Self Esteem

Self Esteem

Summary

Self-esteem is a person’s sense of self-worth. It also involves how people define themselves, which in turn influences their motivations, attitudes and behaviors throughout life.

Self-esteem can be negatively influenced by a lack of self-confidence, independence and a sense of personal identity. Constant criticism and chronic (ongoing) self-doubt can also harm an individual’s self-esteem.

Low self-esteem can be damaging because it can affect a person’s body, mind and spirit. It has been associated with a wide array of problems including low academic or career achievement, problems with friendships and relationships, teenage pregnancy, violence, alcoholism, drug abuse, emotional disorders (e.g., depression, eating disorders) and suicide.

Self-acceptance and a positive outlook in life are involved in developing healthy self-esteem. Other ways people can boost their self-esteem include:

  • Identifying their positive attributes
  • Recognizing areas in which they excel
  • Developing a support system of friends and relatives
  • Focusing on accomplishments and not dwelling on failures

Some people may also benefit from consulting a mental health professional to learn methods of building self-esteem.

About self-esteem

Self-esteem is a person’s sense of personal value or worth. It also involves how people define themselves, which in turn influences their motivations, attitudes and behaviors throughout life. Healthy self-esteem is important for emotional well-being, and it is helpful in realizing life goals.

A healthy self-esteem involves the following elements:

  • Trust. Confidence and faith in oneself as well as others.
  • Self nurturing. An important component of self-esteem. Learning how to take care of others as well as oneself.
  • Autonomy. Self-determination and independence.
  • Identity. An individual’s sense of self.
  • Intimacy. The ability to relate closely to others.

If an individual is unable to develop these elements or loses sight of them, low self-esteem can result. Everyone experiences lagging self-esteem at certain times in their lives, especially during adolescence.

How people feel about themselves can be related to various factors, including the environment, body image, personal and social expectations and experiences. Constant criticism can harm an individual’s self-esteem. For example, recent research shows that childhood verbal abuse has a negative impact on self-esteem that often continues into adulthood. It is important to note that such criticism does not necessarily have to come from others. Some people are plagued with chronic (ongoing) self-doubt, finding fault with everything they do and as a result, their self-esteem suffers.

Messages from the media, which often promote excessive thinness as the ideal for women, can negatively affect a female’s self-esteem. The messages can lead girls and women to believe that something is wrong with their bodies. As a result, they may adopt strict diets to achieve this “ideal” figure and this can put them at risk for developing an eating disorder. Males can have body image insecurities as well. Though women may feel pressure to be thinner, males can feel pressured to be bigger and more muscular. Sports (e.g., football, wrestling), media messages and other men can pressure males to gain muscle mass. The inability to accomplish this can lead to feelings of unhappiness and dissatisfaction with their physical appearance. Low self-esteem can be damaging because it can affect a person’s body, mind and spirit.

Sometimes it can be too much for an individual to bear. Instead of seeking help from peers or other sources of support (e.g., counseling), a person may turn to destructive behaviors including drinking alcohol or using illegal drugs (e.g., marijuana) to cope with low self-esteem, especially during social situations. Low self-esteem has been associated with a wide array of problems including low academic or career achievement, teenage pregnancy, violence, alcoholism, drug abuse, emotional health disorders (e.g., depression, anxiety disorders) and suicide.

Tips for boosting self-esteem

Self-acceptance is crucial for developing a healthy self-esteem. People that believe in themselves and have a positive outlook in life are also more likely to have healthy self-esteem and generally, also tend be happier.

Other ways people can boost their self-esteem include:

  • Identifying their positive attributes
  • Recognizing areas in which they excel
  • Not measuring themselves using other people’s standards
  • Taking risks in order to succeed
  • Learning to set realistic goals
  • Developing a support system of friends and relatives
  • Focusing on accomplishments and not dwelling on failures

In addition, some people may benefit from consulting a therapist or other mental health professional to learn methods of improving self-esteem.

Questions for your doctor about self-esteem

Preparing questions in advance can help patients to have more meaningful discussions with their physicians regarding their conditions. Patients may wish to ask their doctor the following questions regarding self-esteem:

  1. How is self-knowledge related to self-esteem?
  2. Do I have low self-esteem?
  3. What are the risks of low self-esteem?
  4. How is my low self-esteem impacting other areas of my life?
  5. How can I improve my self-esteem?
  6. How can I help my child develop a healthy self-esteem?
  7. Are self-esteem and body image related?
  8. Can you recommend a therapist to help me work through my self-esteem issues?
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