#Wellbeing: understanding low self-esteem
The way we view ourselves has a great impact on our success, happiness, motivation levels and relationships. Self-esteem is our evaluation of self-worth. It is how we feel towards ourselves and how much we appreciate ourselves. A low self-esteem means that our measure of our worth is low. Often, we experience negative feelings that are tightly associated with the opinion we have towards us. Do you often find yourself placing your worth on your achievements, social status, attractiveness and love life?
You can measure your self-esteem using the free online version of the Rosenberg Self Esteem Scale.
Healthy vs low self-esteem
People with a healthy self-esteem are more likely to believe in themselves and their abilities, avoid living in the mistakes of the past and are able to see both their strengths and weaknesses. Also, they are likely more optimistic than pessimistic and assertive.
Signs of low self-esteem include labelling ourselves (e.g. I am a failure, I’m weak, I’m unlovable etc.), seeing only our weaknesses, not setting healthy boundaries and experiencing feeling of inferiority, shame, anxiety or hate towards ourselves.
How to develop our self-esteem
Placing our self-worth on external things, such as our achievements or financial status means that our self-worth is not constant, as it would change every time that the external conditions change. It means that in our mind, failing at something or someone disliking us would alter our value and we would live in constant fear of something like that happening. Therefore, we would be much happier if we realised that our worth does not depend on the opinion that other people have about us. While we can appreciate being liked by others, our self-worth should come from inside. We are valuable because we are human.
Imperfection also comes as part of being human. And so does the fact that we are unique, complex and ever-changing. It is in our nature to make mistakes and it would be unreasonable to expect us never to do them. And as we do mistakes and have experiences, we learn, we grow and we adapt, because we are a work-in-progress. Because of this, it is also unreasonable to label ourselves. Not only are we dynamic, which means that we can improve ourselves and change behaviours that we don’t like, but we are too complex to be labelled, so we can’t make a conclusion about ourselves based on a feature or an action of ours. For example, if we fail at something it does not mean that we always fail.
If our low self-esteem arises from a bad behaviour or action, it is a good idea to recognise it, take responsibility for it and try to change. If we have control over something that we want to change, it might be worth to put some extra effort to improve it. Learning from our mistakes, being open to constructive feedback and willing to work hard can set a strong foundation for our self-development and help us reach our goals.
The messages we give ourselves are very important. If we talk to ourselves in a critical and abusive way, we may start believing it. We should treat ourselves like we would treat our best friend. That means being understanding towards ourselves and avoiding judgement (judge the behaviour instead of ourselves). Treating ourselves with compassion and kindness and avoiding labelling and putting ourselves down will do wonders for our self-esteem.
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