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self-esteem is a term that refers to how we perceive and evaluate ourselves. It is influenced by various factors, such as our personal experiences, social interactions, cultural norms, and feedback from others. self-esteem can have a significant impact on our wellbeing, motivation, and behaviour. In this article, we will explore the concept of self-esteem, its benefits and challenges, and some strategies to improve it. We will also propose, in places, an alternative view of self-esteem and suggest how this links to the main theory of self-esteem.
What is self-esteem, and why is it important?
self-esteem is the degree to which we value and respect ourselves. It is influenced by our beliefs and opinions about ourselves, which can be positive or negative. self-esteem affects many aspects of our lives, such as our choices, actions, goals, relationships, and well-being.
Having a healthy self-esteem means that we have a realistic and balanced view of ourselves. We can acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses without feeling superior or inferior to others. We can accept ourselves as we are and strive for personal growth. Furthermore, we can also cope with challenges and setbacks without losing confidence or hope.
On the other hand, having a low self-esteem means that we have a negative and distorted view of ourselves. We may feel unworthy, inadequate, or undeserving of love and happiness. We may also avoid taking risks or trying new things for fear of failure or rejection. Likewise, we may also blame ourselves for things that are not our fault or dwell on our mistakes without learning from them.
Why is self-esteem important? self-esteem is important because it affects how we think, feel, and act in the world. It also affects how we relate to others and how much we value ourselves and our abilities. Some of the benefits of having a healthy self-esteem are:
- We feel more confident and optimistic about our future.
- We have more motivation and perseverance to pursue our goals.
- Furthermore, we are more resilient and adaptable to change and stress.
- We have more compassion and empathy for ourselves and others.
- We have more positive and satisfying relationships with others.
- Likewise, we have more respect for our own needs and boundaries.
- We have more self-care and well-being habits.
self-esteem is not something that we are born with or that is fixed for life. It is something that we can develop and improve throughout our lives. There are many factors that can influence our self-esteem, such as our childhood experiences, family, friends, culture, media, education, work, health, etc. Some of these factors may be beyond our control, but we can always choose how we respond to them and what we do to boost our self-esteem.
An alternative viewpoint on self-esteem
An alternative view regarding self-esteem, is that true self-esteem only comes via an unconditional love for total knowledge of self, which includes those aspects of self Jung called the shadow. This theory suggests one can “develop” a false sense of self-esteem by continually proving oneself as worthy, but that true self-esteem can only come when all aspects of one’s shadow have been illuminated and there are no more negative thoughts and feelings about oneself. This theory suggests that this produces a sense of self-confidence and self-esteem which “never wears off”, whilst the false self-esteem has to be constantly “topped up” – the need to periodically add to one’s self-esteem internal check-list, as older self-esteem points wear out and fade.
The wholeness theory of self-esteem
The wholeness theory of self-esteem is a psychological framework which links the core of our self-esteem to the amount of personal connectedness, or wholeness a person experiences. This theory states that we are born fully connected to self, but learn to deny, modify or reject aspects of self as we progress through life and this results in a diminishment of our core self-esteem. The theory suggests that is lack of inner connectedness leaves people feeling hollow and empty, leading them to seek for coping mechanisms to ease this inner sadness. Many of those coping techniques are maladaptive, which makes those inner issues worse, and often lead to mental health issues including personality disorders.
How does self-esteem affect our mental health and wellbeing?
self-esteem is how we value and perceive ourselves, based on our opinions and beliefs about ourselves. It can affect our mental health and well-being in various ways. Having high self-esteem can make us feel confident, happy, and secure, while having low self-esteem can lead to self-criticism, negativity, and poor choices. Low self-esteem can also contribute to mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation, as well as high levels of stress and unhealthy coping activities. self-esteem can be improved by supporting oneself to find inner strength and a positive outlook on life.
self-esteem is influenced by many factors in our lives, such as our experiences, relationships, environment, and culture. Some of the things that may cause low self-esteem are being bullied or abused, experiencing prejudice or discrimination, losing a job or having difficulty finding one, having physical or mental health problems, having relationship problems or financial difficulties, worrying about our appearance or body image, or feeling pressure to meet unrealistic expectations. These factors can make us feel unworthy, inadequate, or hopeless.
