That is the message that we encounter constantly, in books, television shows, superhero comics, and common myths and legends. We are told that we can accomplish anything if we believe in ourselves. Of course, we know that to be untrue; we cannot accomplish anything the in the world simply through belief—if that were true, a lot more children would be soaring in the skies above their garage roof instead of lugging around a cast for a few weeks!
However, we know that believing in yourself and accepting yourself for who you are is an important factor in success, relationships, and happiness and that self-esteem plays an important role in living a flourishing life.
Signs of Healthy and Low Self-Esteem
It provides us with belief in our abilities and the motivation to carry them out, ultimately reaching fulfillment as we navigate life with a positive outlook. Various studies have confirmed that self-esteem has a direct relationship with our overall well-being, and we would do well to keep this fact in mind—both for ourselves and for those around us, particularly the developing children we interact with. An important note is that self-esteem is not fixed.
It is malleable and measurable, meaning we can test for and improve upon it. Self-esteem has been a hot topic in psychology for decades, going about as far back as psychology itself. While there is much we still have to learn about self-esteem, we have at least been able to narrow down what self-esteem is and how it differs from other, similar constructs.
Read on to learn what sets self-esteem apart from other self-directed traits and states. Self-esteem is not self-concept, although self-esteem may be a part of self-concept.
Put simply, the awareness of who we are is our concept of our self. According to Carl Rogers, founder of client-centered therapy , self-concept is an overarching construct that self-esteem is one of the components of it McLeod, Another similar term with a different meaning is self-image; self-image is similar to self-concept in that it is all about how you see yourself McLeod, Instead of being based on reality, however, it can be based on false and inaccurate thoughts about ourselves.
Our self-image may be close to reality or far from it, but it is generally not completely in line with objective reality or with the way others perceive us.
What is the Meaning of Self-Esteem? A Definition
Self-esteem is a similar concept to self-worth but with a small although important difference: self-esteem is what we think, feel, and believe about ourselves, while self-worth is the more global recognition that we are valuable human beings worthy of love Hibbert, Self-esteem is not self-confidence ; self-confidence is about your trust in yourself and your ability to deal with challenges, solve problems, and engage successfully with the world Burton, As you probably noted from this description, self-confidence is based more on external measures of success and value than the internal measures that contribute to self-esteem.
One can have high self-confidence, particularly in a certain area or field, but still lack a healthy sense of overall value or self-esteem. Similar to self-confidence, self-efficacy is also related to self-esteem but not a proxy for it. You could have high self-efficacy when it comes to playing basketball, but low self-efficacy when it comes to succeeding in math class.
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Unlike self-esteem, self-efficacy is more specific rather than global, and it is based on external success rather than internal worth. Finally, self-esteem is also not self-compassion. Self-compassion centers on how we relate to ourselves rather than how we judge or perceive ourselves Neff, n. Being self-compassionate means we are kind and forgiving to ourselves, and that we avoid being harsh or overly critical of ourselves.
Self-compassion can lead us to a healthy sense of self-esteem, but it is not in and of itself self-esteem. There is a component of self-esteem within this level of the hierarchy, but Maslow felt that the esteem of others was more important for development and need fulfillment than self-esteem.
Self-Esteem and Psychology
He explained that for one to achieve self-actualization and grow, their need for inner-respect and esteem from others must be met. Martin Seligman has some concerns about openly accepting self-esteem as part of positive psychology. He expressed the following in I am not against self-esteem, but I believe that self-esteem is just a meter that reads out the state of the system.
It is not an end in itself. When you are doing well in school or work, when you are doing well with the people you love, when you are doing well in play, the meter will register high. When you are doing badly, it will register low. Seligman makes a great point, as it is important to take his words into consideration when looking at self-esteem. Self-esteem and positive psychology may not marry quite yet, so it is important to look at what research tells us about self-esteem before we construct a rationale for it as positive psychology researcher, coach, or practitioner.
Examples of these characteristics are being open to criticism, acknowledging mistakes, being comfortable with giving and receiving compliments, and displaying a harmony between what one says, does, looks, sounds, and moves.
People with high self-esteem are unafraid to show their curiosity, discuss their experiences, ideas, and opportunities. They can also enjoy the humorous aspects of their lives and are comfortable with social or personal assertiveness Branden, Although low self-esteem has received more attention than high self-esteem, the positive psychology movement has brought high self-esteem into the spotlight.
We now know more about what high self-esteem looks like and how it can be cultivated. We also know that there are some simple ways to tell if you have high self-esteem. For example, you likely have high self-esteem if you:.
Based on these characteristics, we can come up with some good examples of what high self-esteem looks like.
The foundation of self-esteem.
Imagine a high-achieving student who takes a difficult exam and earns a failing grade. Having a healthy sense of self-esteem guides her toward accepting reality, thinking critically about why she failed, and problem-solving instead of wallowing in self-pity or giving up. For a second example, think about a young man out on a first date. He really likes the young woman he is going out with, so he is eager to make a good impression and connect with her.
