of self-worth and success.


True self-esteem comes from within, not from the acceptance of others. When your sense of worth comes from within, you free yourself from comparisons with others and will enjoy a greater sense of internal security. The experiences of others will bog you down and can become much more self-reliant.

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About Harrison Barnes

Harrison Barnes is the Founder of BCG Attorney Search and a successful legal recruiter himself. Harrison is extremely committed to and passionate about the profession of legal placement. His firm BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys. BCG Attorney Search works with attorneys to dramatically improve their careers by leaving no stone unturned in a search and bringing out the very best in them. Harrison has placed the leaders of the nation’s top law firms, and countless associates who have gone on to lead the nation’s top law firms. There are very few firms Harrison has not made placements with. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placements attract millions of reads each year. He coaches and consults with law firms about how to dramatically improve their recruiting and retention efforts. His company LawCrossing has been ranked on the Inc. 500 twice. For more information, please visit Harrison Barnes’ bio.

About BCG Attorney Search

BCG Attorney Search matches attorneys and law firms with unparalleled expertise and drive that gets results. Known globally for its success in locating and placing attorneys in law firms of all sizes, BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys in law firms in thousands of different law firms around the country. Unlike other legal placement firms, BCG Attorney Search brings massive resources of over 150 employees to its placement efforts locating positions and opportunities that its competitors simply cannot. Every legal recruiter at BCG Attorney Search is a former successful attorney who attended a top law school, worked in top law firms and brought massive drive and commitment to their work. BCG Attorney Search legal recruiters take your legal career seriously and understand attorneys. For more information, please visit www.BCGSearch.com.

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No Responses to “ Self-Esteem and Lunch Room Tables”
  1. Avatar Vicki says:

    Hi, Harrison.

    Thanks! Your article in regard to true security is very wise.

    I would go a step further, and say that our walk with God, faith, and the security of knowing he will always be there … whether you made a mistake or did not… God knows the complete truth of all, and will see justice brought to the fore. Above all, God is trustworthy, and will not ever abandon you, anyone, ever.

    God Bless!

    Thanks again.

    Have a terrific and Happy New Year!

    : ) Vicki

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