What do I think of ‘Me’?
‘Am I good enough?’ This is a question many of us have asked ourselves at some point or other in our lives, whether it is in relation to our appearance, our personality, work, academics, relationships and any other area of our life in which our abilities are tested. Sometimes the answer to the question above is yes and sometimes it is no. Think back – if the answer for you has been ‘no, I am never good enough’ or ‘no, something is wrong with me’ most of the time, you should probably take a hard look at what you think about you. What we think about ourselves is our ‘self image’ and the degree to which we value ourselves is our ‘self esteem’.
Sometimes, it might seem like you can never do enough or never do anything just right. You constantly compare yourself to those around you and think that ‘They have something I don’t’. If you think about the way you judge yourself and those around you, you might find that you are much harder on yourself than you are on anyone else. On some level, you are ready to forgive those around you when they make a mistake because you understand that everyone is flawed. But when it comes to yourself, that understanding is lost. You are your own harshest critic. Deep down, you might feel that ‘something is wrong with me’. In other words, the way you see yourself or your self image is very poor. Therefore, your self esteem is quite low as well.
In this article, we look at the concept of self-esteem, how one’s self-esteem is formed and what low self-esteem and its consequences are. Self esteem can be defined as ‘one’s evaluation or appraisal of one’s own worth’. It refers to beliefs that you have about yourself and the way you feel about yourself. From the definition, we can see that self-esteem is not a concrete thing. The way we evaluate ourselves might not be perfectly objective or based on reality. Sunil could be a very talented, good-looking individual who has accomplished much in his life. However, he thinks that he can never match up to his peers, he is unattractive and incompetent. Self-esteem can be implicit or explicit. Implicit self-esteem is the automatic, spontaneous tendency we have to think about ourselves, positively or negatively. Explicit self-esteem is a more reflective way of evaluating ourselves based on our experiences and behavior.
We are not born with low or high self-esteem. We develop a certain sense of self-esteem based on our childhood experiences with our parents and the way they appreciate or depreciate our action. Our adult experiences can also cause our self-esteem to change to become higher or lower. Self-esteem is a very important motivator which can drive us to either achieve a lot or feel there is no point in making the effort. Low self esteem might have developed due to childhood experiences in which one has been harshly criticized and not appreciated for their positive attributes. Some families have an environment in which a child’s actions are given due attention and praise while some others might not be in the habit of positively reinforcing a child’s behavior.
Consequences of low self-esteem:
- Low self-esteem can lead to feelings of stress, anxiety and depression.
- A person with low self-esteem might constantly question his/her own actions and behavior and have low self-confidence.
- A person with low self-esteem might evaluate his/her behavior in social situations more harshly than necessary. For example, Sunil might feel like he made a fool of himself during his presentation and work and that his superiors were laughing at them, while the reality might have been tat his superiors were merely discussing Sunil’s ideas among themselves without denigrating him.
- Low self-esteem can lead to social withdrawal and self-neglect
- Reluctance to take risks or trust one’s own abilities
- Low expectations of oneself
When one’s low self-esteem holds a person back from taking risks or putting oneself forward, one might not be able to accomplish much thus fulfilling one’s low expectations of oneself. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The good news is that self-esteem is not a static quality, it can be improved. There are different forms of counseling which can help a person in building self-esteem. Approaches like Cognitive Behavioural therapy, Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy and Self-Instructional training can help a person recognize the connection between their self-defeating, unrealistic thoughts and emotions and the resulting behavior. Self-Instructional Training helps a person replace their negative self-statements(what they tell themselves) with realistic, positive self-statements and gradually leads to improved self-esteem. Accepting that we have both strengths and weaknesses and learning to value oneself for one’s own attributes are the goal that most counseling approaches to improve self-esteem aim at.
Virginia Satir, an extremely popular and groundbreaking family therapist, wrote a short, simple poem on self-esteem and self-love. It goes like this:
I am Me
In all the world
There is no one else like me.
There are persons
who have some parts like me
but no one
exactly like me.
Everything that comes out of me
Is authentically mine because
I alone chose it.
I own everything
If you have a problem with low self-esteem and feel that you need help to change, you can contact us at TalkItOver for professional counselling.
1. Satir, Virginia(1970). Self-Esteem. Berkeley Books: Hong Kong