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:
- fear and anxiety
- emotional shutdown
- panic attacks
- social anxiety
- eating disorders
- lack of effectiveness
- passive aggression
- 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.