What is self-esteem?
- The way we view and think about ourselves and the value we place on ourselves as a person
- Think about:
- What words would you use to describe yourself?
- What value did you place on yourself or aspects of yourself?
- Were your descriptions generally positive, balanced, or negative?
What is low self-esteem?
- Low self-esteem is having a generally negative overall opinion of oneself, judging, or evaluating oneself negatively, and placing a general negative value on oneself as a person
- People with low self-esteem usually have deep, basic, negative beliefs about themselves, which are often taken as facts and can have a negative impact on the person's life.
- I get nervous talking to new people. I am socially inept!
- I could not understand the course material today. I must be really stupid!
The impact of low self-esteem
- Criticize themselves and abilities, brush off compliments or positive qualities, focus on mistakes, what they didn't do, or what other people seem to do or have
- In school or work, may avoid challenges and achieve less
- In personal relationships, may become upset or distressed by any criticism or disapproval.
- They may bend over backwards to please others
- Be extremely shy or self-conscious
- Avoid or withdraw from intimacy or social contact
- Less likely to stand up for themselves from being abused
How self-esteem develops
- Early life experiences- beliefs about ourselves are the result of experiences we have by a variety of methods including observing what others do, media, direct experiences, and listening to what people say. Negative thoughts and beliefs about ourselves may have come from negative experiences.
- Punishment, neglect, or abuse- unhealthy parenting or interacting with children may be due to a variety of reasons and can lead to a parent not being able to validate a child that may cause chronic feelings of rejection or worthlessness in early childhood.
- Difficulty in meeting parents' standards
- Not fitting in at school or home
- Difficulty in meeting peer group standards
- During childhood and adolescence, interactions with peers can become more important, especially if bullying occurs. Appearance and social media also become important
- Being on the receiving end of other people's stress or distress
- Sometimes families experience stressful or distressing events, which may cause parents to not give children as much attention and respond negatively to their children while being unhealthy models of how to handle stress.
- Cultural variables- religion, race, ethnicity, SES, citizen status, language etc...
- An absence of positives- not enough attention, encouragement, warmth, etc...
How the past affects the present
- Current self-esteem is likely to be impacted by past experiences that contributed to negative core beliefs
Rules and Assumptions
- When we strongly believe negative statements about ourselves, it often leads to feeling bad about ourselves and experience strong negative emotions.
- To ensure survival and to keep functioning, we begin to make certain assumptions, rules, and guidelines for how we live that protects our self-esteem
- Rule: I must be the best at everything or I must never make any mistakes
- Assumptions: If I ask for help, I will be put down or No matter what I do, it will never be good enough
Unhelpful Rules and Assumptions Generate Unhelpful Behaviors
- The guidelines or rules for behaviors may lead to people having unrealistic expectations of their performance and engage in behaviors that they may feel are helpful to achieving the expectations.
- When a negative core belief is activated, people are likely to think that situations will end badly or become very self-critical
- Sometimes, what we think may be consumed by predicting the worst and jumping to conclusions:
- I will fail
- Others will criticize me
- Being unable to meet unrealistic expectations may lead to negative self-evaluation, which means the way you think is consumed by self-blame and self-criticism.
- You may then behave in certain ways such as isolating yourself or withdrawing because you may think you do not deserve enjoyable things.
What can I do now?
- Think of some qualities that you like about yourself
- This may be easy to dismiss and cause discomfort for acknowledging positive qualities but is necessary for a more balanced self-evaluation.
- A tendency to only pay attention to negative views or events may cause you to miss and ignore compliments, achievements, or positive qualities that may exist.
- Increasing the amount of fun, enjoyment, and pleasure during your week and increasing/acknowledging your achievements during the week are other ways of promoting more balanced self-view.
Adjusting Rules and Assumptions
- Rules/assumptions may be rigid and difficult to change
- Helpful rules are realistic, flexible, and adaptable that enable healthy functioning.
- Although rules appear to help protect self-esteem, they are actually keeping negative core beliefs and low self-esteem in place without being challenged
- Start by identifying rules/assumptions, think about:
- What you expect of yourself in various situations
- What you expect from others
- Family sayings you were exposed to as a child
- Question their impact and helpfulness
- Identify their advantages and disadvantages
- Self-esteem affects virtually every facet of your life. When you value yourself and have good self-esteem, you feel secure and worthwhile and have generally positive relationships with others. You feel confident about your abilities and tend to do well at school or work. You're also open to learning and feedback, which can help you acquire and master new skills. With healthy self-esteem you're:
- Assertive in expressing your needs and opinions
- Able to form secure and honest relationships and less likely to stay in unhealthy ones
- Realistic in your expectations and less likely to be overcritical of yourself and others