Understanding Self-Esteem

What is self esteem? It is the value someone puts in their own skills, traits, and abilities. It affects every aspect of our lives, defining how we behave and how we bond with other people.

Good self esteem is vital to a person’s psychological well-being. Maslow’s well known hierarchy of needs prioritizes self-esteem as essential to human wellness, along with things such as security and love.

It is normal for self esteem to fluctuate throughout life. It never changes overnight, either. Any change to self esteem only happens slowly over time.

Faulty self esteem can take many forms. In some cases, an individual may have self esteem that is too high, indicating narcissism. In other cases, very low self esteem can cause comorbid conditions such as depression.

Defining Self Image

Self image is separate from self esteem, but related. Self image is how you see yourself. Self esteem is then the value you place on that image. For example, your self image might tell you that you are a competent person that people enjoy being around. Your self esteem would then be how you feel about that. Someone with low self esteem might think that they have no value despite their positive traits.

Recognizing Low Self Esteem 

Low self esteem can be hard to spot. We can become used to these negative thoughts and believe they are a normal way of being. For this reason, it is important to check in on your self esteem on a regular basis.

What are the traits of someone with low self esteem? It varies. Not surprisingly, sometimes a person with low self esteem is withdrawn. Sometimes, however, a person overcompensates. A person with low self esteem in that case would project a false air of confidence. They might even belittle those around them.

On occasion, faulty self esteem leads to mental illnesses, including depression and anxiety, as well as eating disorders.

Someone with low self esteem might:

  • Doubt their abilities
  • Suffer feelings of shame or embarrassment
  • Think they are a failure
  • Blame others constantly
  • Set poor boundaries with others
  • Avoid social interactions
  • Lash out at others
  • Exhibit an aversion to compliments

Physical signs of poor self esteem can include:

  • Difficulties with digestion with no identifiable cause
  • Chronic headaches
  • Back pain from stooping
  • Insomnia

What Causes Low Self-Esteem? 

There can be any one of a number of causes of low self esteem. Sometimes, trauma leads to low self esteem. In still other scenarios, several events over the course of a person’s life can lead to low self esteem.

By working in partnership with a counselor, you can begin to identify the triggers of your self esteem issues. You can then address them by building and using new coping mechanisms.

Common causes of low self-esteem include:

  • Disapproval from parents, teachers
  • Emotionally reticent parents
  • Sexual, emotional or physical abuse
  • Experiencing parental conflict during childhood
  • Experiencing bullying without any protection from parents
  • Difficulties in school
  • Cultural or religious guilt

Building Healthier Self Esteem 

Building better and more resilient self esteem takes time. You can, however, begin employing some techniques to help along the way.

Understand that Negative Thinking Is Not Fact

We all put too much power in our thoughts, oftentimes, taking them as facts. When negative thoughts pop up, remember that they are not hard truths.

You can also turn negative thoughts around. Try some of the following:

  • When you think “I’m unattractive!” turn it into “I have great hair.”
  • When you think “I’m a failure!” turn it into “I have succeeded at the following…”

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

Social media makes it easy for many of us to do one of the worse things for our self esteem– compare ourselves to others. Always remember that what you are seeing online is likely an illusion. You never know what someone else’s reality is, and you should avoid comparing yourself against something that may not even be true.

Getting Therapy for Self-Esteem

If you believe that faulty self esteem is affecting your life, reach out to our trained counselors to discuss your options. A Commonwealth mental health professional can use a number of techniques to help you on your journey to healthier self esteem, including psychotherapy and psychoanalysis. At the start of the process, you will work with your counselor to identify what is at the root of your unhealthy self esteem. You can then begin to develop the skills you need to overcome this barrier to emotional and psychological health.

Contact us today to discuss your options when it comes to self esteem therapy.