Healthy Self-esteem and Low self-esteem

Perhaps no other self-help topic has spawned so much advice and so many conflicting stories as self-esteem. Healthy self-esteem gives us the ability to make positive choices regarding our career and our relationships, and gives us the assertiveness and confidence to work towards our goals. Overly  healthy self-esteem is not healthy, however, as it can lead to a sense of entitlement, as well as bullying and narcissistic behaviour. A lack of self-esteem can lead to a life of putting up with abusive situations or relationships, depression and lack of fulfilment. Our personalities, according to Sigmund Freud,  emerge out of our struggles to meet our needs in a world that often frustrates these efforts. Our self-esteem develops, grows and changes according to our success, or failure in that struggle and often self-defeating ways we attempt to cope. With the tools of mindfulness, however, we can improve our self-esteem while finding new and healthier ways to get our needs met.

What is low self-esteem? 

The core beliefs that formed your sense of sself-worth as a child are just that – beliefs. They’re  not necessarily true or accurate. They are only your opinions, and as opinions, they can be changed.

Healthy self-esteem and low self-esteem are two sides of the same coin. They both activate certain rules for living that either help you or hurt you.

According to Marilyn Sorensen, the director of the Self-esteem Institute in Portland, Oregon,  low self-esteem is a thinking disorder in which individuals see themselves as inadequate, unacceptable, unworthy, unloveable and just incompetent. These beliefs create thoughts that tend to be negative, self-critical, self-blaming and full of self-doubt. And these thoughts consequently affect our behaviour, leading to destructive patterns of avoidance, denial criticism and defensiveness that lower our self-esteem even further.

Low self-esteem is a basic tendency to place one’s value in the hands of others, rather than trusting and believing in our own evaluation of ourselves. When your self-esteem depend on other people’s views of you, it only makes it more fragile. Thoughts follow that are also irrational and distorted, causing you to have difficulty knowing who to trust, inciting fears and anxiety in new situations or assuming other people think negatively of you as you do.

Low self-esteem affect every aspect of our lives, from our career choices to friendships with friends, family and loved ones. All too often we don’t even realise that our low feelings of low self-worth are affecting us because they are largely subconscious, quietly influencing the choices we make and creating a life that leaves us feeling unaccepted, unworthy and unloved.

Learning to recognise and identify the symptoms of low self-esteem in yourself is the first step, some of these symptoms can include:

  • depression
  • disencouragement
  • fear and anxiety
  • emotional shutdown
  • panic attacks
  • social anxiety
  • eating disorders
  • lack of effectiveness
  • passive aggression
  • people-pleasing
  • controlling behaviour

If you have a low self-esteem you:

  • compare yourself negatively with others
  • Are anxious, stressed, and worry a lot
  • Need others approval
  • Fear speaking up at meetings
  • Fear confrontation with others
  • Are shy to talk with others you don’t know  Focus on your shortcomings in the past
  •  Have doubt about your worth

What is healthy self-esteem? 

Building healthy self-esteem comes from learning to value ourselves and not depending on other people’s opinions of us. This dependence on approval causes us to keep trying to get love and acceptance from people who are unlikely to give it, thus perpetuating our negative beliefs about ourselves.

People with healthy self-esteem don’t worry about what others may be thinking of them- they assume others think as well of them as they think of themselves. They speak their minds and express themselves openly without fear or judgement, rejection or ridicule.

If you have healthy self-esteem you:

  • Learn from past successes and look forward to future successes
  • Care for yourself physically, emotionally and mentally
  • Create goals in your life and work towards them
  • Appreciate your positive qualities
  • Accept responsibility for your actions
  • Have confidence that you can accomplish things, even if it takes more than one try.
  • Feel capable of meeting life’s everyday challenges
  • Are happy and sure of yourself

Caring for you is one of the characteristics of having a healthy level of self-esteem. You can nurture yourself to create more happiness in your life and raise your self-esteem. Take care of your body, be eating healthy foods, doing enough exercise and getting regular deep sleep.

Focus on positive emotions by shifting negative feelings that uplift and encourage you. Change your thoughts by talking to youself in a loving manner.

One of the most common ways people experience low self-esteem is in the way they consider their body image. You must reconnect with the positive aspects of your body while appreciating real beauty that is on the inside.


