Self-esteem is a person’s overall sense of self-worth. A person with high self-esteem believes that they are a good person, are able to recognize their good qualities, and strive for a happy and successful life, persons with low self-esteem experience negative feelings about themselves.
People with low self-esteem assign little value to their opinions and ideas, constantly worrying if they are good enough. When people have little self-esteem, it could prevent them from fulfilling their potential, or lead to them becoming depressed or tolerating abusive relationships and situations. Poor self-esteem may also lead to addiction problems, with addicts using substances such as alcohol and drugs to help deal with the negative feelings they experience.
Self-esteem can influence one’s life in several ways, affecting academic and professional success, relationships, and mental health. Levels of self-esteem fluctuate over the course of one’s lifetime. Factors such as successes and failures in the professional or personal sphere can spur fluctuations in self-esteem. Thus, self-esteem is not an immutable characteristic.
A healthy self-esteem maintains a balance between low self-esteem and excessively high self-esteem. When one is confident, not afraid of feedback or conflict, is able to set boundaries, can voice their needs and opinions, is assertive and does not have a fear of failure, these are usually signs of healthy self-esteem.
Self-esteem first begins to form in childhood. Parents, teachers and friends affect how one feels about oneself. When they focus on one’s positive qualities and are patient with mistakes, they help one develop a healthy self-esteem. When one constantly experiences disapproval from family, friends, supervisors, and teachers, one develops low self-esteem. Poor school environments, bad relationships, or dysfunctional workplaces could also be responsible for low self-esteem.
Social media plays an increasingly important role in determining self-esteem. Research shows that social media usage is linked to self-esteem. This is because one starts to compare oneself with other users, even though what appears in social media is not necessarily representative of their lives.
Learning to love and accept oneself can lead to healthy self-esteem and drive us to better our lives. This may allow us to pursue a fulfilling career, recover from addiction, or to have a happier relationship. Yet, building self-esteem is not easy. Counselling or psychotherapy can help with understanding the underlying reasons behind one’s low self-esteem. Small steps that one can take to build self-esteem include setting realistic expectations, shunning perfectionism, willingness to adjust one’s self-image, and not comparing oneself to others. Meditation can also improve self-esteem. Moderating social media usage, as well as frequent reminders to oneself that one sees only the best of other people’s lives on social media can help with self-esteem.
Importantly, good diet, exercise and meditation can help one reclaim emotional and physical confidence.