However, low self-esteem is not a permanent condition. There are ways to boost our self-esteem and improve our mental health and well-being. Some of the tips to improve our self-esteem are:
- Recognize our strengths and achievements
- Challenge negative thoughts and beliefs about ourselves
- Show kindness and compassion towards ourselves
- Take care of our physical and emotional needs
- Seek support from people who value and respect us
- Try new or difficult things that challenge us
- Learn from our mistakes without blaming ourselves unfairly.
- Celebrate our successes and progress
- Set realistic and attainable goals for ourselves
- Express our feelings and opinions assertively
By improving our self-esteem, we can enhance our mental health and well-being. We can feel more positive about ourselves and our life in general. We can cope better with life’s challenges and difficulties. Furthermore, we can believe that we matter and that we deserve happiness.
The alternative view on self-esteem suggests that it should simply “be”; one should not have to acquire beliefs about self to enhance our sense of self-esteem, rather, with total knowledge of true-self, self-esteem should come automatically and be innate, regardless of one’s personal circumstances or challenges. The alternative view on self-esteem reminds us that self-esteem can only come from self, it cannot be acquired through deeds and actions in the external world. It proposes therefore that true self-esteem comes only as a result of self-introspection related activities.
It’s also been noticed that people who lack self-esteem often fall foul of manipulation from others, and from society. This article explores this possibility.
What are the main factors that influence our self-esteem?
self-esteem is the subjective evaluation of one’s worth as a person. It can affect various aspects of our lives, such as our mental health, relationships, and performance. But what are the main factors that influence our self-esteem? According to psychological research, there are four major sources of self-esteem: reflected appraisals, social comparisons, self-attributions, and psychological centrality.
Reflected appraisals are the feedback we receive from others about ourselves. They can be positive or negative, and they can shape our self-image and self-confidence. For example, if we receive praise and recognition from our parents, teachers, or friends, we may develop a high self-esteem. On the other hand, if we experience criticism, rejection, or bullying, we may develop a low self-esteem.
Social comparisons are the judgments we make about ourselves in relation to others. They can be upward or downward, and they can affect our self-satisfaction and self-esteem. For example, if we compare ourselves to someone who is more successful, attractive, or talented than us, we may feel inferior and have a low self-esteem. On the other hand, if we compare ourselves to someone who is less successful, attractive, or talented than us, we may feel superior and have a high self-esteem.
Self-attributions are the explanations we give for our own behaviours and outcomes. They can be internal or external, and they can influence our self-efficacy and self-esteem. For example, if we attribute our success to our own abilities and efforts, we may feel competent and have a high self-esteem. On the other hand, if we attribute our failure to our own lack of abilities and efforts, we may feel incompetent and have a low self-esteem.
Psychological centrality is the degree to which different aspects of our identity are important to us. It can vary depending on the situation and the person, and it can moderate the impact of other factors on our self-esteem. For example, if we value our academic achievement highly, then our grades may have a strong effect on our self-esteem. On the other hand, if we value our athletic ability highly, then our performance in sports may have a stronger effect on our self-esteem.
In conclusion, self-esteem is influenced by various factors that relate to how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us. By understanding these factors, we may be able to enhance our self-esteem and improve our wellbeing.
The alternative theory on self-esteem, however, tells a different story. It suggests that reflected appraisals and social comparisons are a pathway to despair, and lead one to develop ego-based masks to cover up our true self as we pretend to be someone we are not. True self-esteem, it is suggested, comes when our true-self matches our self-concept and this is the self we present to the external world. Only when these three aspects of self are in alignment will one find lasting happiness, unshakeable self-esteem and true self-confidence.