The Power of Self-esteem

Writing about the power of self-esteem is an emotional undertaking because it forces me to remember how hard I struggled for my self-esteem as a child growing up and through my early adult life. It was a long hard journey, yet, having done it myself, and having come out of the other side of the tunnel  ( for surely there is light at the other end of that tunnel ), I feel that I can be of a help to you.

I can encourage you to ” struggle for your sanity ,” as it were, if self-esteem for a moment can be equated with sanity and mental health. I can encourage you to engage in this battle because if you do, you will eventually win. You will raise your self-esteem. The day will come when you will finally say, ” Whew, I am actually okay. There is nothing really wrong with me. In fact I am quite a gal/guy.” You will be able to live and enjoy life in peace, and to pursue your goals without guilt or shame. In short, all the clouds which have hovered over you all your life will finally lift – and the sun will permanently shine from the center of your being. You will feel “whole” inside. Your sense of self will be solid gold.

Our outlook and attitude on life in general play a huge part in how happy we are in life and how successful we become.

Someone who thinks positively about everything  will be more relaxed, calm and smile more than someone who is always looking on the bad side, who let’s stress get to them and who constantly wear a frown.

Some people spend all their lives refusing to face an emptiness within them, a void that communicates an aching sense of wrongness and shame about themselves. They may try to cover the pain with material success and accomplishment, or numb it with unhealthy behaviour, or turn to others to fill up this “hole in the soul” (John Bradshaw ).

What such people lack is self-esteem. Self-esteem is more than just feeling more confident or spouting positive affirmations. It goes to the heart of personal identity, conveying the belief that we are acceptable, respected, and loved as persons we are – with all our feelings and sensations and even imperfections.

The source of self-esteem lies deep within childhood, from the first moment a vulnerable infant seeks to get its needs met from a care giving adult. These needs go beyond physical nourishment and safety. To thrive, a child must be  acknowledged, accepted, loved without condition. That is an agenda even the most well intentioned parent can’t always accommodate.

The good news is that as an adult you have power to change an inner sense of wrongness to fill an emptiness within. With reassuring insight, this article invites you to go deep within to heel your wounded self-esteem.

Know the reality of your worth as a wonderous one-of-a-kind, loved, loveable child of  God. You make a dent in creation that cannot be duplicated. This is the basis of self-esteem. No one and nothing can take that reality from you.

Having said all the above, it is clear that you need certain degree of self-esteem to believe that you are worthy of happiness and to be motivated to try to get what you really want out of life. Clearly if you have low self-esteem, you may think that you are not worthy of achieving anything – and you can stop yourself from trying. In fact should success or “good luck ” happen along, a person with low-esteem will always find a way to sabotage that success or find a way to sidestep the good luck.

Here is how it works. If you have low self-esteem, you will be afraid to try for two reasons. First in your secret heart you will feel too guilty about imagined shortcomings. You will think that by daring to try for something, you will expose yourself to the world. Others may notice you. If they do, they may discover that you are unworthy, inferior, damaged, inadequate and even despicable. So why even try? “Keep a low profile ,” You tell yourself. “Better be careful you don’t want them to find out the truth about you.” Second, if you feel that if by some chance you should succeed, you will know deep down in your heart that you are a fraud  ( the ” imposter syndrome “) and that you are really not worthy of the success you have achieved. Unconsciously, you may realize that the success will cause you to feel even more uncomfortable than you already feel. Those who dare to try for success, despite low self-esteem, secretly believe that it is only a matter of time before people discover that they are no worthy of the success they have achieved. They live in fear of “discovery”.

So it is important to repair damaged self-esteem in order to free yourself to get exited, to dare to pursue your goals  – and to enjoy the realisation of those goals once you achieve them. It is critical to extinguish once and for all that nagging voice that would otherwise whisper, ” And who do you think you are, anyway?  How dare you? What makes you think you deserve a better life? Get back into your place before real trouble comes.”

But how can you raise your self-esteem? How can you repair the damage? You can say aloud to youself and others, ” I am a good person. People like me. I love myself, ” from now until next New Year’s. But if you have low self-esteem,  it will remain low, and what’s more, you will feel like a fool in your own eyes. What you need to do is raise your self-esteem to change your reputation with yourself – to change what you think of yourself  – and the only way you are going to do that is first by realising that the images you formed of yourself were distorted or erroneous, or due to circumstances over which you had no control. Then you must take specific actions that will help to raise your self-esteem.