What do you know about self-esteem?
Do you or someone you know have low self-esteem, and has it impacted on your daily life? Yes? Okay, just for a few minutes, think about the question What do you know about self-esteem. Hold that thought and let’s move on.
The idea for this post began with a fellow-blogger asking for tips on books to read about mental health, and self-esteem in particular. Perhaps I can respond to her request, but first I needed to find out a bit more so I asked her the following questions.
- Can you tell me what is self-esteem to you?
- How do you rate your self-esteem?
- What do you want to be able to do when your self-esteem improves?
- How will you feel when it’s improved?
- How will you know that your self-esteem has improved?
She replied saying “I think I’m going to have to think about this question some more”. For me, that’s really to good to hear. Sometimes I still have my mental health nurse’s hat on, and the more I know, the better I can help and support.
In the meantime, I might be able to provide some answers here, so let’s start with
What is self-esteem?
But before we go any further, let’s just clear something up………..
“The terms self-esteem and self-confidence are often used interchangeably when referring to how you feel about yourself. While they’re very similar, they are two different things. It’s important to understand their roles when looking to improve your overall sense of self.
Self-esteem is how we value and see ourselves. It’s based on our opinions and beliefs about ourselves. Self-esteem starts to form in childhood by experiences with family, friends or peers, and by situations that have shaped how you view yourself today. Self-confidence is how you feel about your abilities to interact with the people around you, deal with challenges or solve problems. As with self-esteem, self-confidence can also can vary from situation to situation.
According to self-esteem expert Morris Rosenberg (1965), self-esteem is quite simply one’s attitude toward oneself. He described it as a “favourable or unfavourable attitude toward the self.”
When we have healthy self-esteem, we tend to feel good about ourselves and about life in general. It makes us better able to deal with life’s ups and downs.
What is low self-esteem
Low self-esteem is characterized by feeling badly about oneself. People with low self-esteem often feel awkward, unwanted, unattractive or unlovable. Furthermore, people with low self-esteem are “hypervigilant and hyper alert to signs of rejection, inadequacy, and rebuff,” according to researchers Morris Rosenberg and Timothy J. Owens, who wrote Low Self-Esteem People: A Collective Portrait.
We experience the negative feelings of low self-esteem when we believe that we are inadequate and less worthy than others. We tend to catastrophise all our little failures, which all roll into one long and constant stream of patheticness. We’re frequently reminded of just how pathetic we really are.
For some reason, the negative messages that you received in childhood or from ex-partners, at school i.e. you’re not good enough are the ones that stays with you.
childhood life was fraught with low self-esteem. Mum and dad kept moving around and splitting up, so we moved a lot and went to so many different schools and it was difficult to fit in. Everyone always seemed to laugh at the new kid, maybe I wasn’t fashionable enough in trendy areas like London?
Even the teachers laughed at me and made fun of my different accents in front of everyone. And that’s stuck with me; even today, I don’t like my Cockney accent, formed by living in London for around 40 years.
Those negative messages plagued me for years I still felt it when I first became a mental health ward manager and had to deliver training programmes to our mental health nurses. I had to do a lot of work, but it’s definitely helped. I love me now.
I do, honestly. I love the person I’ve become.
I dare say that we’ve probably all had times where we didn’t feel good about ourselves, such as not joining in the discussions at a team meeting or in college. That’s okay. But when our low self-esteem turns into a long-term problem, it can have a harmful effect on our mental health and our activities of daily living.
Recognizing the signs of low self-esteem your own worth is an important step in gaining a healthy self-esteem. We’ll come to the how later, but first let’s take a look at
What causes low self esteem?
Experiences you had in childhood, or maybe your current relationships with your partner or family members, all impact your self-esteem.
Some of the countless causes of low self-esteem may include:
- unhappy childhood where parents were quick to criticise
- relationship problems, separation or divorce
- domestic violence
- experiencing prejudice, discrimination or stigma
- ongoing medical problem such as disability, chronic pain, chronic or serious illness
- mental health problems, stigma and discrimination
- poor academic performance in school resulting in a lack of confidence
- being abused or bullied perhaps at school, college or at work
- experiencing prejudice, discrimination or stigma
- redundancy, being fired or difficulty in finding a job
- problems at work or at school, college or university
- ongoing long-term stress
- financial difficulties
- poor housing and environment
- worries about how you look and body image
It’s possible you’ve had many of the above, or you may have had other problems that aren’t listed. It’s never just one cause, more likely, an accumulation.
An important note is that self-esteem is not fixed. It’s a continuum and it’s measurable, meaning it can be tested and improved upon.
What affect does self-esteem have on us?
Mind writes “The things that affect our self-esteem differ for everyone. Your self-esteem might change suddenly, or you might have had low self-esteem for a while – which might make it hard to recognise how you feel and make changes.
And while it might sometimes feel really hard to change, you can still improve self-esteem by understanding yourself, and the value you really do have.
Your self-esteem can affect whether you:
- like and value yourself as a person
- know that you deserve happiness
- believe you matter and that you are good enough
- show compassion to yourself, self-soothing
- take time to look after your own needs first
- move past mistakes without blaming yourself unfairly
- are able to make decisions and assert yourself
- recognise your strengths and positives
- feel able to try new or difficult things
Is low self-esteem a mental health problem?
No, it’s not in itself but it’s closely linked. Generally people with a mental illness i.e. anxiety or depression, have a low self-esteem. And having a low self-esteem can lead to mental health problems, due to the underlying cause i.e. financial difficulties, redundancy, losing your home.
How can we improve our self esteem?
Okay, so far we’ve glimpsed at:
- what is self-esteem
- what is low self-esteem
- what causes low self-esteem
- what effect does self-esteem have on us, and
- is low self-esteem a mental illness
So, I guess this is the bit you’ve been waiting for — but, if you’re anything like me, your attention span’s starting to wane and you’ll not take much more in.
Over to you
The question at the beginning was What do you know about self esteem? Having read this post, do you think you’ve you learned anything new?
What are your thoughts on the concepts of self-esteem? Have you experienced it or do you know someone that does? I’m looking forward to any comments or questions. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a sneak preview of where we’re heading next, and we’ll carry on tomorrow. I’m sure one or two of you know what this?
“Big I, Little i” technique (Arnold Lazarus), Journal of Human Development and Communication, Volume 7, 2018 [61-70] 63