Self Esteem or Self Worth are sought after psychological attributes, but what does self esteem actually mean and furthermore why is it worth having?
How do we measure self esteem, does it actually exist and how could one improve their sense of self worth and belief in themselves?
We are encouraged to have ‘high’ self esteem and also to be aware of the risks of low self esteem in terms of impacts on mental health and well being. This can be elusive for some and it’s important that we place self esteem in its context and work up from there.
The truth is we all have days where our self esteem dips and this can occur for various reasons. However weeks and months of low self esteem and ensuing feelings of hopelessness could be a sign of an underlying and linked problem or a form of depression which requires professional assessment, treatment and support. Some situations or circumstances can cause a plummet in self esteem and self worth, for example a disappointing outcome (e.g. not getting a job you really wanted), bullying, traumatic events including abuse, violence and the impacts of invalidating relationships with significant others.
Often people shy away from the idea of having ‘high self esteem’ because they fear they will turn into conceited or self centred people whom others may dislike. Perhaps a better description of the type of self esteem we want to strive for is ‘healthy self esteem’. Not too high and certainly not low or too low.
What is Self Esteem?
Broadly speaking, self esteem refers to a person’s evaluation of themselves and can refer to how much a person likes and respects themselves. There are thinking and feeling aspects to self esteem, i.e. we think and feel a certain way about ourselves.
Tips for increasing Self Esteem
- Conduct a thought audit. Spend some time writing a list of helpful and unhelpful thoughts you have in relation to yourself. eg, a helpful thought might be something like ‘I like myself and believe I am worth loving’ and an unhelpful thought might be ‘I don’t think I’m as good as others’. The act of writing things down helps clear the head a little and creates some perspective.
- See yourself as separate from your thoughts. Remember, you are more than your thoughts. Learn to take a ‘meta position’ on your thoughts.
- Learn the skill of ‘cognitive defusion’ and the process of thought observation. Therapies such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), psychodynamic psychotherapy and mindfulness based approaches can be helpful.
- Eat well and exercise. Learn about what foods are good for you and notice how you feel and think differently after a nutritious meal compared to a calorie and sugar laden meal. Having brain fog and fuzziness doesn’t help you to feel and think great.
- Learn mindfulness skills or meditation, particularly with an emphasis on self compassion.
- Set small achievable goals for yourself. Achievement (regardless of what it is) can be helpful in supporting a healthier view of oneself, for example, commit to a form of exercise each week or commit to increasing the time you spend on enjoyable activities each week.
- Like anything, if your self esteem and sense of self worth has been suffering for a while make sure you give it some time to improve. Keep a diary or journal to track how you feel over time but don’t be too hasty in evaluating your success or failure. Learn to be patient and kind to yourself.
A good psychotherapist, counsellor or psychologist can help you with assessing and improving your self esteem in a kind, validating and supportive environment.
Talkingminds are a respected provider of affordable, low cost counselling, psychotherapy and psychological services based in Ultimo, inner western Sydney.
Visit our website or contact us to discuss making an appointment.