A Little About Self-Esteem
February 1, 2021
I receive many questions regarding self-esteem. The first confusing layer probably lies in all the self words tossed around out there – self … concept, worth, confidence, acceptance, image, and the like. I won’t define each self word as that might take an entire entry on its own, but I do want to reflect on a broad understanding of esteem.
Esteem is a perception, an understanding. It relates to what we think and believe about our value as a person and our sense of worth in the world. Esteem is often spoke of in terms of positive or high versus negative or low. I would agree that self-esteem does lie on a spectrum or range but prefer to think of it more in terms of healthy or not so healthy.
Those on the healthy end tend to think overall, quite favourably of themselves. They recognize their abilities, feel confident to succeed, cope well through daily stressors and challenges, are motivated to learn and grow, and make healthy choices sticking to their values. Ultimately, they have courage to be their own person taking pride in and valuing themselves. Aside from that, someone with healthy esteem is also comfortable with their mistakes and weaknesses. Failures do not incapacitate them, but rather they are compelled to overcome or build areas of weakness, with sufficient confidence to accept imperfection. Even though someone with healthy esteem will reflect upon their own way of being, they are not highly judgemental in the process. An additional layer, those with healthy self-esteem can look beyond the self. They can find joy in the successes and good things that happen for other people with no threat to their own sense of accomplishment.
That all sounds quite spectacular and may even sound unrealistic. It is important to recognize that self-esteem will fluctuate at times, even day to day, and we may not display all those things all the time, but we aim to work at having them often. And the contrary, so someone with an unhealthy sense of self, would be at the opposite end of all those things, which would sound very concerning. So, it makes sense then that people are concerned with building self-esteem as it becomes a powerful component of daily life tasks.
Developing healthy self-esteem is two-fold, which sounds kind of simple, but our nature, temperament and thinking can make things more complicated. Essentially, people need to feel loved by others to love themselves and people need to feel a sense of competence to develop healthy esteem.
Growing a Sense of Connection to Others
Strong early attachments set us up for a sense of belonging and love from others. Surrounding ourselves with people that leave us feeling cared for will strengthen our sense of connection ultimately building our sense of worth. The opposite is helpful too … limit your time with people that have you feeling less than.
Accomplishing tasks with success provides us with a sense that we are capable and thus are encouraged to attempt more tasks. The more authentic successes we have the more we believe in our strengths to carry us through even when we make mistakes or face failure. Not only is it important to accomplish the task, but it is more important to recognize that the success came from our own doing. This will lead us to trust that we are reasonably competent to tackle most daily challenges and to notice the difference when we require the support of others.
Building Helpful Thinking
Our thinking is very powerful. It could trick us to doubt our valued connections with others and to doubt our competence. Often it is helpful to put our thoughts to the test. Question to ask yourself … is this something that I would say to a good friend if they made a mistake? If not, then best to shift what you are thinking about yourself. Helpful thoughts are supportive and compassionate rather than judgemental and critical.
This entry has only briefly touched on the concept of esteem. The way we feel about ourselves is definitely a layer worth developing. We all deserve the opportunity to feel valued and important in this world. I truly hope you can see your worth through your connections and competence without letting your thinking interfere too often.