Self-esteem, self-confidence, self-respect, pride, dignity — all of these terms look at your confidence in your own worth.
But, what is self-esteem and how do you know if you have enough (or too much) of it?
Possessing too little self-esteem can lead to depression and cause you to fall short of your potential.
It can also be a factor in staying in an abusive relationship or being a people pleaser.
On the other hand, having too much pride can result in a sense of entitlement that is off-putting to other people.
People with an abundance of self-confidence may not be able to learn from their mistakes or show humility.
What Is Self-Esteem?
It is how you see your value to the world and to other people.
It has an impact on your trust for other people, your relationships, your career, and almost every other part of your life.
Positive self-esteem can give you the strength and flexibility that you need to take charge of your life, learn from your mistakes, and not be afraid of failing.
Let’s talk about different types of self-esteem and how they impact you.
Types of Self-Esteem
There are many different types of self-esteem. While the two main categories are ‘high’ and ‘low’, there are a lot of sub-categories in the middle.
People with high self-esteem share several characteristics.
- They have a strong belief in their values and principles and are quick to defend them due to their sense of security with their beliefs.
- They consider themselves to be equal to other people and easily accept everyone’s differences while also being sensitive to the needs of other people.
- They are also able to act on what they believe to be the best choices because they trust their own judgment.
People with high self-esteem also do not spend a lot of time reliving the past or having anxiety about the future.
They are often great at practicing mindfulness and just living in the moment.
They are confident in their ability to solve issues that come up, but they are not ashamed to reach out for help if they need it.
They are also confident in their value to other people and their ability to collaborate and contribute in personal and professional settings.
When you have high self-esteem, you are able to enjoy a broad spectrum of activities, and you’re not afraid to try something new.
You work well with other people to find solutions to problems and never put yourself or others down when issues come up.
Secure High Self-Esteem or Defensive?
When someone is confident in their self-esteem, they do not need other people to reassure them to maintain their confidence. They don’t need to tout their own abilities and accomplishments to feel worthy.
However, people who are defensive have a more fragile view of themselves, and they are often vulnerable to criticism — even though they may appear to feel good about themselves.
People with defensive self-esteem internalize their self-doubts and insecurities, which may cause them to react in a negative way to criticism.
These people need constant positive feedback from others to maintain their high levels of self-esteem.
When your self-esteem is at a healthy level, you don’t need this constant approval from others or self-approval.
It is important to remember that when someone is boasting or acting superior to others around them, it usually isn’t a sign of too much self-esteem. Rather, it is a sign of insecurity and a low level of self-esteem.
Low self-esteem is a debilitating condition that prevents people from seeing their own value and even liking themselves.
A person who has low self-esteem feels like they are not worthy, capable, or competent.
Low self-esteem can become a cycle because someone with low self-esteem has negative thoughts about him or herself, which leads to continued low self-esteem.
Self-esteem tends to drop as we enter our teenage years, particularly for girls. According to the online global change site, DoSomething.org, 70% of girls believe they don’t “measure up,” or they aren’t “good enough” in their physical appearance, school performance, and relationships. The stats for boys aren’t far behind.
Feelings of low self-esteem can follow you into adulthood if you don’t address them. These feelings can interfere with your ability to lead a fulfilling, happy life.
It’s critical to remember that low self-esteem is not an accurate reflection of reality or a life sentence. You can improve your levels of self-esteem.
What Causes Low Self-Esteem?
There are many reasons why you might not feel valuable and worthy. It could be one of many reasons or a combination of several.
Some common causes of low self-esteem include:
Bullying or negative peer interactions. If you were bullied in school, left out by your peer group, or otherwise ostracized as a young person, it can be a blow to your self-esteem.
Trauma or abuse. If you experience trauma or physical, sexual, or emotional abuse growing up, this can be deeply scarring and leave your self-esteem in tatters.
Poor body image. In a culture consumed with appearance and physique, it’s not surprising that both teen girls and boys engaged in unhealthy behaviors like smoking, purging, and laxatives in order to lose weight.
Feeling powerless. Both teenagers and adults can feel as though their lives lack meaning and purpose. They don’t feel they have control over their circumstances, so their self-esteem plummets as a result.
Past bad choices. Having made a series of poor decisions, young people and adults can feel they will never escape guilt, shame, or judgment. This makes them feel worthless and filled with self-loathing.
Negative thinking habits. When you get stuck in a loop of negative thinking, it can infect your feelings and beliefs about yourself. Having self-defeating thoughts becomes a bad habit that drags you down.
What is the Difference Between Self-esteem and Self-Confidence?
Although the terms self-esteem and self-confidence are often used interchangeably, they are actually two different things.
It is important to know the difference between the two if you are looking to improve your sense of self.
