What is Self-Esteem?
We are constantly appraising things every waking minute making tiny and not so tiny assessments of everything going on in and around us. We are information processing machines and as part of this ongoing work of our perception – we are assessing value, we are measuring worth – of others, of ourselves, of plans and situations. We cannot help it. Everyday life includes hundreds and thousands of tiny little decisions. We prioritize and re-prioritize what gets out attention and effort.
Self Esteem emerges from a huge collection of these tiny little decisions. We place value, without necessarily knowing it, on ourselves or parts of ourselves every time we take a decision. Self Esteem is a concept Psychologist and others use to describe the way in which we think about ourselves and the value that we place on ourselves as an individual person.
We hear a lot about Self Esteem. It should be positive maybe big, big is good right? But you can have too much Self Esteem, can’t you? Self Esteem has been linked to many psychological maladies and people who experience signs and symptoms of Depression and Anxiety also typically suffer from low Self Esteem. For this reason, it is important to understand what Self Esteem is and what Healthy Self Esteem looks like.
What is Healthy Self-Esteem?
Healthy Self Esteem is a bit like Goldilocks choosing her chair and the right bowl of porridge. It is important to find the middle way. You want “enough” but not “too much”. People who think about themselves in a balanced way tend to have Healthy Self Esteem. This means being able to recognize weaknesses or difficulties within ourselves without becoming overwhelmed, reactive or paralyzed by the insight.
People with Health Self Esteem are able to recognize that they along with many others have weaknesses and this by itself is not debilitating. They are able to recognize that identifying an area of weakness gives them the opportunity of addressing that area of weakness. People with Healthy Self Esteem are also more able to identify, acknowledge and celebrate their strengths and successes and accept that some of their attributes and abilities are neutral, that is, neither a weakness nor a strength. In short – their view of themselves is ‘balanced’.
What can threaten Healthy Self Esteem?
Some of us, after a lot of effort have been able to build, rebuild or otherwise shift a negative way of seeing ourselves. In short, we have created ‘Healthy Self Esteem’. This is good work and quite an achievement … but it does not mean that we will never again be tempted to see the world and our self through the lens of ‘negativity’ and ‘bias’ once again.
There are always situations and triggers that remind us of old ways of thinking about ourselves but if we have created new thinking and behaving habits that reinforce rather than undermine the development of Healthy Self Esteem, it will be harder for those triggers to activate a negative view of ourselves.
Everyone can, given the right circumstances, get down on themselves at times – throw themselves a ‘Pity Party’. A short term wallow it the wicked ways of the world might be just the thing for 24 hours, and then you’re done. But don’t indulge too often.
We all create rules and assumptions to guide our perception. Some of these rules and assumptions help us problem solve and create a sense of control. Generally this style of thinking will support the development of Healthy Self Esteem however there are always situations in life where our rules and assumptions and therefore our view of ourselves and the world is challenged. This can threaten our Self Esteem.
However it is possible to handle the challenges of life differently. We can choose, we can be creative. We can choose a different response or a different coping strategy. It is true that past experience guide current and future ways of thinking and behaving but so does our power to choose. Old ways of thinking about yourself can be changed by practicing new ways of thinking and creating new habits.