How do we compare ourselves to others, and what are the consequences?
One of the most common ways that we evaluate ourselves is by comparing ourselves to others. We may compare ourselves to our peers, our role models, our family members, or even strangers. We may compare ourselves on various dimensions, such as appearance, intelligence, skills, achievements, popularity, or happiness. But why do we do this, and what are the effects of this comparison process?
Social comparison theory suggests that we compare ourselves to others to gain information about ourselves and our social world. By comparing ourselves to others who are similar to us or who are relevant to our goals, we can learn about our strengths and weaknesses, our abilities and limitations, our progress and potential. We can also use social comparison to enhance our self-esteem and motivation, by finding out that we are better than others or that we can improve ourselves.
However, social comparison can also have negative consequences for our wellbeing and behaviour. If we compare ourselves to others who are superior to us or who have unrealistic standards, we may feel inferior, inadequate, or envious. We may also experience dissatisfaction, frustration, or depression. We may also engage in self-enhancement strategies, such as boasting, denigrating others, or avoiding feedback. Alternatively, we may engage in self-improvement strategies, such as working harder, seeking help, or changing our goals.
Therefore, social comparison is a double-edged sword that can have both positive and negative effects on us. The outcomes of social comparison depend on several factors, such as the direction of comparison (upward or downward), the dimension of comparison (relevant or irrelevant), the type of comparison (global or specific), and the interpretation of comparison (threatening or inspiring). We can use social comparison in a constructive way if we choose appropriate targets of comparison, focus on specific and attainable goals, and view comparison as a source of learning and growth.
How can we avoid unhealthy comparisons and cope with envy and jealousy?
Envy and jealousy are natural emotions that can arise when we perceive that someone else has something that we want or value. However, these emotions can also be harmful if they lead us to make unfair or negative comparisons with ourselves or others, or if they interfere with our happiness and well-being. Here are some strategies to avoid unhealthy comparisons and cope with envy and jealousy in a constructive way:
– Recognize and acknowledge your feelings. Instead of denying or suppressing your envy and jealousy, try to understand what triggers them and what they reveal about your needs and desires. For example, if you feel envious of someone’s success, it might mean that you have a goal that you want to achieve or a skill that you would like to improve. By acknowledging your feelings, you can use them as a source of motivation and inspiration rather than resentment and bitterness.
- Challenge your negative thoughts. Sometimes, envy and jealousy can make us think irrationally or distort our perception of reality. For example, we might think that someone else has it all or that we are not good enough. To counter these thoughts, try to find evidence that contradicts them or look for alternative explanations. For example, you might realize that someone else’s success is not effortless or flawless, or that you have strengths and achievements that you can be proud of.
- Express gratitude for what you have. One way to reduce envy and jealousy is to focus on the positive aspects of your life and appreciate what you have rather than what you lack. You can practice gratitude by writing down three things that you are grateful for every day, or by expressing your appreciation to someone who has helped you or supported you. By doing this, you can cultivate a sense of abundance and satisfaction rather than scarcity and dissatisfaction.
- Celebrate others’ achievements and seek their support. Another way to cope with envy and jealousy is to adopt a cooperative rather than a competitive mindset. Instead of seeing others as rivals or threats, try to see them as allies or mentors. You can do this by congratulating them on their achievements, asking them for advice or feedback, or collaborating with them on a common project. By doing this, you can build positive relationships and learn from others’ experiences rather than feeling isolated or inferior.
- Work on your self-esteem and self-compassion. Finally, one of the best ways to avoid unhealthy comparisons and cope with envy and jealousy is to improve your self-esteem and self-compassion. self-esteem is the degree to which you value and respect yourself, while self-compassion is the ability to treat yourself kindly and gently when you face difficulties or failures. You can enhance your self-esteem and self-compassion by recognizing your worth and potential, celebrating your achievements and efforts, accepting your flaws and limitations, and being supportive and encouraging to yourself.
