Self-esteem is a tricky thing. It’s not stagnant and our own narrative, as well as those around us, can impact our self-esteem. The question we all need to ask ourselves is: Are we the leading character in our lives or are we currently a supporting role?
What is Self-esteem?
Self-esteem is what you feel is your overall self-worth or personal value. At its essence, it is how much you appreciate yourself. Therefore, it is the result of what we process internally about ourselves and what we choose to believe as an outcome of that processing. It impacts how we appraise our own appearance, what we believe about our abilities, how we process our emotions, how we perceive and speak about others and the general manner in which we behave.
Broadly speaking there are three types of self-esteems. While we tend to generally fall into one type, most people will experience bouts of the other two types. This is dependent on what they’re faced with.
The Three Types of Self-Esteem
- Inflated self-esteem: Someone who believes themselves better than everyone else and consistently underestimates those around them. They engage in the “blame game” instead of taking responsibility for errors. Additionally, they are characterised by their inability to listen to others.
- High self-esteem: Someone who accepts, values and trusts themselves. They are characterised as positive people and have the inner courage to face problems. Generally, they do not allow challenges or negative circumstances unbalance their lives.
- Low self-esteem: Someone who doesn’t value or trust themselves very much. Fear of failure leads them to be plagued by indecision and doubt. This can negatively impact many areas of their lives.
Why is Self-Esteem Important?
Those with low self-esteem generally feel like they are not good enough or that they are constantly failing. Usually, this feeling extends over multiple areas of their lives and they tend to feel generally quite lost as well as insecure.
One of the biggest effects of a low self-esteem is that someone is not able to really live, instead they are stuck in a bubble of negativity, mistrust and anxiety. This combination is lethal when it comes to being able to achieve, as well as be satisfied with or truly enjoy life. If you expect yourself to fail, there is a good chance you will. This can become a constant self-defeating cycle which ultimately isolates you from others resulting in a crumbling of relationships and demise of friendships.
What Causes Low Self-Esteem?
Often, self-esteem challenges are associated with women. While women tend to be more predisposed to these challenges this does not mean that men don’t have similar issues.
One of the greatest causes of self-doubt and a low self esteem is the expectations we think are placed on us from those around us and society in general. The strive to perfectly fulfil a role or complete a task each and every time we do something doesn’t help us. When we fail, we are reminded by the critical voices in our heads that we are not good enough. These critical voices keep us from seeing what we have actually achieved and focus us on our failures. Thus, starting us on a downward spiral wherein little failures are deemed catastrophic, negative voices get louder and things snowball into a continuous reminder of how “pathetic” one is. Thus, judgmental and negative, critical voices in our head – often stemming from previous relationships or parents – play an important part in creating a low self-esteem.
Our ability to deal with failure and to take responsibility for choices, and our resilience to change as well as unpredictable situations, are just a few factors that can impact our self-esteem.
How to Improve Your Self-Esteem
Understanding who you are is important to improving your self-esteem. Part of this process is understanding our childhood and past relationships. This helps us understand the language of the voices we have in our heads. Once we can identify the voices, we can put them into perspective and learn to quieten them. By learning to talk more positively to ourselves, and by being kinder and more positive, we put ourselves mentally in a much better position to like ourselves. When we start to like ourselves and our self-esteem starts to improve, loving ourselves becomes an option.
Three Steps Towards Better Self-Esteem
- Roles and Responsibilities: It’s important to identify the roles we play in our lives. As well as what we are actually responsible for. Then to take time to look at their demands and rewards so that we can prioritise them.
- Dissect: By really dissecting one’s various attributes and looking at the different roles we play in our lives, we discover the many positives we have forgotten about because of the critical voice that dominates our thoughts.
- Congratulations: Remember to pat yourself on the back when you accomplish things. This will help reinforce the positive voices in your head.
Work on it
Many people find counselling helpful in addressing their inner voices. It can help you categorise the voices, understand why they are there and how to make the positive voices more dominant than the critical ones. Counselling also helps people to accept failures as situational and not character flaws, take responsibility, as well as better deal with change and the unknown.
Working on your self-esteem and having the right view of who you are has many rewards. Becoming the leading character in your life story is well worth the time and effort of exercising grit to keep going when it gets tough or painful.
Interested in learning more about counselling? SACAP offers a range of courses, including part-time and full-time as well as distance learning options. The Higher Certificate in Counselling and Communication Skills also serves as a gateway to higher learning. For more information, enquire now.
1. What is self-esteem?
Self-esteem is how much you appreciate yourself. It is a result of what we internally process about ourselves.
2. Why is self-esteem important?
Self-esteem can impact all areas of our life such that it can cause us to be isolated and depressed or to be positive and satisfied with our lives.
3. How do I improve my self-esteem?
Understanding who you are, what drives your inner monologue, speaking to yourself positively as well as acknowledging your accomplishments can assist in improving your self-esteem.