As most of us may know, positive self-esteem is paramount to our well-being and success in life. But let’s face it; for some of us, having positive self-esteem all the time can be difficult because of environmental and societal factors. For others, it can be difficult to have a positive self-esteem period. Others can easily sway our thoughts and how we feel about ourselves, and what we see. We are only humans, and none of us are perfect.
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When you genuinely feel comfortable in your skin, it shows through your actions. If you are confident in yourself, you feel good and have this sense of pride within you. But if we base your level of self-esteem solely on external things that can change at any moment, and we rely only on these things for validation, then our self-esteem and mental health will always be in jeopardy.
Self-esteem and how a person values themselves starts in the mind and not on external factors (on the outside). Positive self-esteem has the power to change the way you understand your value and worth.
What is self-esteem and mental health?
To truly understand the impact of self-esteem on one’s mental health, it’ll be good to know the difference between the two.
Self-esteem is “Self-esteem is a widely used concept both in popular language and in psychology. It refers to an individual’s sense of his or her value or worth, or the extent to which a person values, approves of, appreciates, prizes, or likes him or herself … It is is a positive or negative orientation toward oneself; an overall evaluation of one’s worth or value. People are motivated to have high self-esteem, and having it indicates positive self-regard, not egotism”.
“Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.”
Now that you have a better understanding of both, we can now delve deeper into how self-esteem impacts our mental health.
What does self-esteem affect?
Believe it or not, self-esteem affects every aspect of our lives. It can affect whether you:
- Like and value yourself as a person
- Are able to assert yourself and make decisions
- Recognize your strengths and the positives in your life
- Show kindness to yourself
- Move past mistakes and grow
- Time to take care of yourself
- Believe that you are good enough and that you matter
- Believe that you deserve to be happy
What causes low
The things that affect your self-esteem will differ from another person. No one is perfect, and different factors may allow your self-esteem to change or become negative.
Sometimes it may even be hard to pinpoint what might cause a person to experience low self-esteem. But here’s a list of life experiences that can cause low self-esteem
- Trauma or Abuse (physical, psychological, sexual)
- Disapproving authority figures or uninvolved/preoccupied parents/caregivers
- Being bullied
- Experiencing discrimination
- Stigma, society and the media
- Problems at work or school
- Peer pressure or negative peers
- Pressures from social media
- Ongoing stress
- Physical or mental health problems
- Negative thought patterns
- Difficulties in a relationship (intimate, marital, platonic)
- Worries about your body image
Signs of low self-esteem
As mentioned earlier, self-esteem for all of us can be swayed by so many factors, whether internal or external. One minute your self-esteem is on cloud nine when you start a new journey in life; the next minute, it is badly bruised when your significant other said something that hurt your feelings.
Anyone can experience high levels of self-esteem and low levels of self-esteem in certain areas of their lives. Sometimes we may not be able to tell when our confidence levels are low because the signs may be seemingly insignificant to bother looking into. Here are some signs to look out for:
Are you always doubting yourself? Saying things like you are not good enough, or you incapable of doing something? This inhibits you from reaching your full potential in life, and you become hesitant in taking a leap of faith, which can lower your self-esteem.
Are you always saying negative things about yourself? I am not beautiful, I wish was a smaller size, I’m not smart enough, I will never find love, I will never have success. The more you say these things to yourself, the more you start to believe them, and the lower your self-esteem goes.
Being too critical on yourself
How many of us are too hard on ourselves? I know I am! Sometimes it is like a reflex action. There may be something we want to say, do, accomplish, and because we’re not able to do so in the time or manner that we wanted, we beat ourselves up about it. But what does this really solve? Being too hard on ourselves can break our spirits, break our motivation, and hurt our self-value and self-worth.
Comparing yourself to others
This is very hard to do. It is almost impossible not to compare yourself to others because of what we see on Instagram, magazines, and the television. Looking at a “polished” version of the world does not benefit your self-esteem. What it does is make us question our self-value and self-worth. You may even start thinking people will not like you or accept you, and over time, your self-esteem will begin to shift from positive to negative.
From the moment a child is born, the one thing that they need and cherish most is love. But if this is not provided from a young age, it can affect how they will value themselves as they get older. Positive Parenting is linked with children and adults with positive self-esteem and self-worth. This is because Positive Parenting helps empower children to reach their full potential as resilient and fulfilled individuals.
If a parent is uninvolved, the effects can be detrimental as the child may grow up to believe that they are not good enough or worthy of love. As a result, feeling unloved or unwanted will always resonate with them and make them more prone to having low self-esteem.
Anyone who has experienced abandonment in their life may feel unloved/unwanted. Unfortunately, this experience impacts your life and how you interact with others because it is a way for you to protect yourself from ever being abandoned again. Even though you may feel unloved, you rather protect your heart from experiencing that pain again. Feeling unloved and unwanted can manifest as low self-esteem.
