Self-esteem can best be described as a person’s sense of self-worth. It is linked to self-confidence and self-respect and is based on a persons beliefs about themselves. In other words, our self-esteem is linked to how we judge our own worth, abilities, behaviours, appearance and attractiveness as well as our attitude towards ourselves. It can be seen as a persons judgement of how able they are to face life’s challenges and their right to be respected and achieve happiness.
Positive self-esteem is important for a number of reasons. You have a sense of well being from the belief in your own abilities. It gives you confidence to made decisions, try new things, achieve your potential and not be afraid of making mistakes. When you respect yourself, other people usually respect you too. Positive self-esteem also helps you to make choices that are good for you. Valuing and respecting yourself means you are more likely to make decisions that are right for your physical, mental and emotional health.
Low self esteem on the other hand, can stop us leading the lives that we really want to. Those with low-self esteem can see life in a negative way and are more likely to experience feelings of hopelessness and apathy. They can feel worthless and lack the confidence to stand up for themselves and say what they really want. Often they see other people as better than themselves and find as a result that people take advantage of them, or control them. This can lead to feelings of powerlessness, which reinforce low self-esteem.
Low self-esteem can be triggered by a number of things. Major changes in a person’s life such as divorce or relationship breakdown, ill health, or redundancy can all affect self-esteem. Many people develop low self-esteem because of long-standing issues such as abuse they suffered in childhood, workplace bullying, or violent relationships. In many cases, the person may not feel supported, valued or cared about, and may find it difficult to talk about the reasons for their low self-esteem. This can lead to feelings of isolation which reinforces feelings of low self-esteem. Counselling can help to break this cycle by looking at the causes of an individual’s low self-esteem, and put in place strategies to regain and maintain positive self-esteem.