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Self Esteem

Self-esteem refers to the positive (high self-esteem) or negative (low self-esteem) feelings about ourselves. For example, we experience positive feelings of high self-esteem when we believe that we are good and worthy and that others view us positively. Conversely, we share the negative emotions of low self-esteem when we think that we are inadequate and less worthy than others.

Each person's experience is different, but self-esteem seems to rise and fall in predictable, systematic ways throughout their lifespan. Research suggests that self-esteem grows, by varying degrees, until age 60, when it remains steady before beginning to decline in old age.

Self-esteem can influence life in myriad ways, from academic and professional success to relationships and mental health. Self-esteem, however, is not an immutable characteristic; successes or setbacks, both personal and professional, can fuel fluctuations in feelings of self-worth.

Causes of Low Self-Esteem

Feelings of high or low self-worth often start in childhood. Family life riddled with disapproval can follow a person into adult life. Low self-esteem can also become a problem because of a poor school environment or a dysfunctional workplace. Likewise, an unhappy relationship can also alter a person's self-worth.

Signs of low Self-Esteem

The confident person is easily spotted and commands attention. But there's a healthy balance between too little and too much self-worth.

So here are some signs that an individual has the correct dose.

  • Knows the difference between confidence and arrogance

  • Is not afraid of feedback

  • Does not people please or seek approval

  • Is not afraid of conflict

  • Can set boundaries

  • Can voice needs and opinions

  • Is assertive but not pushy

  • Is not obsessed with perfection

  • Is not afraid of setbacks

  • Does not fear failure

Improving Your Self-Esteem

  1. Identify and Challenge Your Negative Beliefs.

  2. Identify the Positive About Yourself.

  3. Build Positive Relationships—and Avoid Negative Ones.

  4. Give Yourself a Break.

  5. Become More Assertive and Learn to Say No.

  6. Improve Your Physical Health.

  7. Take On Challenges.

Once individuals can identify troubling situations, they should pay attention to their thoughts about them. This includes what you tell yourself (self-talk) and your interpretation of what the problem means. Your thoughts and beliefs might be positive, negative, or neutral. They might be rational, based on reason or facts, or irrational, based on false ideas.

Treat yourself with kindness and encouragement. Instead of thinking your presentation won't go well, try telling yourself things such as, "Even though it's tough, I can handle this situation."

Everyone makes mistakes — and mistakes aren't permanent reflections on you as a person. They're isolated moments in time. So, tell yourself, "I made a mistake, but that doesn't make me a bad person."

You don't need to react negatively to negative thoughts. Instead, think of negative thoughts as signals to try new, healthy patterns. For example, ask yourself, "What can I believe and do to make this less stressful?

Encourage yourself. Give yourself credit for making positive changes. For example, "My presentation might not have been perfect, but my colleagues' asked questions and remained engaged — which means that I accomplished my goal."

Accept them instead of fighting, resisting, or being overwhelmed by negative thoughts or feelings. You don't have to like them; allow yourself to feel them.

Author: Dana Papania, Counseling Practicum Student

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