February 4, 2022
Want to improve your self-esteem? Wondering if self-esteem therapy might help? Self-esteem is an important indicator of good mental health. Healthy self-esteem can help you feel at ease and bring a greater sense of inner peace to your life.
While you are here, you can:
Thank you for showing up for yourself! Read on to find ways you can begin to transform the way you view the “inner you.”
Self-esteem refers to the level of positive regard you have for yourself. It has to do with how you value who you are on the inside. It is largely made up of an internal sense of self-respect, self-worth, and self-love. As such, a healthy level of self-esteem is an important catalyst for personal happiness, fulfilling relationships, and lifelong achievement.
Self-esteem is often confused with self-confidence, but there are significant differences! Self-esteem is a broad term that refers to how you feel and think about yourself overall and how you see your inner self at the heart of who you are. Self-confidence, on the other hand, refers to how you feel about your specific skills and abilities and how competent you think you are in various aspects of life. Understanding this, you can imagine that it is possible for a person to simultaneously have high self-esteem and low self-confidence, or vice versa.
If you are curious about the meaning behind “self-esteem” and similar “self-“ related words, a good place to start is the American Psychological Association’s Dictionary of Psychology. Browse through and get to know some of the differences and similarities between these terms.
Reading through dictionary entries may not sound all that exciting, but it is a quick way to gain a deeper understanding about these complex topics. Expanding your vocabulary in this way can help you observe yourself more accurately and describe what you are experiencing to others.
Self-esteem can be impacted by many so many things, including your present level of self-confidence. How you view and evaluate yourself (known as self-concept or self-perception) and your sense of identity also play a role in your level of self-esteem. To clarify, your self-identity is any combination of beliefs, values, or expectations you have about yourself, your personality traits, abilities, physical attributes (including your body image), interests, and social roles. Self-esteem could even be impacted by dynamics related to age, genetic factors, disability, illness, or socioeconomic status.
Experiences and environments can affect self-esteem too. Being bullied, witnessing violence, or experiencing prejudice or discrimination are harmful to self-esteem. Ongoing stress, or problems with work, finances, or academics are also contributors. Conversely, having a sense of security or safety and feeling like you belong contribute to higher levels of self-esteem.
Some people find that their self-esteem problems began during childhood. Children who are praised often and grow up feeling supported and loved are likely to learn to value themselves and develop high self-esteem. On the opposite end of the spectrum, factors like parental pressure, internalized shame, poor relationships, or unresolved trauma may instill a lower baseline level of self-confidence in a person from a young age.
As we move through life, we inevitably receive criticism from others and experience adverse circumstances. All this can chip away at our self-esteem. Engaging in negative self-talk patterns (having an overactive “inner critic”) can also cause distress and make it more difficult to recover a sense of innate worthiness.
Low self-esteem is expressed in a multitude of ways. It can be summed up as having a poor overall opinion of yourself, evaluating yourself negatively, and generally placing a low value on yourself as a person. If you have low self-esteem, you may:
The truth is, anyone can experience low self-esteem. Even those who seem to have it together! Low self-esteem could be a byproduct of an existing mental health disorder or it might come about due to difficult life circumstances. Low self-esteem can also be a persistent problem on its own. Self-esteem is not static – how you think and feel about yourself may change over time, and sometimes unexpectedly.
But left unchecked, low self-esteem has the potential to worsen mental health disorders or lead to new instances of anxiety and depression. It can also increase a person’s vulnerability to harmful habits, alcohol abuse, or drug use. Those with low self-esteem may lose their motivation at work or school, their relationships may suffer, and they may even be more likely to experience suicidal thoughts.
Extremely high levels of self-esteem can also be problematic, lending to a sense of entitlement or superiority to others. Those with overly high self-esteem tend to criticize others while overlooking their own flaws.
A healthy level of self-esteem is somewhere in between. You can try this quick, anonymous self-measurement tool to see where you stand: Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale
To begin repairing self-esteem, try to pinpoint which situations, environments, or conditions routinely affect your self-esteem or seem to trigger negative self-talk the most often. When you encounter negative thoughts, take time to notice them and consider whether they are appropriate and useful. Try to keep an open mind as you work on observing your thought patterns. With practice, this exercise might help you adjust how you think about yourself and raise your self-awareness.
Thoughts are not facts, and you are not your thoughts! So if thoughts and beliefs come up that are harmful or unhelpful to you, challenge them. You are probably your own toughest critic. It might be helpful if you try standing up for yourself through self-nurturing. Take a look at the evidence behind your thoughts. Avoid harsh judgement and gently protect yourself from overly critical thoughts. Can you list some positive qualities about yourself to counteract your inner critic? Remind yourself that you are trying, that you care to continue to do so, and that you are fundamentally a good person. Even if you do not believe it at the moment.
Here are a few other self-esteem building activities you might like to try:
Developing healthy self-esteem does not mean you will never experience self-critical feelings or thoughts again. It is very likely that you will face triggering situations again in the future. While it is not realistic to assume things will change overnight, with patience you can set the foundation for healthy self-esteem.
You will probably have to do some unlearning before you can relearn the important things about yourself! It takes practice to learn how to observe and evaluate yourself in a more neutral, fair, and compassionate way.
Why not help yourself to some self-compassion exercises and guided practices? There are many resources available to break the ice as you begin repairing your relationship with the inner you.
Seeking support is the best option if you experience recurring disruptive or distressing thoughts, or find you have trouble redirecting negative self-talk. Even if you do not think it is “that serious,” keep in mind that low self-esteem will sometimes go undercover. Self-esteem can seem to dissipate or become elevated under the influence of all sorts of internal and external stimuli. But regardless of your starting point professional help is an effective way to achieve self-esteem stability.
Many different treatment approaches are appropriate for self-esteem enhancement. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Client-Centered Therapy, Narrative Therapy, Mindfulness-Based Counseling, and Rational Emotive Therapy are a few examples of supportive approaches for self-esteem work. Other types of therapy can often be used in conjunction with these common approaches, or may be adapted to address self-esteem within the context of other mental health concerns.
No matter the path you take, your therapist will guide you as you discover exercises and activities that are designed to help you create positive change. They can help you figure out the root causes for low self-esteem and set you on a path for improvement. Since self-esteem is an umbrella term involving many details unique to you, the specific techniques your therapist uses and the skills offered to you in therapy will be customized to fit your needs.
You can certainly begin working on your self-esteem on your own, but seeking self-esteem therapy really is an excellent way to gain self-insight, make progress, and get feedback along your journey.
Either way, building good self-esteem is essential for good emotional and mental health! Positive self-esteem is a protective factor in physical health, and it is a huge contributor to resilience and wellbeing (study). Overall, healthy self-esteem means embracing yourself from the inside out so that you can live a full and meaningful life.
Know that there is always hope. Change is possible. Healing is possible. What you thought yesterday or how you feel today does not dictate what tomorrow holds! Working on your inner self requires a leap of faith and it takes commitment to see the work through. You are worth it, and we are here to help.
Contact our team to learn more and request an appointment. ⯁
Former Director of Marketing and Communications at Andrews & Associates Counseling.