The alternative view of self-esteem suggests that one’s negative thoughts and feelings about self come from one’s shadow, hidden in the unconscious mind, and it is only my illuminating these shadows, through self-introspection that they can be finally removed, and transmuted into positive self-affirming thoughts which are the source of true self-esteem. The alternative view of self-esteem recommends that this work, via self-introspection should be one’s top priority – “get to know your shadows well, understand them, and in that understanding, love them, then they will no longer be shadow, you will have illuminated them and turned them into another wholesome, loved aspect of self.”
What is self-compassion, and how does it differ from self-esteem?
Self-compassion is a self-attitude that involves treating oneself with warmth, kindness, and understanding when facing pain, failure, or inadequacy. It also means recognizing that making mistakes and suffering are part of being human and shared by others. Self-compassion requires noticing and feeling moved by one’s own suffering, rather than ignoring it or judging it harshly.
Self-compassion differs from self-esteem in several ways. self-esteem is based on how favourably we evaluate ourselves, especially in comparison to others or in terms of our achievements. self-esteem can fluctuate depending on our successes and failures, and it can also lead to narcissism, defensiveness, or self-deception if we try to maintain a positive self-image at all costs. Self-compassion, on the other hand, is based on how kindly we treat ourselves, regardless of our perceived worth or accomplishments. Self-compassion is more stable and consistent than self-esteem, and it can help us cope with challenges and setbacks without losing our sense of self-worth. Furthermore, self-compassion is not a form of self-pity or self-indulgence, but a form of self-acceptance and self-care.
How can we practice self-compassion and reduce self-criticism and shame?
Shame is the painful feeling of being inferior or flawed, and fearing rejection or criticism from others. self-criticism is the tendency to judge oneself harshly and blame oneself for mistakes or failures. Both shame and self-criticism can undermine our well-being and happiness, and make us feel isolated and unworthy.
One way to practice self-compassion and reduce shame and self-criticism is to write self-compassionate letters to oneself. This is a technique that involves expressing kindness, empathy, and encouragement to oneself in a written form, as if writing to a friend who is suffering. Research has shown that writing self-compassionate letters can significantly decrease shame and self-criticism in people who have high levels of these emotions.
To write a self-compassionate letter, you can follow these steps:
- Identify a situation or aspect of yourself that makes you feel ashamed or self-critical.
- Acknowledge your feelings and thoughts about this situation or aspect, without judging or denying them.
- Remind yourself that you are not alone in feeling this way, and that many people struggle with similar issues or challenges.
- Express understanding, kindness, and support to yourself, as you would to a friend who is going through a hard time.
- Recognize your strengths and positive qualities, and appreciate yourself for who you are.
- Suggest some ways that you can cope with the situation or aspect, or improve it if possible.
- End the letter with some words of encouragement and hope.
Here is an example of a self-compassionate letter:
I know you are feeling ashamed and self-critical about your performance at work. You feel like you are not good enough, and that you have disappointed your boss and colleagues. You worry that they will think less of you, or even let go of you.
I understand how hard it is to deal with these feelings. You have always been a perfectionist, and you have high expectations for yourself. You work hard and care about doing a good job. You are not used to making mistakes or receiving negative feedback.
But please remember that you are not alone in feeling this way. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes, and everyone faces challenges at work. It does not mean that you are incompetent or worthless. It just means that you are human.
Please be kind and gentle with yourself. You do not deserve to be harsh or cruel to yourself. You deserve to be treated with respect and compassion, by yourself and by others. You have many skills and talents that make you a valuable employee and a wonderful person. You have contributed a lot to your team and your organization. You have also learned a lot from your experiences, and you can use them to grow and improve.
Please do not give up on yourself or your goals. You can overcome this setback, and achieve what you want. You can also seek help from others who care about you, such as your friends, family, or mentors. They can offer you support, advice, or feedback that can help you cope or improve.
You are strong, capable, and resilient. You have faced many difficulties before, and you have overcome them. You can do it again. I believe in you.
