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What is self esteem and where does it come from?

What do you see when you look in the mirror?

Self-esteem is one of the most baffling concepts to master. There are so many books and theories around that you can feel guilty by not pursuing the ‘eternal elixir for a happier life’. We are always encouraged to have ‘high’ self-esteem and to know the risks of ‘low’ self-esteem on our mental health. Having a ‘healthy’ self-esteem would benefit our overall health.

It is for you to decide how your self-esteem rates, whether it’s worth having, and if you do, what you need to do to attain a healthier self-esteem.

The psychologist William James has defined self-esteem as the “sum total of all that a person can call their own”. How you evaluate yourself socially, spiritually, and how you feel about yourself.

Who are you? What do you see when you look in the mirror? Are you the cat that sees the lion or the lion that sees the cat?

When you are alone at home at the end of the day, you look in the mirror – what do you see? When you get an opportunity have a really good look at yourself and count how many ‘selves’ you can see. We have many roles in life they can include: the mother/father, son/daughter, husband/wife and then all the professions and social groups – these are some of our ‘selves’ we may have.

Deep down inside there is the private and public self, which can get complicated when we have the private and public father/mother, daughter/son and so on.

It’s not to say that we have multiple personalities, its just sometimes we allow others to shape our ‘selves’ to what they believe, rather than who we really are deep down. So, what face do we put on in public? Do they see the happy carefree and helpful you at work, when privately, you are hating your job and dread coming in each day?

Sometimes pretending to be something you’re not, so that you don’t rock the boat or stand out as a troublemaker will damage your self-esteem. You can feel ‘less than’ because you are not standing up for your own beliefs. People with healthy self-esteem find ways of blending the public with the private. This means that when in public they would not do something that privately is not right for them. Take the best of every ’self’ you have and combine them to give the best representation of who you really are.

In a nutshell self-esteem is all about confidence in your own ability and worth. Here are some examples of a healthy self-esteem:

  1. Speak the truth as you see it without the fear of rejection and without the intent of harming others.

  2. Being confident in your ability to make sound decisions

  3. Able form and stay in honest, secure relationships.

  4. Have realistic expectations in yourself and be less critical of others

  5. To be more resilient and deal with stress and setbacks more effectively

We will always have days when our ‘healthy’ self-esteem is tested, for all sorts of reasons. It doesn’t mean that we won’t have days of feeling helpless. Some situations or circumstances will surely test our resilience. But it is the ability to know when we need help and reach out.

In these times make sure you talk to those who support you, or contact a good psychotherapist, counsellor or psychologist who can help you in a kind, validating and supportive environment.

Contact Lynda for a free 10 step guide to improve your self-esteem

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