However, self-confidence refers to how you perceive your abilities in a specific situation.
While you may have healthy self-esteem, you can have low confidence about new situations involving something that you’re are not familiar with.
Self-esteem improves with self-love, which helps increase confidence.
When you are confident, you can start to improve your esteem. The good thing is, you can work on both of these things at the same time.
What is the Importance of Self-Esteem?
The importance of self-esteem should not be underestimated.
Your self-esteem impacts your behavior and feelings. It has an effect on how you feel about yourself, which can impact your confidence and your ability to be successful.
Self-esteem can actually be a big factor in the difference between succeeding and failing.
With low self-esteem, your outlook on your work is likely to be negative, which will then show in your work.
With a positive sense of self-esteem, you can have the right attitude to succeed in your ventures.
The power of positive thinking is an important part of being successful, so building a good sense of self-esteem can help you in many areas of your life.
With healthy self-esteem . . .
- Your expectations align with reality, so you’re less critical of yourself and others.
- You can handle stress with more resilience.
- You won’t deal as much with feelings of worthlessness, guilt or shame.
- You can more easily express what you want, need or think.
- You can build healthy, happy relationships.
- You have more trust in your ability to make good decisions.
- You bounce back more quickly after challenges and setbacks.
What Are the Effects of Low Self-Esteem?
Low self-esteem can have devastating consequences including stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness, and even an eating disorder. It can also lead to drug or alcohol abuse.
When one or both partners have low self-esteem, it can cause serious problems in an intimate relationship. It can have a negative impact on your social life and on job performance.
What’s more, the negative consequences of low self-esteem may lead you down a spiral of constantly decreasing levels of self-worth which can cause self-destructive behaviors or an increasingly unproductive lifestyle.
How to Build and Improve Self-Esteem
Feelings of poor self-esteem can build with time, and it can be hard to get rid of old feelings.
Improving self-esteem takes time and hard work, and it may even require the help of a professional counselor.
However, there are some sound techniques that you can use to improve your self-esteem on your own.
Think about qualities or strengths that others have told you that you have. Whether you believe them or not, thinking about compliments that others have given you can help boost your self-esteem.
Stop the negative self-talk. Instead, think about contradictions to any negative thoughts that cross your mind. Treat yourself as your own best friend.
Would you say these negative things to one of your friends? If not, then don’t say them to yourself. You need to be your own biggest cheerleader.
Make a list of your personal strengths. How would you describe yourself if you were trying to sell yourself in an interview? Think back on past accomplishments and everything you have done to achieve success in the past.
The more you are able to recognize your challenges with self-esteem, the more aware you can become of possible improvements to make.
Use daily affirmations. These are easy, positive thoughts that you can repeat to help increase your self-esteem. Using affirmations to stop any negative thoughts is an easy and positive way to improve one’s self-esteem.
These encouraging short messages can be repeated until you believe what you are saying and can replace any negative thoughts with positive ones.
For example, instead of saying “I made a horrible error and I am not good at my job,” say, “I made a mistake, but it was a learning experience and I know not to repeat it in the future.”
Tell yourself positive messages in the morning to start your day off on a good foot.
Here are some positive affirmations you can say in the mirror when you wake up:
Many people like and respect me.
- I am successful at many things.
- I accept myself just as I am.
- I love myself because I deserve love.
- Life is good, and I choose to see the good.
- I look and feel great today.
- I am a caring friend.
- I have so many things to be grateful for.
How Much Self-Esteem Do You Need?
Self-esteem will fluctuate over time. It really depends on what is going on in your life and the work you’ve done to improve your self-esteem.
It is normal and healthy to go through periods where you feel a bit down about yourself, as well as times when you feel great.
Generally, your self-esteem will reflect how you feel about yourself at the time, and it typically increases with age and effort.
Take the time to recognize the different ends of the spectrum regarding your self-esteem. For example, when you have low self-esteem, you will likely notice that you don’t put a lot of value on your own opinions.
Instead, you pay attention to what you perceive to be weaknesses and give yourself very little credit for the positive things that you do in your everyday life.
You may even assume that everyone around you is more competent than you are.This can make it difficult to receive compliments or positive feedback.
Your fear of failure can overpower your ability to believe you can succeed.
A healthy level of self-esteem results involves a balanced and accurate view of yourself.
For example, you think positively about your abilities, but you are also able to recognize any flaws that you might have, and you are able to accept them for what they are without diminishing your opinion of yourself.
You need enough self-esteem to maintain this healthy outlook and to be able to fulfill your life and work responsibilities. You need enough to see yourself as a valuable spouse, partner, parent, friend, and employee.
And you need enough to recognize when your self-esteem is dipping and take action to boost it — because you know you’re worth it.