Self-esteem is a person's subjective assessment of his or her worth to himself or herself. Self-esteem covers various beliefs about oneself (such as "I'm unloved," "I'm worthless," "I'm a failure," and "I'm beautiful") as well as physiological states, including sadness, triumph, joy, and shame. The more we believe that we are worthy of happiness and good things in life, the more self-fulfilled we will be.
When we don't believe that we are worthy of these things, our ability to enjoy them can suffer. When we start to doubt what's important in life, we tend to do less of it.
Where does self-esteem come from?
Our self-esteem develops as we grow from childhood to adulthood. It is affected by the image we build for ourselves through experiences with people and different situations. The things that you experienced as a child initially form a foundation in the shaping of your self-esteem.
Our successes, our failures, how we are treated by members of our immediate family, by our teachers, coaches, religious authorities, and our friends contribute to our basic self-esteem.
How high and low self-esteem are formed
Healthy self-esteem as an adult can be a gift that you are given in your childhood. It is a blessing that most people overlook. There are so many ways that adults with high self-esteem were supported as children that resulted in them having high self-esteem.
For instance, they were praised for what they had achieved. There is also a good chance that they were spoken to respectfully and listened to as well. They likely experienced affection and were given enough attention. It is also possible that they excelled in studies or in sports and were admired for it by peers.
People with poor self-esteem, on the other hand, often experienced the opposite. As children, many of these people were criticized harshly, yelled at, or abused in one way or another. There is also a high chance that they were given little to no attention by the adults who were supposed to care for them. In some cases, adults with poor self-esteem were often ridiculed for their shortcomings or bullied by peers.
It is common that these adults also were made to feel that in order to be appreciated they needed to be perfect. This creates an image in the mind that without accomplishment you are worthless. You find that there are people who are obsessed with their careers or hobbies because in their mind they need to tie their worthiness to something tangible. Oftentimes these people have to pretend to be something they are not just to get approval.
We are shaped and molded by all these experiences and it is sad when a child experiences the latter as it will become apparent when they are older.
How self-esteem influences your life
How you feel about yourself impacts how you live your life. People with high self-esteem tend to have better relationships than those with low self-esteem. High self-esteem enables you to ask for help from and support from the people around you when you need it. So if you struggle to reach out for assistance it could be rooted in your low self-esteem.
People with high self-esteem are better equipped at achieving their life goals because they have faith in themselves. They face failure too but they understand that failure or success doesn't define them. Having high self-esteem allows you to accept yourself for who you are. Flaws and strengths, you know that these make up the essence of who you are.
Why you should work on your self-esteem
Since self-esteem is connected to how we perform in various areas of our lives, it is important to work on it. To build better relationships, careers, and health and achieve goals, you need to first understand that you are worthy of all those things.
That understanding comes from building high self-esteem. If you had a terrible childhood, it doesn't mean you are doomed. You just have to work a little harder to build high self-esteem and it is possible. However, it isn't easy.
There are many resources out there that can help you with simple exercises that you can do on a daily basis to achieve this. If you are struggling in many areas of your life, take a step back and evaluate the relationship you have with yourself.
How do you talk to yourself? How do you treat yourself? What do you think of yourself? Do you feel worthy of receiving good in your life or do you feel bad about the good things that happen to you? If you find yourself experiencing something good and you tell yourself "I don't deserve this" or "I didn't work hard enough for this," you may have low self-esteem. And when you have that kind of negative self-talk, you self-sabotage.