The term self-esteem is used to describe a person's overall subjective sense of personal worth or value., self-esteem may be defined as how much you appreciate and like yourself regardless of the circumstances.
Other terms that are often used interchangeably with self-esteem include self-worth, self-regard, and self-respect.
Self-esteem tends to be lowest in childhood and increases during adolescence, as well as adulthood, eventually reaching a fairly stable and enduring level. This makes self-esteem similar to the stability of personality traits over time.
Why self-esteem is important
Self-esteem impacts your decision-making process, your relationships, your emotional health, and your overall well-being. It also influences motivation, as people with a healthy, positive view of themselves understand their potential and may feel inspired to take on new challenges.
Here are some signs of having a healthy self-esteem:
- Avoid dwelling on past negative experiences
- Believe you are equal to everyone else, no better and no worse
- Have realistic and appropriate expectations of themselves and their abilities
- Understand their needs and are able to express them
- Feel confident
- Have a positive outlook on life
- Say no when you want to
Having healthy self-esteem can help motivate you to reach your goals, because you are able to navigate life knowing that you are capable of accomplishing what you set your mind to. Additionally, when you have healthy self-esteem, you are able to set appropriate boundaries in relationships and maintain a healthy relationship with yourself and others.
Low self-esteem may manifest in a variety of ways. If you have low self-esteem, you may:
- Believe that others are better than you
- Focus on your weaknesses.
- Frequently experience fear, self-doubt, and worry.
- Have an intense fear of failure.
- Have trouble accepting positive feedback.
- Have trouble saying no and setting boundaries.
- Put other people's needs before your own.
- Struggle with confidence.
Low self-esteem has the potential to lead to a variety of mental health disorders, including anxiety disorders and depressive disorders. You may also find it difficult to pursue your goals and maintain healthy relationships. Having low self-esteem can seriously impact your quality of life and increases your risk for experiencing suicidal thoughts.
People with low self-esteem tend to feel less sure of their abilities and may doubt their decision-making process. They may not feel motivated to try novel things because they don’t believe they're capable of reaching their goals. Those with low self-esteem may have issues with relationships and expressing their needs. They may also experience low levels of confidence and feel unlovable and unworthy.
There are many factors that can influence self-esteem. Your self-esteem may be impacted by:
- Life experiences
- Socioeconomic status
- Thought patterns
Racism and discrimination have also been shown to have negative effects on self-esteem. Additionally, genetic factors that help shape a person's personality can play a role, but life experiences are thought to be the most important factor.
How to improve self-esteem
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to address problems with self-esteem. Here are some actions you can take to help improve your self-esteem:
- Become more aware of negative thoughts. Learn to identify the distorted thoughts that are impacting your self-worth.
- Challenge negative thinking patterns. When you find yourself engaging in negative thinking, try countering those thoughts with more realistic and/or positive ones.
- Use positive self-talk. Practice reciting positive affirmations to yourself.
- Practice self-compassion. Practice forgiving yourself for past mistakes and move forward by accepting all parts of yourself.
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