Positive self-regard is one of the most important components in reducing anxiety, depression and stress. People with a healthy degree of self-esteem are able to cope more easily with life's stresses and traumas than are those who don't think of themselves as worthwhile.
What is Self-Esteem?
Most people's feeling and thoughts about themselves fluctuate somewhat based on their daily experiences. Your self-esteem, however, is something more fundamental than the normal "ups and downs" you feel; it is your basic assessment of your worth as a person.
People with poor self-esteem often rely on how they are doing in the present to determine how they feel about themselves. They need positive external experiences to counteract the negative feelings and thoughts that constantly plague them. Even then, the good feelings from a good grade, promotion, or compliment are usually temporary.
Healthy self-esteem is based on our ability to assess ourselves accurately and still be able to accept and to value ourselves unconditionally. This means being able to realistically acknowledge our strengths and limitations and at the same time accept ourselves as worthwhile, without conditions and reservations.
Consequences of Low Self-Esteem
It can create anxiety, stress, loneliness and depression. It can cause problems with relationships and can impair academic and job performance. Low self-esteem can also lead to underachievement and increased vulnerability to alcohol and drug abuse.
How is Self-Esteem Developed?
Self-esteem develops and evolves throughout your life as you build an image of yourself through your experiences with different people and activities. Experiences during your childhood play a large role in the shaping of your basic self-esteem. When you were growing up, your successes and failures, and how you were treated by people important to you, all contributed to your degree of self-esteem.
As an adult, your past experiences are all active in your daily life in the form of an "inner voice." Although most people don't hear that voice in the same way they would a spoken one, in many ways it constantly repeats those original messages to us. Your inner voice can have a huge impact on you, even though you may not even be aware of it.
For people with healthy self-esteem, the messages of the inner voice are positive and reassuring. For people with low self-esteem, the inner voice becomes a harsh critic, constantly criticizing, punishing and belittling them.
How Can Self-Esteem be Improved?
It can be significantly improved, over time, with a combination of techniques. Cognitive-behavioural therapy has proved to be very helpful in assisting people to gain a realistic view of themselves and their potential, and to help them to gain tools to overcome the destructive inner critic. Once you're on the path to developing better self-esteem and have an understanding of why your self-esteem was low, you will be able to continually improve your feelings of positive self-regard.