How can we develop a kinder and more supportive relationship with ourselves?
One of the most important skills we can cultivate in life is self-compassion. Self-compassion is the ability to treat ourselves with kindness and understanding, especially when we face difficulties, failures, or mistakes. Self-compassion is not about being self-indulgent or self-pitying, but rather about recognizing our common humanity and our inherent worthiness.
Developing a kinder and more supportive relationship with ourselves can have many benefits for our well-being, such as reducing stress, anxiety, depression, and shame, and increasing happiness, resilience, and motivation. Here are some ways we can practice self-compassion and foster a more positive self-image:
- Be mindful of our thoughts and emotions. Instead of suppressing or avoiding them, we can acknowledge them with curiosity and openness, without judging them as good or bad. We can also notice when we are being harsh or critical of ourselves, and try to replace those thoughts with more balanced and realistic ones.
- Be gentle with ourselves. Instead of punishing ourselves for our mistakes or shortcomings, we can accept them as part of being human and learn from them. We can also recognize our strengths and achievements, and celebrate our progress and efforts.
- Be supportive of ourselves. Instead of isolating ourselves or seeking external validation, we can reach out to others who care about us and offer us empathy and encouragement. We can also practice self-care by taking care of our physical, mental, and emotional needs, and doing things that bring us joy and fulfilment.
What is a growth mindset, and how does it relate to self-esteem?
A growth mindset is a belief that one’s abilities and skills can be improved through effort and learning. It is contrasted with a fixed mindset, which is a belief that one’s abilities and skills are innate and unchangeable. A growth mindset can have positive effects on one’s self-esteem, which is the overall evaluation of one’s worth as a person. People with a growth mindset tend to have higher self-esteem because they view challenges as opportunities to grow and learn, rather than as threats to their self-image. They also tend to be more resilient and optimistic in the face of setbacks and failures because they believe they can overcome them with hard work and perseverance. A growth mindset can help people achieve their goals and fulfil their potential, while also enhancing their well-being and happiness.
How can we adopt a growth mindset and embrace challenges and failures as opportunities for learning and improvement?
One of the key skills for success in the 21st century is having a growth mindset, which means believing that our abilities and intelligence can be developed through effort and feedback. A growth mindset helps us to overcome challenges and failures by seeing them as opportunities for learning and improvement. How can we adopt a growth mindset and embrace these opportunities? Here are some tips:
Set realistic and specific goals for yourself and track your progress regularly.
Seek feedback from others and use it to improve your performance and skills.
Celebrate your achievements and recognize your strengths, but also acknowledge your weaknesses and areas for improvement.
View challenges and failures as part of the learning process, not as indicators of your worth or potential.
Learn from others who have overcome similar challenges and failures, and model their strategies and behaviours.
Cultivate a positive attitude and a sense of curiosity, and be open to new ideas and perspectives.
Seek out new and diverse experiences that challenge you and help you grow.
By adopting a growth mindset, we can become more resilient, adaptable, and confident in our abilities. We can also enjoy the process of learning and improving, rather than focusing on the outcomes or comparing ourselves to others. A growth mindset is not something that we are born with or without, but something that we can develop and nurture throughout our lives.
How can we foster a sense of curiosity and passion for lifelong learning and growth?
One possible way to foster a sense of curiosity and passion for lifelong learning and growth is to create a culture of inquiry and feedback in our personal and professional environments. A culture of inquiry and feedback is one where we are encouraged to ask questions, seek answers, share insights, and learn from mistakes. By doing so, we can stimulate our curiosity, challenge our assumptions, expand our perspectives, and deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.
Another possible way to foster a sense of curiosity and passion for lifelong learning and growth is to pursue our interests and passions in a variety of domains and contexts. By pursuing our interests and passions, we can discover new sources of joy, meaning, and fulfilment in our lives. We can also develop new skills, knowledge, and competencies that can enhance our personal and professional development. Moreover, by pursuing our interests and passions in a variety of domains and contexts, we can expose ourselves to diverse ideas, experiences, and people that can enrich our learning and growth.
