Self-esteem is universally defined as the way we perceive ourselves, for better or worse, and refers to the amount that a person can understand, like and accept themselves as they are rather than wishing they were more like others. Our self-esteem primarily comes from within – after all, it’s a personal perception!
It’s in our best interest not to base our self-esteem on too many external factors like achievements, or what others think of us, because these factors are often not entirely within our control. Instead, self-esteem should come from self-assurance and mindful positive thought. If we like ourselves, we are more likely to take care of ourselves and make better decisions based on whether they are in our best interests to improve as a person.
So with this in mind, why is a healthy self-esteem so important, and what can you do to develop and maintain it?
Importance of Self-Esteem
Those with high self-esteem tend to have more positive mindsets and relationships with others. They are assertive in expressing what they want and how they feel and are open to new things and constructive feedback. On that note, healthy self-esteem is not the same thing as high self-confidence (an elevated perception of your own skills and abilities). Rather, healthy self-esteem is an all-round acceptance – the acknowledgement of your strengths as well as recognition of areas that may require some work.
From this it’s easy to see why a good self-esteem is important – it promotes an environment where we constantly look to achieve goals and work to our strengths, making us more likely to succeed and more resilient in our ability to handle unexpected challenges and risks.
Building & Maintaining Self-Esteem
- Focus on the positive; what are some recent achievements or successes you have had?
- Use specific, positive self-talk daily – make sure it is not something broad and generic that you don’t really relate to.
- Challenge negative self-talk; when you criticise yourself, pause and look within yourself for evidence that your criticisms are true – often you’ll find that they aren’t.
- Learn to effectively communicate your wants and needs in a direct and assertive manner. This helps to validate them not only to yourself, but to others around you.
- Take the time to identify your areas of competency and strength – what are you good at?
- Demonstrate your abilities in those areas as often as you can – spend your time doing things you do well.
- Work on accepting compliments; low self-esteem can cause a resistance to accepting compliments, as we don’t believe we deserve praise. Start simply, by just saying ‘thank you’ when someone says something positive.
- Allow yourself to feel good about your achievements, rather than concentrating on what you can’t do, or did poorly. This self-affirmation is a great, specific positive message we create for ourselves based on our strengths.
- Daily practice of these methods makes it much easier to stay on top of maintaining a healthy self-esteem.
Just as a healthy, positive opinion of ourselves can have a far-reaching impact on all aspects of our lives, low self-esteem can also affect us massively. Those that hold themselves in lower esteem tend to lack the desire to look after themselves and harbour a lot of negative feelings. They develop a fear of trying (as they feel they will fail anyway), and also a fear of judgement from others.
Not only can this cause problems in forming meaningful or healthy relationships with others, but a constant negative cycle of thought and lack of acceptance can lead to other issues down the line.
Source: This is an edited extract from ‘Nurturing a healthy self-esteem’, available from AFA Care and Benestar at https://benestar.com/. For more information about accessing AFA Care resources available at Benestar please visit https://www.afa.asn.au/afa-care