Loving Yourself: How to Raise Your Self-esteem
by Barbara Williams Cosentino, RN, CSW
Do you berate yourself for things you do or say? Are you afraid to make a mistake? Relax. Chances are you are not a bad person, and most likely, you do at least one thing well. Perhaps it is time for a self-esteem tune-up.
Yale University researchers found that a "bad hair day" can be hazardous to your mental health. If something as insignificant as an out-of-control coif can "diminish your self-esteem and inspire feelings of incompetence, self-doubt, and even self-hatred," what might happen if you were late for work? Or had a fight with your boss?
How we feel about ourselves effects all aspects of our life. Feeling good can give confidence and motivation to meet challenges and seek out fulfillment. Feeling bad about oneself can hold you back and keep you back from successful. Either way, self-esteem can have a big impact on wellness.
The Foundation of Self-esteem
Self-esteem is a sense of self-worth. It is what you think of yourself and how you value yourself. It can include how you feel about your physical appearance, behavior, ability, intelligence, or emotions. Self-esteem grows and changes over time. It is shaped by the individual and those around them. Things that can influence self-esteem include:
The base of our self-esteem develops in childhood but it can change throughout our lifetime. It is important to watch for periods of lower self-esteem and know that we have the ability to change it back to positive.
People with positive (high) self-esteem have the following characteristics:
Negative (low) self-esteem can disrupt your sense of well-being. It can make you feel disconnected from your own feelings and needs. It also limits your ability to make healthy choices in love, work, and play. Negative self-esteem can lead to:
Leaning Toward Positive
Negative self-esteem can have such a large influence on your life it seems odd that it can be fixed by thinking differently. However, this is where it starts. The exact steps will look different for each person. To help raise self-esteem, consider the following:
Some may mistakenly believe that actions like being more successful, losing weight, making more money will fix self-esteem. However, negative thought patterns will continue not matter what success is made. Negative self-esteem is not concerned with reality. Steps that may help include:
Raising a Child With Healthy Self-esteem
Seeds of self-esteem are planted in childhood. Parents cannot give their children self-esteem, but they can create a home that feeds a child's innate sense of being worthy of love and care. Self-esteem develops well with emotional attachment to parents who are loving, nurturing, and responsive to their child's needs. This has to happen within a sense of structure and consistency.
This does not mean a child needs constant praise, in fact that can backfire. True self-esteem comes from within, from:
The real sense of inner pride comes from the child knowing he has done a good job and worked hard for it. Tips for parents include:
A Rewarding Journey
Learning to feel good about who we are takes time, patience, self-awareness, and an ability to forgive ourselves. As difficult as that may be, the rewards of self-confidence are greater.
Mental Health America
National Association for Self-Esteem
Canadian Psychological Association
Self-Esteem. Psychology Today website. Available at:https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/self-esteem. Accessed May 21, 2020.
Self-esteem: Take steps to feel better about yourself. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/self-esteem/art-20045374. Created July 12, 2017. Accessed May 21, 2020.
Signs of Healthy and Low Self-Esteem. Verywell Mind website. Available at: https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-self-esteem-2795868. Updated Septemer 30, 2019. Accessed May 21, 2020.
What is Self-Esteem? A Psychologist Explains. Positive Pschology website. Available at: https://positivepsychology.com/self-esteem/. Updated April 16, 2020. Accessed May 21, 2020.
3 Steps Towards Improving Your Self-Esteem. Positive Pschology website. Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/women-autism-spectrum-disorder/202004/3-steps-towards-improving-your-self-esteem. Posted April 28, 2020. Accessed May 21, 2020.