A third possible way to foster a sense of curiosity and passion for lifelong learning and growth is to adopt a growth mindset and embrace challenges as opportunities for learning. A growth mindset is the belief that our abilities and talents are not fixed, but can be developed through effort, practice, feedback, and perseverance. By adopting a growth mindset, we can view challenges as opportunities for learning rather than as threats or failures. We can also embrace feedback as a valuable source of information rather than as a judgment or criticism. By doing so, we can cultivate a positive attitude towards learning and growth that can motivate us to overcome obstacles and achieve our goals.
What are some practical tips and strategies to boost our self-esteem and confidence?
self-esteem and confidence are essential for our personal and professional success. They affect how we perceive ourselves, how we interact with others, and how we cope with challenges. However, many people struggle with low self-esteem and confidence, which can limit their potential and happiness. Fortunately, there are some practical tips and strategies that can help us boost our self-esteem and confidence. Here are some of them:
– Recognize and challenge your negative thoughts. Often, low self-esteem and confidence stem from distorted or unrealistic beliefs about ourselves. We may focus on our flaws, compare ourselves to others, or doubt our abilities. These thoughts can undermine our self-worth and make us feel insecure. To overcome them, we need to identify them and challenge them with evidence and logic. For example, if we think “I’m not good enough for this job”, we can ask ourselves “What are the qualifications and skills that I have for this job?” or “What are some examples of my achievements and successes in this field?” By doing this, we can replace our negative thoughts with more positive and realistic ones.
- Practice gratitude and appreciation. Another way to boost our self-esteem and confidence is to acknowledge and appreciate what we have and what we can do. We can practice gratitude by writing down or saying out loud three things that we are grateful for every day. These can be anything from our health, family, friends, hobbies, talents, etc. We can also practice appreciation by giving ourselves compliments or praise for our efforts and achievements. This can help us recognize our strengths and value ourselves more.
- Set realistic and achievable goals. Having goals can motivate us to pursue our dreams and aspirations. However, if our goals are too vague, unrealistic, or overwhelming, they can also cause us stress and frustration. To avoid this, we need to set SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. For example, instead of saying “I want to be more fit”, we can say “I want to exercise for 30 minutes three times a week for the next month”. By setting SMART goals, we can have a clear direction, track our progress, celebrate our accomplishments, and boost our self-esteem and confidence.
- Seek feedback and learn from mistakes. Feedback is essential for our growth and improvement. It can help us identify our areas of improvement and learn from our mistakes. However, many people fear feedback or take it personally. To overcome this fear, we need to view feedback as an opportunity to learn and improve, not as a criticism or judgment. We also need to seek feedback from people who are supportive, constructive, and trustworthy. We can ask them specific questions about what we did well and what we can do better. We can also thank them for their feedback and use it to make positive changes.
- Surround yourself with positive people. The people we spend time with can have a significant impact on our self-esteem and confidence. If we surround ourselves with people who are negative, critical, or unsupportive, they can drag us down and make us feel bad about ourselves. On the other hand, if we surround ourselves with people who are positive, encouraging, or supportive, they can lift us up and make us feel good about ourselves. Therefore, we need to choose our friends wisely and seek out people who inspire us, respect us, and appreciate us for who we are.
If you would like to learn more about self-esteem, its causes, its effects, and how to improve it, here are some weblinks for further reading:
What is self-esteem? – Mind: This website explains what self-esteem is, how it can affect your mental health, and what you can do to improve your self-esteem. It also provides useful contacts for getting support.
self-esteem: Influences, Traits, and How to Improve It – Verywell Mind: This website provides an overview of the theories and research on self-esteem, as well as tips and strategies for boosting your self-esteem.
self-esteem – Wikipedia: This website gives a comprehensive and detailed account of the concept of self-esteem, its history, its measurement, its correlates, and its interventions.