Self-esteem is your opinion of yourself. It affects how you view the world, your capacities, others and your relationship to them. It impacts how you go about living your life.
So, what is the difference between healthy and low self-esteem (adapted from Low Self-Esteem | Psychology Tools)?
- When you have healthy self-esteem, you tend to think positively about yourself and be centered and optimistic about life in general. You know that you are valuable and worthy of love. You can identify at least some of your positive characteristics. For example, I am intelligent and organized, which helps me be a successful student and worker. I am a good friend to my sister and housemates.
- When you have low self-esteem, you tend to see yourself, the world and your future more negatively and critically. You might feel stressed, sad, down, unmotivated and doubt your ability to rise to challenges. Some people with low self-esteem know that they judge themselves harshly, while others hold their negative beliefs about themselves so strongly that they can feel like facts. Low self-esteem can lead to all sorts of difficulties, including being self-conscious around others, always trying to please others to get them to like you, apologizing a lot, focusing on your weaknesses, not being able to be assertive, feeling undeserving of praise, etc.
Be careful, however, not to characterize yourself as always either having healthy or low self-esteem. Healthy or low self-esteem can be a general state of mind. But for many people, their level of self-esteem fluctuates in different circumstances (e.g., when starting a new job or take on a new role such as parenting) or with certain people (e.g., a sibling they were compared to while growing up).
Note that low self-esteem is not a mental health diagnosis, but that it can lead to struggles with mental health problems, such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, body dysphoria, etc. If you feel your self-esteem is low (whether in general or in specific situations) and leaves you feeling negatively about yourself, know that it is possible to improve your self-esteem.
Treatment for Low Self-Esteem
The good news is that self-esteem is something that can be changed by changing your beliefs, behavior and how you think about yourself. Having said this, most people developed self-esteem issues in childhood and have been living with low self-esteem for a long time.
If you suffer from low self-esteem, a psychotherapist can aid you in exploring the roots of this problem and in developing a healthier and more realistic sense of self. A psychotherapist can also connect you with strategies you can apply in your life to counter your negative beliefs and critical self-talk, and replace them with self-love and self-compassion.
If you suffer from low self-esteem and would like to explore treatment options, please reach out to the Mindful Counseling Center for a counseling appointment.