Self-Esteem is the Spice of Life
Funny how things change from what they were to what we know, and what we know wipes out what was before. Now that might sound like a whole heap of gobbledy gook, but once I put it into context it will click and you are going to hear yourself, say ‘Aaahhhhhhhh’ as if you’ve taken a sip from that cuppa PG Tips (or maybe that wine glass on a Friday evening). Remember not so long ago when we were in lock-down? There’s one thing I can distinctly recall that was never subjected to being grounded and always seemed to jet off like it had a freedom passport – Yes, you’ve guessed it - Self-esteem.
Illustration by Ellis Brown
The thing with any psychological phrase, there’s always going to be a definition that google can provide. But, no matter how much sense a definition might make on paper it doesn’t mean that you can instantly absorb and adapt to it. This is the core of what makes us human. What works for one, isn’t going to work for someone else, yet what we see still heavily influences how we go about our daily lives and makes us feel as though we should be doing what someone else is.
Self-esteem for me is something that is like a roller coaster, one minute you’re riding the wave of belief, and then next week it’s down in the dumps again. I’ve always pondered the mystery of why it seems to be 3 times as hard to lift yourself up than it is to put yourself down.
One definition of Self-Esteem is…
“In psychology, the term self-esteem is used to describe a person's overall subjective sense of personal worth or value. In other words, self-esteem may be defined as how much you appreciate and like yourself regardless of the circumstances. Your self-esteem is defined by many factors including:
Feeling of security
Sense of belonging
Feeling of competence
Other terms that are often used interchangeably with self-esteem include self-worth, self-regard, and self-respect.”
As we mature from children into adolescents the focus of value is drawn to physical objects and the vital elements of humanism are diminished through that upbringing. Especially with the strong influences of media and marketing. The core values such as health and wellbeing are lost in the carnival of social media, celebritism and money driven goals.
In accountancy one of the things you learn about is how to value intangible assets, but at no point in life are we taught that the most invaluable assets are things such as our self-esteem – which ironically is also intangible.
Maybe we should all pause that thought for a moment and start to analyse the significance of everything intangible, and what else would fall into this category.
Depending on your years on this planet you may also be able to ponder how each moment of increased wisdom seems to reduce the importance of physical possessions and increase the incremental importance of the intangible core values like your self-esteem.
My Self-esteem became important to me through acknowledging self-criticism about my body image.
One technique I adapted in order to manage my self-esteem was by creating this positive affirmations wall so that when I wake every morning I either recite them or subliminally read them.
I’m not saying that it’s magical, and automatically works, as my Haagen Daaz consumption will confer. But I know on the days when I feel ready to reset myself, I’d much rather have that wall than not, as it does give me that extra push that I need, when I need it!
“Self-esteem impacts your decision-making process, your relationships, your emotional health, and your overall well-being. It also influences motivation, as people with a healthy, positive view of themselves understand their potential and may feel inspired to take on new challenges. People with healthy self-esteem:
Have a firm understanding of their skills
Are able to maintain healthy relationships with others because they have a healthy relationship with themselves
Have realistic and appropriate expectations of themselves and their abilities
Understand their needs and are able to express them
People with low self-esteem tend to feel less sure of their abilities and may doubt their decision-making process. They may not feel motivated to try novel things because they don’t believe they're capable of reaching their goals. Those with low self-esteem may have issues with relationships and expressing their needs. They may also experience low levels of confidence and feel unlovable and unworthy.”
Then on the flipside..
“People with overly high self-esteem may overestimate their skills and may feel entitled to succeed, even without the abilities to back up their belief in themselves. They may struggle with relationship issues and block themselves from self-improvement because they are so fixated on seeing themselves as perfect.”
“Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs suggested that individuals need both appreciation from other people and inner self-respect to build esteem.”
“It is often our experiences that form the basis for overall self-esteem. Those who consistently receive overly critical or negative assessments from family and friends, for example, will likely experience low self-esteem. Those who experience what Carl Rogers referred to as unconditional positive regard will be more likely to have healthy self-esteem.”
I regularly reflect on whether I have a healthy self-esteem by writing down my thought processes about how I react to certain situations i.e. Like getting frustrated with what coworkers say because I think they are out of line or is it the insecurity set by my past experiences that is reacting that way?
Before reading the list ahead ask yourself how you feel about your self-esteem and then gently go down this list to assess if you tick many of these criteria for healthy self-esteem:
Avoid dwelling on past negative experiences
Believe you are equal to everyone else, no better and no worse
Express your needs
Have a positive outlook on life
Say no when you want to
See your overall strengths and weaknesses and accept them
Having healthy self-esteem can help motivate you to reach your goals, because you are able to navigate life knowing that you are capable of accomplishing what you set your mind to. Additionally, when you have healthy self-esteem, you are able to set appropriate boundaries in relationships and maintain a healthy relationship with yourself and others.
I can sadly say I’ve witnessed the opposite side of healthy self-esteem in friends and colleagues and no matter what positive speech you try to give it’s like ground hog day with giving support.
“Low self-esteem has the potential to lead to a variety of mental health disorders, including anxiety disorders and depressive disorders. You may also find it difficult to pursue your goals and maintain healthy relationships. Having low self-esteem can seriously impact your quality of life.”
Only affirming that in order to improve your self-esteem most of the work has to come from the inside as once you believe what you believe, it doesn’t matter what good someone tries to say low self-esteem will manifest in some of the following ways:
You don’t accept positive feedback but will take unconstructive criticism
You may not know how to express your needs appropriately.
You put others' needs before your own, despite how it may affect you.
You highlight weaknesses to get attention.
You may frequently experience fear, self-doubt, and worry.
You may have a negative outlook on life and feel a lack of control.
You always see the brilliance of others but don’t recognise that in yourself.
You exaggerate your fear of failure without justified cause.
Earlier I wrote “Funny how things change from what they were to what we know, and what we know wipes out what was before.” All this is trying to say is if you know what you know, why convince yourself into believing something that you know you shouldn’t believe.
If someone pays you a compliment you take it in and can easily forget, maybe return with an absent minded thank you, even if you don’t believe them. Yet if that same person were to then subsequently criticise you, you might feel the inclination to say something insulting back or retell the story to whoever would listen for the rest of the year. Why? Because not only did you feel what they said, but you found that you subliminally believed it.
The reason why I say this is because if someone says something insulting and you don’t believe it to be true why does it even have to bother you, yet when someone compliments you and you don’t believe it you forget about it. Why is that?
Fortunately, if you do find that you are affected negatively by low self-esteem there are steps that you can take to address problems.
To hear more about this and other subjects related proactively managing your mental health and wellbeing we invite you to come to our FREE event.
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A Word From Very wellbeing SE15
Always try to go for what you know will benefit you more even if it’s the tougher path!
Don’t give in or give up.