On the other hand, if you are in a relationship and you and your partner do not know each other’s love language plus your love language, it can strain the relationship and make you feel unloved by your partner. Learn more about love languages here.
Your body language does not command presence
Do you find yourself constantly slouching, looking down, or attempting to take up as little space as possible in public or hide behind others? According to life coach Monique Demonaco, you could have a lack of confidence. “Your body language can be a big ‘tell’ that you lack confidence. People who lack confidence make themselves small by lowering their chin, bringing their shoulders in, and folding in on themselves. Confident people take up more space by keeping their head up, chin out, and have open shoulders and hips.”
You apologize – when there is not to apologize for
Are you always apologizing or feeling guilty for things that you cannot control? This can negatively impact your self-esteem because you will always worry about how others feel and how they will view you moving forward. You may even start to develop a distorted version of yourself and start becoming preoccupied with negative self-talk.
Why a positive self-esteem is important for mental health
Although self-esteem is not categorized as a mental health condition, there is a clear link between how we feel about ourselves (our self-esteem) and our mental health and overall well-being.
In today’s society, more and more people feel pressure to feel or look a certain way, which will directly impact one’s self-esteem and self-worth. Positive self-esteem is important because it promotes healthy behaviors and helps us feel good about ourselves and thus promote a healthy well-being.
When a person experiences low self-esteem, it can turn into a cycle of negative thought patterns, and in some cases, lead to depression or anxiety. Positive self-esteem can significantly improve your way of life and help you to build and maintain a healthy and relationship with yourself foremost and with others.
How low self-esteem can negatively impact your mental health
Research has found that low self-esteem is linked to possible mental health issues and an overall low quality of life. This way of living is detrimental for anyone for several reasons:
You develop poor relationships
We all strive to have a relationship with others, but continuously being around those who bring us down or make us feel less than can lower our self-esteem and ultimately lead to a negative perception of ourselves.
On the other hand, a person with low self-esteem that engages in frequent negative self-talk, self-doubt, and comparing themselves to others, will have difficulty being their true self around others and have difficulty maintaining healthy relationships.
Depression and/or anxiety
Chronic low self-esteem can be a vicious cycle for anyone and may even be linked to the underlying mental health condition of depression and anxiety. It’s not always easy to pinpoint which one came first, whether it was low self-esteem or depression/anxiety. This indicates that the two correlate with each other, and professional help would be needed to build positive self-esteem.
If you are someone with low-esteem, you can be more prone to engage in unhealthy habits such as overeating, overeating/under eating, doing drugs/alcohol, just to name a few. This is usually because you may be trying to ease the negative feelings you have about yourself. It is a way of escaping those feelings if it’s only for a while. But unfortunately, the course of this action can have detrimental effects on your self-esteem levels. Keep in mind, however, that this may be connected to an underlying mental health condition.
Loneliness or isolation
Those with low self-esteem, especially if it becomes chronic, may start to experience loneliness and want to remain isolated. This can also be an escape method as you may rather stay alone/isolated to protect yourself from being hurt or let down again. Unfortunately, staying in this state does not benefit a person’s self-esteem, and seeking professional help may be best.
Benefits of a positive self-esteem
When you feel secure about yourself, you form meaningful relationships and feel confident about whom you are as a person. A positive mindset will allow you to respect yourself, and you will learn how to love yourself truly. Here some benefits of a positive self-esteem:
- You develop positive thought patterns
- You can build and maintain healthy and meaningful relationships
- You are confident about who you are as a person
- You have the ability to manage and adapt during stressful situations
- You focus on the importance of living a healthy lifestyle (eating healthy, engaging in self-care, setting boundaries)
How to starting building a positive self-esteem
Building self-esteem is crucial as it directly affects how we feel, our mental health, and overall well-being. When we learn to love ourselves, we strive for a better life – one that is happy and fulfilling. But as humans, we go through many life experiences that can alter our self-esteem levels from time to time. Sometimes it isn’t easy to turn negative self-esteem into positive self-esteem, and therapy may be needed to help bring about that shift.
Here are some ways to start building your self-esteem:
- Adjust your negative thoughts into more positive ones.
- Engage in positive self-talk and affirmations consistently -Download your guide here.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle (good diet, exercise, meditation).
- Fully engaged with the loved ones in your life.
- Surround yourself with positive friends and family who are supportive.
- Remove negatives in your life so that your energy is always protected.
- Be kind to yourself, and put yourself first.
- Remember that you have strengths and not only weaknesses.
- Start saying “no” and be comfortable in doing so.
- Set and maintain self-boundaries.
- Fake it till you make it. Yup, you read it right!
- Be mindful not to compare yourself to others. YOU are enough.
Loving your full self with faults is not always easy, but as you learn to love yourself a bit more each day, you will see that this is truly the value of positive self-esteem.
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Learn about mental health. https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/learn/index.htm
- Department of sociology. (2019). Self-Esteem: what is it? https://socy.umd.edu/about-us/self-esteem-what-it
- Research network on SES & Health. (2004). Self-Esteem.