Monday, June 4, 2012

What is Self-Esteem?

Self-esteem… something I can speak about with experience.  I struggled with my self-esteem for much of my life.  It was not until very recently that I finally realized my self-worth and was able to begin changing my view of myself from negative to positive.  That shift in self-esteem is what gave me the strength and the courage to be able to publicly tell my story and to stop hiding my mental illness like a monster in the closet.

What is self-esteem?

Simply put, self-esteem is how an individual feels about themselves, their overall opinion of themselves.  Self-esteem is how an individual honestly feels about their abilities and their limitations.  Self-esteem is shaped by our thoughts, experiences and relationships and begins to develop in early childhood. Self-esteem can change over a person’s lifetime.  Certain life events can have a temporary negative impact on an individual’s self-esteem such as losing a job, relationship issues/breakups, money concerns, poor grades, etc.

An individual with healthy self-esteem feels good about themselves and views themselves as deserving respect from others.  An individual with low self-esteem puts very little value on their opinions and ideas and constantly worries that they aren’t good enough.

Some factors that influence self-esteem include:

  •  An individual’s own thoughts/perceptions
  •  An individual’s relationships and interactions with others especially immediate family
  •  How other people react to an individual
  • Experiences at school, work and in the community
  • An illness, disability or injury
  •  Culture
  • Religion
  • Socioeconomic status
Relationships with the individuals closest to you in life (parents, siblings, peer, teachers) are the relationships that play the biggest role on your self-esteem.  If an individual has had strong close relationships throughout their life and in general have received positive feedback they are more likely to have a healthier self-esteem. Individuals who received mostly negative feedback, criticism and a devaluing by individuals in their life are more likely to struggle with poor self-esteem.

Putting relationships aside, let us look at our own thoughts! Our thoughts are within our control and play the largest impact on our self-esteem.  Individuals that always focus on the negative- flaws, weaknesses, etc., have the ability to change this. It is possible to learn to reframe how you’re thinking and focus on positive qualities instead of negative thoughts. (I will further address this in a blog positing within the next week)

Self-esteem affects every facet of our lives, including, but not limited to:
  • Job and career choices
  •  Relationships with friends and family
  •  Relationships with children
  • The way in which we give and receive love
  • The success we have in reaching our goals
  • Job performance
  •  School performance
Benefits of healthy self-esteem
  • Ability to be assertive in expressing your needs and concerns
  • Confidence in your ability to make decisions
  • Ability to form secure and honest relationships and to be less likely to stay in unhealthy relationships
  • Ability to be realistic in your expectations of yourself
  • Less likely to be overcritical of both yourself and of others
  •  Possess more resiliency and higher ability to handle stress
  •  Lower likelihood to experience feelings of guilt, shame, worthlessness, hopelessness, etc.
  • ·Lower likelihood in developing certain mental health conditions (eating disorders, addictions, anxiety, depression)
General characteristics that you may find of individuals with healthy self-esteem
  • Eager to express themselves
  • Not defeated by mistakes or failures
  • Comfortable in a leadership role
  • Able to handle and learn from criticism
  • Willing and ready to take risks
  • Positive about life
  • Not afraid of new things
  • Trusting and hopeful
  • Able to fully experience their feelings 
  •  Aware of their own personal strengths and weaknesses
  •  Intent with their lives
  •  Unlikely to brag to others
  • Able to ask for and accept help when necessary
General characteristics that you may find of individuals with low self-esteem
  • Convinced that they are worthless
  • Feelings of insignificance
  • Unsure of their abilities
  • Likely to follow the route that is easy and familiar 
  •  Uncomfortable with praise
  • Fearful/unsure of the future
  • Blind to new opportunities
  • Negative thinkers
  • Unable to handle criticism or rejection
  • Overly concerned about others opinions of them
  • Defensive
  • Easily defeated
  • Uncomfortable in social situations
  •  Manipulative
  • Quick to blame others
My initial plan was to address self-esteem in general, how to improve self-esteem and mental health concerns and their relationship to self-esteem all in this one post.  Then as I started to write this, I realized how much each of them individually has to offer and that I could not condense them into one post.  With that being said, consider this the first of 3 posts about self-esteem.  The other 2 will be done and posted by the end of this upcoming weekend- most likely before then.

I believe the following quote is appropriate to end with.  It is a quote from an article about self-esteem that I found on the Mayo Clinic’s website.  I believe that it is very well worded.

“Self-esteem affects virtually every facet of your life. Maintaining a healthy, realistic view of yourself isn't about blowing your own horn. It's about learning to like and respect yourself — faults and all.”

Thanks for reading! Until next time…

-Kissing Stigma Goodbye-

(Resources used:  Self Esteem Check: Mayo Clinic,   Mental Health- Self-Esteem)

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