Self-esteem – What is it?
Webster’s defines self-esteem as: belief in oneself; self-respect. This meaning can be expanded to include terms like self-confidence and pride. Self-esteem is the combination of self-confidence and self-respect – the conviction that you are competent to cope with life’s challenges and are worthy of happiness. Self-esteem is the way you talk to yourself about yourself.
Self-esteem has two interrelated aspects; it entails a sense of personal efficacy and a sense of personal worth. It is the integrated sum of self-confidence and self-respect. It is the conviction that one is competent to live and worthy of living.
Our self-esteem and self-image are developed by how we talk to ourselves. All of us have conscious and unconscious memories of all the times we felt bad or wrong – they are part of the unavoidable scars of childhood. This is where the critical voice gets started. Everyone has a critical inner voice. People with low self-esteem simply have a more vicious and demeaning inner voice. (name calls and degrades)
People with high self-esteem:
Have confidence in themselves.
Have ability to solve problems rather than just worry about them.
Have the ability to confront or eliminate the things that frighten them.
Have the ability to take reasonable risks and take those risks.
Psychologist say that almost every aspect of our lives — our personal
happiness, success, relationships with others, achievement, creativity, dependencies, even our sex lives — are dependent on our level of self-esteem. The more we have, the better we deal with things. Positive self-esteem is important because when people experience it, they feel good and look good, they are effective and productive, and they respond to other people and themselves in healthy, positive, growing ways. People who have positive self-esteem know that they are lovable and capable, and they care about themselves and other people. They do not have to build themselves up by tearing other people down or by patronizing less competent people.
Our background largely determines what we will become in personality and more importantly in self-esteem. Where do feelings of worthlessness come from? Many come from our families, since more than 80% of our waking hours up to the age of eighteen are spent under their direct influence. We are who we are because of where we’ve been. We build our own brands of self-esteem from four ingredients: fate, the positive things life offers, the negative things life offers and our own decisions about how to respond to fate, the positives and the negatives. Neither fate nor decisions can be determined by other people in our own life. No one can change fate. We can control our thinking and therefore our decisions in life.
Positive self-esteem is not to be confused with self-centeredness, machismo, being a braggart, or acting superior,
all of which are attempts to hide negative feelings of self. “You are important as long a you act tough, accomplished, or smart” is a negative, unhealthy central message around which to organize one’s life. “You are a worthwhile person” is a positive, healthy message.
We are all capable of increasing our self-esteem, no matter how high or low we may feel on any given day. The good feelings we can generate about ourselves are limitless. Most important, these feeling are within our control, independent of how the rest of the world view us.
The first step in building self-esteem is to accept yourself now as is before you attempt to improve. Self acceptance and self knowledge is the key to creating positive self-esteem. When you know and accept yourself you feel better. When you feel better, you do more. When you do more, you accomplish more. When you accomplish more, your self-confidence zooms. As your self-confidence increases, so does your self-respect. With more self-respect, your overall level of pride increases. And when you have more pride, self-respect, and self-confidence, you can confidently say that you have more self-esteem. You feel more comfortable with yourself.
You can’t like others if you first don’t like yourself, and other can’t like you, either. Self-esteem informs every relationship you have. It’s not only the “real” you who lives in your relationships — it’s also the self-esteem within you. A good, strong self-esteem shows off the best of you; a low self-esteem underscores the worst. Nurturing your relationship with yourself is the first essential step in nurturing your relations with others.
Even if you were lucky enough to have grown up in a family that make you feel worth, many of you still emerge into adulthood with self-doubts — about how pretty, smart or capable you are. This is when the choice factor comes in: You can either let those self-doubts tell you who you are, or you can work through them, by improving the things you can change and accepting those you can’t. You can choose good beauty and health habits. You can change a negative attitude to positive. And you can begin liking, loving, supporting and having fun with the person you’re becoming and working on the most important relationship you’ll ever have: your relationship with yourself.
Inner strength is like any other kind of “muscle” and has to be exercised in the same way. If you like yourself, it shows. You contribute to your work, social engagements, friends and family in a strong and healthy way. You don’t depend on others, but learn to depend on yourself. At the same time, you encourage others to be independent as well, and not to depend on you. You can say yes. You can say no. You live up to your own demands, not the demands of others. You’re in control. Choose joy, choose curiosity, enhance your life with new interests and experiences and new relationships will follow. It’s your life, and no one can fill it but you.
There’s plenty of self-help information available for building self-esteem, and professional help if you feel you need it. Make the choice to do good things for yourself. Make the choice to push self-doubts aside and walk into a room looking your absolute best and confident about who you are. Deserve good relationships; expect good relationships. Become a person you can believe in, and then believe in yourself.
NOTE: Many times when we have low self-esteem there is some overlooked forgiveness that needs to take place in order for us to move forward and feel better about ourselves. See our recommended reading list for self-esteem development and See our Self-esteem questionnaire to evaluate your level of self-esteem.