Self-esteem is a positive or negative orientation toward oneself, an overall evaluation of one’s worth or value. People are motivated to have high self-esteem, indicating positive self-regard, not egotism. Self-esteem is only one component of the self-concept, which Rosenberg defines as the “totality of the individual’s thoughts and feelings concerning himself as an object. Self-esteem is thought of as occurring on a continuum, meaning that it is believed to smoothly vary in amount or magnitude from low to high across different individuals. Some people have higher self-esteem, while other people have lower self-esteem. The differences between these people are not noticeable but instead are apparent only through a comparison of their thoughts and feelings about their worth.
Self-esteem is also thought to vary in another way we might describe as proportionality or reasonableness. It turns out that not all instances of high self-esteem are the same. Some people with high self-esteem have arrived at that place based on a series of actual accomplishments. They give themselves credit for meeting new challenges because they have been able to meet previous challenges. Their reasonable opinion of themselves is in proportion to the real challenges they have overcome in life.
Just as self-esteem can be too high or “overly-inflated” in proportion to a person’s accomplishments and actions, it can also be too low or “under-inflated” as well. In many cases, people who end up having poor self-esteem have met adversity and challenges, treated others well, and have a basis for feeling good about themselves. However, they may not recognize these accomplishments and actions as meaningful for various reasons, including a tendency towards depression, anxiety or obsessive perfectionism, a habit of engaging in cognitive distortions or being abused or exploited. They perceive themselves as failing to meet an internalized and unreasonably high standard of goodness. Thus, they display very low self-esteem and emotional distress when they cannot meet that internal standard.
Why Is High Self Esteem Important?
- It helps you to be more resilient to troubles and difficulties that are inevitable in life. When your self-esteem is high, you have the ability and skills to bounce back the failure, learn from mistakes, and make adjustments to improve the situation and overcome the obstacles.
- It helps you feel happy and content with your life because you respect yourself and other people appreciate you. This will have a positive effect on your health and your general life.
- It helps you feel more motivated to achieve your goals because high self-esteem makes you trust other people and enhances your confidence in your ability to succeed. As a result, you are more motivated to take action.
- It helps you to enjoy better relationships with friends and partners and attract successful and confident people in your life who like you more for your positive energy.
- It makes you accept challenges because you are confident in your strengths and know you can master everything.
- You perform better at any task: personal or related to your studies or your job.
- Your life is more exciting. You live your life to the fullest, try to use every opportunity, and take risks because you feel confident that you can succeed in everything and achieve your goals.
- It makes you understand that you don’t need to be perfect, so you feel less stressed. You are not afraid to make bad decisions because you know that anyone can make mistakes, and it’s OK.
- It makes it possible for you to be yourself and eliminate the need to adapt your behavior, values, and views to meet other people’s expectations.
- It helps to build your mental strength and improve your ability to perform tasks more efficiently.
How Can You Build High Self-Esteem?
1. Use positive affirmations correctly
Positive affirmations such as “I am going to be a great success!” are extremely popular, but they have one critical problem, they tend to make people with low self-worth feel worse about themselves. Why? Because when our self-esteem is joint, such declarations are too contrary to our current beliefs. Ironically, positive affirmations work for one subset of people whose self-esteem is already high. For claims to work when your self-esteem is lagging, tweak them to make them more believable. For example, change “I’m going to be a great success!” to “I’m going to persevere until I succeed!”
2. Identify your competencies and develop them
Self-esteem is built by demonstrating actual ability and achievement in areas of our lives that matter to us. If you pride yourself on being a good cook, throw more dinner parties. If you’re a good runner, sign up for races and train for them. In short, figure out your core competencies and find opportunities and careers that accentuate them.
3. Learn to accept compliments
One of the trickiest aspects of improving self-esteem is that when we feel bad about ourselves, we tend to be more resistant to compliment, even though we most need them. So, set yourself the goal to tolerate compliments when you receive them, even if they make you uncomfortable (and they will). The best way to avoid the reflexive reactions of batting away compliments is to prepare simple set responses and train yourself to use them automatically whenever you get good feedback (e.g., “Thank you” or “How kind of you to say”). In time, the impulse to deny or rebuff compliments will fade, which will also be an excellent indication your self-esteem is getting stronger.
4. Eliminate self-criticism and introduce self-compassion
Unfortunately, when our self-esteem is low, we are likely to damage it further by being self-critical. Since our goal is to enhance our self-esteem, we need to substitute self-criticism (which is almost always entirely useless, even if it feels compelling) with self-compassion. Specifically, whenever your self-critical inner monologue kicks in, ask yourself what you would say to a dear friend if they were in your situation (we tend to be much more compassionate to friends than we are to ourselves) and direct those comments to yourself. Doing so will avoid damaging your self-esteem further with critical thoughts and help build it up instead.