Self-Esteem: How do you feel about yourself?

By Gina McSheffrey Emmons, PhD

In today’s society we can be inundated with images of perfect looking people living what seems to be these perfect lives, which can make us question things about ourselves and can affect how we feel about ourselves. When we compare ourselves to others or even to unrealistic images of others, we start to think negatively about ourselves. Also, depending on the situations we encounter, our feelings about ourselves may change. For example, you may feel down about yourself if you did not receive a promotion at work, or you may feel good about yourself if your boss praised you for a staff presentation you did at your job. These feelings are normal and are based on what happens to you. Self-esteem is an overall opinion you have about yourself and is formed over time and is based on many factors some of which include your thoughts/perceptions, the experiences you’ve had, and your interactions with others.

If you have low self-esteem, you likely do not value your worth and may tend to view things from a negative perspective. Therefore, when faced with a challenge or setback, it may be difficult for you to handle it and move on. If you have healthy self-esteem, you tend to value yourself and do good things for yourself and others. You likely view things from a more balanced, realistic perspective and can adjust better to life’s curve balls. Often times, we let other peoples’ opinions of us (i.e., positive or negative things they say, compliments, messages/criticisms they convey, etc.) define who we are—we end up believing these external messages as truths, when in actuality they are not. If we feel good about ourselves and have a strong inner belief about ourselves and what we are capable of, then we can brush off the external chatter, continue to believe in our inner truth, and accept everything about ourselves—our strengths and our weaknesses.

As adults, we’ve had years of experiences, which have contributed to shaping our self-esteem, but we can still find ways to enhance our self-esteem. Here are some suggestions:

  • Recognize your strengths and build upon them; know what you are good at; do what makes you happy.
  • Find new skills; trying new things can build confidence; failures are opportunities to learn from and try again.
  • Learn to be comfortable in your own skin by accepting flaws, embracing differences, celebrating small accomplishments, and rewarding yourself.
  • Learn to change how we feel about ourselves by changing our thoughts. We have control over our thoughts and can therefore change how we view certain situations.
  • Repeat positive statements to yourself (e.g., “I am strong;” “I can do this;” “I’ve done this before, I can do it again;” etc.).

As parents, we have a unique opportunity to help shape our children’s self-esteem. Here are some things you can do:

  • Provide children with opportunities to explore different activities, places, and interests.
  • Invest in what they want to do (e.g., sports, dance, music, etc.) and praise their strengths.
  • Reassure them that it is okay to make mistakes—it provides them with learning opportunities to grow, make different decisions, and do better.
  • Avoid criticisms and allow them to make choices.
  • Be there to support them, and encourage taking a chance.

There are many benefits to having a healthy opinion of ourselves. These are just some of them:

  • You tend to have more confidence. When you have confidence, you are more willing to take chances in life, which may pave the way for more opportunity. For example, in your career you can become more skillful, move up the ladder, and earn a better paying position.
  • You tend to have stronger connections and heathier relationships with others. More people are drawn to you and want to spend time with you.
  • You are able to stick up for yourself and get what you want out of life. For example, when you know your worth, you can negotiate for that raise or bigger office.
  • You are likely better able to handle stress and disappointments. Instead of becoming stuck, you can move on and continue to persevere in accomplishing the goals you set for yourself.
  • You are likely to be more resourceful and do not let any obstacles stand in your way. You are able to identify other people, tools, or resources to help you circumvent any challenges you face.
  • When you value yourself, you tend to take better care of yourself to ensure that you are happy and healthy.

Having a good sense of self-worth is important because it is part of who we are and it affects how we function in our daily lives. Without it, you can become stuck in a cycle of negativity and therefore may not be living a life you enjoy. If you believe in yourself and your potential to do great things, then the possibilities are endless.