Healthy Self-Esteem

Self-esteem refers to the subjective evaluation of ourselves, our worth, and our perceived value – or simply, how we think and feel about ourselves. It encompasses our perceptions of our own competence, attractiveness, and likability.

Healthy self-esteem involves having a balanced and realistic view of ourselves – we feel confident in our abilities, respect ourselves despite imperfections, and acknowledge areas of weakness objectively. Low self-esteem is generally when someone has a negative overall opinion of themselves or their level of competence, attractiveness, or likability, resulting in negatively judging their self-value and worth.

Why is Self-Esteem Important?

Self-esteem is fundamental in shaping how we perceive ourselves, interact with others, and navigate the world around us. In particular, it shapes our:

  1. Emotional Wellbeing: healthy self-esteem contributes to emotional resilience and stability, helping us cope with life’s challenges and criticisms more effectively.
  2. Relationships: when individuals feel good about themselves, they are better able to form secure attachments, assert their needs, and engage in mutual respect and support.
  3. Achievement: people with healthy self-esteem are more likely to set and pursue meaningful goals. They believe in their ability to succeed and are less deterred by failure or setbacks.
  4. Mental Health: cultivating healthy self-esteem can serve as a protective factor against mental ill-health, including depression, anxiety and eating disorders.
  5. Self-Care: individuals with positive self-esteem are more likely to prioritise self-care and engage in behaviours that promote their wellbeing.

What is Negative Self-Esteem?

Negative self-esteem is complex. It can be a symptom of an underlying mental health condition such as depression. Other times, low self-esteem can be influenced by a combination of internal and external factors, such as:

  1. Early Experiences: negative experiences during childhood, such as abuse, neglect, or criticism from caregivers, can significantly impact self-esteem, and lead to feelings of unworthiness and inadequacy
  2. Social Comparison: comparing ourselves unfavourably to others’ appearances, achievements, or possessions, can erode self-esteem. Exposure to idealised images on social media can also exacerbate low self-worth
  3. Traumatic Events: experiencing traumatic events, such as bullying, rejection, or failure, can lead to feelings of shame, self-doubt, and a distorted self-image
  4. Perfectionism: striving for perfection and setting unrealistic standards for oneself can result in chronic feelings of failure and inadequacy
  5. Negative Feedback: receiving consistent negative feedback from peers, authority figures, or society can undermine self-esteem. Criticism, ridicule, or rejection can also reinforce negative feelings of worthlessness
  6. Internalised Messages: internalising negative messages from society, culture, or media about our identity, body image, or abilities can impact self-esteem. These messages may perpetuate stereotypes, biases, and unrealistic standards
  7. Lack of Support: lacking supportive relationships or a sense of belonging can hinder healthy self-esteem. Without encouragement, validation, and positive reinforcement from others, individuals may struggle to see their own worth.

Building Positive Self-Esteem

Addressing and challenging the above underlying causes is essential in rebuilding and nurturing healthy self-esteem. This process can take time and effort. Remember to have patience in this journey towards self-acceptance and confidence and that the judgements we make about ourselves are opinions.

Practising Self-Compassion:

Be gentle with yourself during difficult times. Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding you would offer a friend facing a challenge.

Engage in Self-Care:

Prioritise activities that promote your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. This may include exercise, hobbies, relaxation techniques, and spending time with loved ones.

Limit Comparisons:

Avoid comparing yourself to others. Focus on your own journey and progress, rather than constantly measuring yourself against others.

Challenge Negative Thoughts:

Pay attention to your inner dialogue and challenge negative self-talk. Replace self-critical thoughts with more balanced and realistic statements.

Acknowledge your Strengths:

Make a list of your positive qualities, talents, and accomplishments. Remind yourself of these strengths regularly to reinforce a positive self-image.

Embrace Imperfection:

Accept that nobody is perfect. Making mistakes is a natural part of learning and growth.

Practice Assertiveness:

Express your thoughts, feelings, and needs respectfully. Setting boundaries and standing up for yourself can boost self-confidence.

Practice Gratitude:

Regularly reflect on the things you are grateful for in your life. Cultivating gratitude can shift your focus from what you lack to what you already have.

Seek Support:

Surround yourself with supportive friends and family, or contact EAP for additional support in helping you develop more positive self-esteem and confidence so you can thrive.