What is Self-Esteem And How To Raise It?

Self-esteem is what we think of ourselves.

When it’s positive, we have confidence and self-respect. We’re content with ourselves and our abilities, in who we are and our competence. Self-esteem is relatively stable and enduring, though it can fluctuate. Healthy self-esteem makes us resilient and hopeful about life.

Self-Esteem Impacts Everything

Self-esteem affects not only what we think, but also how we feel and behave. It and has significant ramifications for our happiness and enjoyment of life. It considerably affects events in our life, including our relationships, our work and goals, and how we care for ourselves and our children.

Although difficult events, such as a breakup, illness, or loss of income, may in the short term moderate our self-esteem, we soon rebound to think positively about ourselves and our future. Even when we fail, it doesn’t take diminish our self-esteem.

People with healthy self-esteem credit themselves when things go right, and when they don’t, they consider external causes and also honestly evaluate their mistakes and shortcomings. Then they improve upon them.

 

Healthy vs. Impaired Self-Esteem

I prefer to use the terms healthy and impaired self-esteem, rather than high and low, because narcissists and conceited individuals who appear to have high self-esteem, actually don’t. Their’s is inflated, compensates for shame and insecurity, and is often unrelated to reality.

Boasting is an example, because it indicates that the person is dependent on others’ opinion of them and reveals impaired rather than healthy self-esteem. Thus, healthy self-esteem requires that we’re able to honestly and a realistically assess our strengths and weaknesses. We’re not too concerned about others’ opinions of us. When we accept our flaws without judgment, our self-acceptance goes beyond self-esteem.

 

Impaired self-esteem

Impaired self-esteem negatively impacts our ability to manage adversity and life’s disappointments. All of our relationships are affected, including our relationship with ourselves. When our self-esteem is impaired, we feel insecure, compare ourselves to others, and doubt and criticize ourselves. We neither recognize our worth, nor honor and express our needs and wants.

Instead, we may self-sacrifice, defer to others, or try to control them and/or their feelings toward us to feel better about ourselves. For example, we might people-please, manipulate, or devalue them, provoke jealousy, or restrict their association with others. Consciously or unconsciously, we devalue ourselves, including our positive skills and attributes, making us hyper-sensitive to criticism. We may also be afraid to try new things, because we might fail.

 

Symptoms of Healthy and Impaired Self-Esteem

The following chart lists symptoms that reflect healthy vs. impaired self-esteem. Remember that self-esteem varies on a continuum. It’s not black or white. You may relate to some, but not all.

 

Healthy Self Esteem

Impaired Self-Esteem

Know you’re okay Feel not enough; always improving yourself
Know you have value and matter Lack self-worth and value; feel unimportant
Feel competent and confident Doubt self, feel incompetent, and afraid to risk
Like yourself Judge and dislike yourself
Exhibit honesty and integrity Please, hide, and agree with others
Trust yourself Indecisive, ask others’ opinions
Accept praise Deflect or distrust praise
Accept attention Avoid, dislike attention
Are self-responsible; honor self    Discount feelings, wants, or needs
Have internal locus of control Need others’ guidance or approval
Self-efficacy to pursue goals Afraid to start and do things
Have self-respect Allow abuse; put others first
Have self-compassion Self-judgment, self-loathing
Happy for others good fortune Envy and compare yourself to others
Acceptance of others  Judge others
Satisfied in relationships Unhappy in relationships
Assertive Defer to others, indirect and afraid to express yourself
Optimistic  Feel anxious and pessimistic
Welcome feedback Defensive of real or perceived criticism

Darlene Lancer, JD, LMFThttps://www.whatiscodependency.com
Darlene Lancer is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and an expert author on relationships and codependency. She's counseled individuals and couples for 30 years and coaches internationally. Her books and other online booksellers and her website

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