What is Self Esteem?
By Kelly Machan, M.A., and Karin S. Ryan, M.A.
Self-Esteem: What is it?
- There are two interrelated aspects:
- A sense of personal efficacy (self-efficacy) or confidence in a person's ability to think and act
- A sense of personal worth (self-respect) or an affirmative attitude towards a person's right to live and to be happy
- In the most succinct terms, self-esteem is the disposition to experience oneself as competent to cope with the challenges of life and to be deserving of happiness. (Branden, 1990)
- From an intuitive sense we know that high self-esteem means that we appreciate ourselves and our inherent worth
- More specifically, it means we have a positive attitude, we evaluate ourselves highly, we are convinced of our own abilities and we see ourselves as competent and powerful; in control of our own lives and able to do what we want. In addition, we compare ourselves favorably with others
- We also know what it means to experience diminished self-esteem--self-depreciation, helplessness, powerlessness and depression (Mecca, Smelser & Vasconcellos, 1989)
Self-Esteem: Why is it important?
- A strong self-esteem can help a person become what they are capable of becoming (full potential)
- When people are at their "peak performance," they believe in themselves (have high self-efficacy) and believe they can accomplish almost anything, thus, they are expressing a self-esteem which motivates, excites and empowers them
- A high self-esteem protects against the downturns in the roller coaster of life.
- Rejections, disappointments and failure are a part of daily life. High esteem can assist a person in "weathering the storm," to look beyond immediate downward dips
- People need to believe that they have the capacity to achieve what they need and want to
- Individuals need to believe that they are deserving of happiness and joy in life
- When people lack self-esteem they are probably less effective and creative than they would be if they possessed high self-esteem
- Self-esteem impacts career planning, goal setting, and decision making
Self-Esteem: What does it look like?
- Positive/High Self-Esteem
- Tries new things, confident, assertive, mistakes not personal or global, optimistic
- Negative/Low Self-Esteem
- Self critical, socially uncomfortable, underestimates abilities, gives up, avoids new experiences, sees mistakes as failure, taken advantage of, "negative Nelly"
Barriers to positive self-esteem
- Unhealthy environments
- Challenges to our identity or values
- Unrealistic expectations
- Negative and self-critical thinking
- Anxiety and/or depression
Ways to enhance self-esteem
- Participate in activities you enjoy & feel skilled at
- Set realistic expectations
- Surround yourself with positive, supportive people
- Challenge negative thoughts with reality/facts
- Remember your successes
- Get support through resources!!!
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