Self Esteem: Why We Need It and How To Keep It

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A sense of self-worth, confidence, identity and a sense of belonging all factor into self-esteem. If we have good self-esteem, we can take on the world. (Image: Chris & Karen Highland via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0)

Self-esteem is described as someone’s personal sense of worth or value – basically, how much you value yourself in life. Factors for your self-esteem include self-confidence, a feeling of security, identity, a sense of belonging and a feeling of competence. It helps push us forward to face challenges, and gives us confidence to take on the world. Without it, one feels a loss of spirit, lacks confidence to get through the day, or is filled with absolute doubt. 

Let’s look at how we can maintain a good level of self-esteem to avoid that slippery slope.

Impacts of low self-esteem 

Good self-esteem can boost your quality of decision-making, improve relationships and your emotional health and well-being. You feel more motivated and better about yourself in skills, relationships with others, and faith.

With low self-esteem, you will feel a wave of negative emotions, including an inferiority complex, difficulty of expressing your feelings or truths, self-doubt and fear, failure and other demoralizing effects. 

According to physician Dr. Robin Miller, based in Medford, Oregon, those with low self-esteem are “usually unhappy” and are prone to loneliness, which is an alarming factor of an early death.

While a 1938 study on Harvard University sophomores showed that having good relationships promoted good health and longer lives, those with low self-esteem generally have not-so-satisfying relationships. 

A more recent study in 2018 has shown people with low self-esteem who try to mitigate rejection by forcibly making themselves look sad were likely to suffer more rejection. At the end of the day, they might feel  like the worst person on the planet, overcome by burdening doubts and fear, distancing themselves from those around them.

Boosting self-esteem

According to community health doctor Collin Lynn based in Redding, California, it is vital to maintain good self-esteem. “It’s like a magnet. If you know your purpose and have good self-esteem, you can use that magnet to change the world in a better way.” said Dr. Lynn. 

Lynn has found that patients with good self-esteem have a better grip on their health, while those who have problems with it are not “non-compliant,” but they just don’t feel like they are in control of their health.

The important thing about self-esteem is that it should not be confused with narcissism – you shouldn’t fake or exaggerate your worth. According to Dr. Lynn, those who love to boast about themselves are often the ones who have low self-esteem in the first place, hiding their feelings by coming out as bold and powerful. 

So, how do we promote better self-esteem?

Positive self-talk

For starters, we can use positive self-talk to relieve ourselves of anxiety and stress; to better affirm ourselves in the face of negativity. 

A 2020 study for Nature Communications based on 184 participants showed that a person has an average of 6,200 thoughts in their heads per day, which could mean that we are constantly telling ourselves about whether we’ll do good or bad in a day’s work. 

What goes on in your head does matter significantly. Dr. Lynn, a former perfectionist, even noticed his own self-esteem improve when he began assuring himself the same way he’d cheer up his children, letting go of his anger from failure by telling himself, “It’s OK.”

When engaged in self-talk, do not blame yourself or others for your mistakes; instead, tell yourself that you can rise from them. 

To solve a problem, you must be aware of the patterns that could affect your situation. You can keep a journal and write down how you feel about yourself to give you a better idea on how to overcome your frustrations.

Some people are prone to jumping to conclusions. Stay open to all possibilities, and avoid restricting yourself by having ‘should statements.’ It is also important to avoid labelling or mislabelling yourself or others, thus inflicting one-dimensional views.

By assuring yourself that you will be fine when things don’t go right, and welcoming different outcomes, you can become stronger and prevent a panic attack from striking your health.

Effort over results

Sometimes, it’s not about the outcome of a journey; it’s the journey itself that is important.

In her book, The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Discontented and Unhappy Kids, psychologist Madeline Levine says that applauding the achievements of a child can negatively impact their self-esteem, and that they should be complemented by the work they put to get them there.

Levine said that if we continue to praise someone for what they are good at, they will be unwilling to try new things. By shifting the praise – congratulating them on their hard work – they can feel better about what they could do in other fields outside of their comfort zone.

Mind and body as one

Our body and mind are linked, so it is important to keep self-esteem at a high level to ensure that our body is pushed to do what we desire. 

To boost self-esteem, Robin Miller suggests trying cognitive behavioral therapy to help reduce negative self-talk and thinking. One woman kept a journal on how she was feeling great about her path to overcoming obesity. 

By feeling good about the work she put in, her self-esteem improved step-by-step, opening the doors for more options toward a better lifestyle.

Self-compassion

While it may be easy to find compassion in others, it is sometimes difficult to have compassion for yourself. When we become vulnerable to our own insecurities and stresses, we are our own worst critics.

However, we can find the strength for self-compassion by remembering the importance of self-kindness (recognizing that failure is a part of our lives), common humanity (we are not the only ones facing these problems), and mindfulness (being aware of our negative emotions without overexpressing them). 

To practice self-compassion, just imagine how you would talk to a good friend, and apply it to yourself. Also, you can take it slow and examine the past, to grasp a better picture of your problems. While it is good to care for others, don’t forget to take care of yourself as well.

While it is understandable to feel like we have failed when we are unable to do the right thing, we must remember that it is not the end of the world. As long as we strive to overcome our problems we can do better next time and become better ourselves. Take a step back and become aware of your flaws and work to replace negativity with positivity so that you can recover the strength you need to face the world.

  • Darren is an aspiring writer who wishes to share or create stories to the world and bring humanity together as one. A massive Star Wars nerd and history buff, he finds enjoyable, heart-warming or interesting subjects in any written media.