Self-esteem is your opinion of yourself. People with healthy self-esteem like themselves and value their achievements. While everyone lacks confidence occasionally, people with low self-esteem feel unhappy or unsatisfied with themselves most of the time. This can be remedied but it takes attention and daily practice to boost self-esteem.
Self-esteem affects our thoughts, but also how we act. As an example, someone with low self-esteem may not believe they are good enough for an opportunity and therefore might not even try for it, even if they could achieve it.
Improving self-esteem takes time and effort. In some cases, individuals may have unusually high self-esteem which can also be unhealthy and might indicate a narcissistic personality disorder. Those with low self-esteem can suffer from other issues such as depression.
Self-Image vs. Self-Esteem
Self-image and self-esteem are often used interchangeably, but they are distinct things. Self-image relates to how a person sees themselves. Everyone evaluates their characteristics, looks, and skills to some degree. Someone with a positive self-image might think that they are competent, attractive, and a pleasure to be around. They might also feel confident that other people think these things, too. Self-esteem relates to how a person then feels about their self-image. Poor self-esteem often stems from a poor self-image.
Characteristics of Low Self-Esteem
- Behaviors exhibited by people with poor self-image or esteem include:
- Doubting their skills
- Feeling ashamed or embarrassed
- Believing they will always fail
- Blaming other people
- Poor boundary setting
- Avoiding social engagement
- Hurting others to feel better about themselves
- Avoiding compliments
Some of the many causes of low self-esteem may include:
- Unhappy childhood where parents (or other significant people such as teachers) were extremely critical
- Poor academic performance in school resulting in a lack of confidence
- Ongoing stressful life event such as relationship breakdown or financial trouble
- Poor treatment from a partner, parent or carer, for example, being in an abusive relationship
- Ongoing medical problem such as chronic pain, serious illness or physical disability
- Mental illness such as an anxiety disorder or depression.
Therapy for Unhealthy Self-Esteem
Unhealthy self-esteem and self-image can change over time. Mental health professionals can use psychotherapy and psychoanalysis to help those with low self-esteem. The process begins by identifying the causes of the unhealthy self-esteem. The therapist and patient can then work on building a healthier perspective on these triggers and the patient’s self-esteem.