Over the course of their discussion on the date, he learns that she is motivated and driven by completely different values and has very different taste in almost everything. To him, it is more important to behave authentically than to focus on getting his date to like him.
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It can be hard to really wrap your mind around self-esteem and why it is so important. Although some of these facts may make sense to you, you will likely find that at least one or two surprise you—specifically those pertaining to the depth and breadth of low self-esteem in people and particularly young people and girls. The whole story shows that there are many people with a healthy sense of self-esteem, and they enjoy some great benefits and advantages.
For instance, people with healthy self-esteem:. Given the facts on the sad state of self-esteem in society and the positive outcomes associated with high self-esteem, it seems clear that looking into how self-esteem can be built is a worthwhile endeavor. Luckily, there are many researchers who have tackled this topic.
Numerous studies have shown us that it is possible to build self-esteem, especially in children and young people.
One of the most interesting results came from a cross-cultural research on life satisfaction and self-esteem, which was conducted in 31 countries.
They found differences in self-esteem between collective and individualistic cultures with self-esteem being lower in collectivist cultures. They found that similar to other collectivist cultures, self-esteem also had an effect on resilience with teenagers. Teenagers with low self-esteem had a higher sense of hopelessness and had low resilience Karatas, However, the potential to boost your self-esteem and reap the benefits is not limited to students!
Adults can get in on this endeavour as well, although the onus will be on them to make the changes necessary.
Self-esteem researcher and expert Dr. John M. Grohol outlined six practical tips on how to increase your sense of self-esteem, which include:. It can be as simple as writing down 10 of your strengths and 10 of your weaknesses. This will help you to begin developing an honest and realistic conception of yourself.
For example, setting an extremely high expectation or an expectation that someone else will change their behavior is virtually guaranteed to make you feel like a failure, through no fault of your own.
Acknowledge both your accomplishments and mistakes. Nobody is perfect, and trying to be will only lead to disappointment. Acknowledging your accomplishments and recognizing your mistakes is the way to keep a positive outlook while learning and growing from your mistakes. The importance of knowing yourself and being at peace with who you are cannot be overstated. This can take some trial and error, and you will constantly learn new things about yourself, but it is a journey that should be undertaken with purpose and zeal.
We all change as we age and grow, and we must keep up with our ever-changing selves if we want to set and achieve meaningful goals.
Comparing ourselves to others is a trap that is extremely easy to fall into, especially today with social media and the ability to project a polished, perfected appearance. The only person you should compare yourself to is you Grohol, Another list of specific, practical things you can do to develop and maintain a good sense of self-esteem comes from the Entrepreneur website:. For example, although we recommend improving self-esteem to positively impact grades or work performance, success in these areas is at least somewhat dependent on self-esteem as well.
Similarly, those who have a healthy level of self-esteem are more likely to have positive relationships, but those with positive relationships are also more likely to have healthy self-esteem, likely because the relationship works in both directions.
While there is nothing wrong with boosting your self-esteem, keep in mind that in some cases you may be putting the cart before the horse, and commit to developing yourself in several areas rather than just working on enhancing your self-esteem. Based on research like that described above, we have learned that there are many ways therapy and counseling can help clients to improve their self-esteem.
Besides clinical interventions, there are also things people can do on their own to boost their self-esteem. One of these methods is meditation—yes, you can add yet another benefit of meditation to the list! However, not only can we develop self-esteem through meditation , we also gain some other important benefits. When we meditate, we cultivate our ability to let go and to keep our thoughts and feelings in perspective.
We learn to simply observe instead of actively participate in every little experience that pops into our head. While this may sound counterintuitive to developing and maintaining a positive sense of self, it is actually a great way to approach it. Through meditation, we gain the ability to become aware of our inner experiences without over-identifying with them, letting our thoughts pass by without judgment or a strong emotional response.
As meditation expert Andy Puddicombe notes, low self-esteem can be understood as the result of over-identification with the self. We may even get obsessive about the self, going over every little word, thought, or feeling that enters our mind. A regular meditation practice can boost your self-esteem by helping you to let go of your preoccupation with your self, freeing you from being controlled by the thoughts and feelings your self-experiences.
Self-esteem is the topic of many a psychological scale and assessment, and many of them are valid, reliable, and very popular among researchers; however, these assessments are not perfect.
What is Self-Esteem? A Psychologist Explains.
There are a few problems and considerations you should take into account if you want to measure self-esteem, including:. Although these issues are certainly not unique to the measurement of self-esteem, one should approach the assessment of self-esteem with multiple measurement methods in hand, with the appropriate level of caution, or both.
Still, even though there are various issues with the measurement of self-esteem, avoiding the measurement is not an option! This scale was developed by Rosenberg and presented in his book Society and the Adolescent Self-Image.