What is Self Esteem?
Self esteem is how we describe our overall sense of worth or the value that we place upon ourselves. This perception of ourselves can have a significant impact on how we speak and act to ourselves and how much we ultimately love ourselves. Studies show our self-esteem varies throughout our lives, depending upon circumstances. Self esteem is a complex interaction of our own selves, our environment and our life experiences. Factors which may influence our self esteem include:
- how we identify
- our social roles
- how we view our own competency
- how secure we are in our environment
- our thoughts and feelings about how others perceive us
Needs and Self Esteem
In Maslows “Hierarchy of Needs” self esteem is only achievable after our most basic needs are met. The base of this pyramid contains foundational needs, such as air, food, water, shelter, employment, and a sense of belonging. The needs become more complex as we climb up the pyramid, learning and developing as we achieve our potential. Maslow believed the interaction between feeling appreciated by others and developing inner respect helps to build self esteem
What Affects Self Esteem?
There are many factors that influence our perception of ourselves and how we judge our worth. Life experiences, traumas, transitions, stress, achievements, isolation, relationship struggles, discrimination, etc.. may each or collectively negatively impact on our self-esteem. Often, our experiences establish the baseline of our self esteem and it peaks and dips from that point throughout our lives.
Two factors are important in the development of self esteem in children and adolescents. Those are our social support in those formative years and the perceived competence in areas important to the individual. High self esteem may lead us to feeling more confident and self assured in our abilities and in turn conduct ourselves in ways that fuel that positivity. On the other end of the spectrum, low self esteem often causes us to withdraw from others and have negative attitudes. We typically think about self-esteem as being high or low, but it exists on a range that increases or decreases depending on life events or situations.
How Can You Help Foster Positive Self Esteem?
There are therapeutic approaches that can help up increase our self esteem. Cognitive Behavior Therapy aims to increase awareness of our thoughts and their impact upon us. We learn how to understand why we feel certain ways at certain times and how to adjust these thoughts.
Compassion Focused Therapy helps us form a kinder, forgiving, compassionate way to address ourselves and all of our environmental demands.
Unlike mental health challenges like anxiety or depression, there is not a specific protocol for increasing self esteem and you may benefit from self help, education, and/or one of the therapies suggested above. Also, low self esteem can be a contributing factor to struggles with mental health, so seeking help for mental health issues can positively effect on your self esteem. The most important way to make a difference in your self esteem is to understand the how you developed your worth and self perception and make adjustments if it is negatively impacting your quality of life.