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  • Resilient Practice

The Truth About Self-Esteem

"Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.” ― Marilyn Monroe

The news of Tina Turner’s death was a loss for many. She was a fabulous performer with energy and magnetism. We have heard her described as such several times in the last few days. One colleague of hers went on to say that she had something that all other performers always wished for. This got us thinking…

Do you look at others and wish you were more dynamic, fun, flexible, popular, slimmer, taller, cleverer, more organised, more successful?? The list is endless.

What if we looked in the mirror and were happy with who we are?

Self-esteem - belief and confidence in your own ability and value

Cambridge dictionary

Self-esteem is born of our judgement of ourselves and is really important because it predicts our future. A 29 year longitudinal study of over three thousand people showed that high self-esteem was associated with success and wellbeing in our relationships, our career and our health[1]. The study also showed that self-esteem gradually increases from adolescence and peaks in the 50s and 60s. We can relate to that as we have both felt more assured as we have aged. Over 60, self-esteem declined rapidly in participants and again this is illustrated in the loss of confidence we can sometimes see in our elders. Another important finding was that relative self-esteem was very stable. Those with high self-esteem early in life relative to others in that age group maintained higher self-esteem relative to others as the participants aged.

This suggests then, that our level of self-esteem is established early in life, will gradually increase until we are middle-aged and will then drop off. How high it is relative to our peers will remain stable, however the study was clear that our level of self-esteem is not fixed. The consequences of low self-esteem are significant in terms or our success.

The findings described above correlate with other research that shows that positive self-esteem is associated with mental well-being, happiness, adjustment, success, academic achievements and satisfaction. Low self-esteem can be a causal factor in depression, anxiety, eating disorders, poor social functioning, school dropout and risk behaviour[2].

A Further, more recent, study looking at Vietnamese Secondary School children found that low self-esteem correlated to anxiety, depression and academic stress, which significantly affected students quality of life and was linked to suicidal ideation[3].

The evidence suggests then that it is vital that we help our children develop high levels of self-esteem and thinking about how we boost it in adulthood is very much worthwhile.

Let’s look then, at how we measure our self-esteem?

Many of us compare ourselves to others or tally up our achievements but in each of these examples the focus is external when in fact self-esteem is an internal concept and is ultimately about our self-worth.

Whilst our self-esteem impacts on our successes, being successful does not necessarily imply high self-esteem. It is absolutely not about age, money, standing or anything to do with anyone else. Our worth is unaffected by material things.

Those with high self-esteem feel positive about themselves and their life. They have strong positive core beliefs about Self. They also have a strong internal locus of control and understand that they can manifest positive outcomes for themselves via their own responses, even in the most toxic environments. By responses we mean, their thoughts and feelings about the situation and their subsequent actions.

You can see then, that building self-esteem is all about looking at our core beliefs about self. We talk all the time about the common negative core beliefs;

“I am not worthy”

“I am broken”

These are delusions. We are all worthy of living our best life and as there is no perfect version of us to compare ourselves too then we are all entirely whole just as we are.

It is time then to develop some beautiful, positive core beliefs about Self.

Try this:

Next time you look in the mirror

Take a moment

List the things you like about yourself – this might be hard to do at first but it will get easier.

If you can’t think of anything, think about a person that you love or admire, remember that what you like about them are things that you like about yourself (the law of reflection). This is a good starting point.

If you are really struggling, this ask others in your life. What do they like and love about you?

In turn tell those significant others what you value about them. This is a wonderful thing to do with your children on a regular basis that will help them establish good self-esteem early on which we have found is key.

It is also a great way to build a Team.

Once you have your list of things you like, remind yourself of these things on a regular basis.

Always be grateful for compliments, don’t bat them away as if they are not significant. This is disrespectful to the person who gave it.

Finally, celebrate the success of others. It is very rare that one person’s success will be directly detrimental to you personally.

For more insights and a host of tools and techniques for exploring the Self and improving your

human experience see our book:

[1] Orth, U., & Robins, R. W. (2014). The Development of Self-Esteem. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 23(5), 381–387. [2] Michal (Michelle) Mann and others, Self-esteem in a broad-spectrum approach for mental health promotion, Health Education Research, Volume 19, Issue 4, August 2004, Pages 357–372 [3] Nguyen DT, Wright EP, Dedding C, Pham TT and Bunders J (2019) Low Self-Esteem and Its Association With Anxiety Depression, and Suicidal Ideation in Vietnamese Secondary School Students: A Criss-Sectional Study. Front. Psychiatry 10:698

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