Self-esteem is how we perceive and evaluate ourselves. This perception and evaluation are subjective and affects our day-to-day lives and activities. It encompasses our beliefs, what we appreciate and admire about ourselves and our lives as well as how we feel others perceive us.
Self esteem is a branch of concept of self. Its development starts in our childhood. Childhood experiences play an important role in building our self-esteem. Before we proceed let us take a minute and think about a childhood event which left a significant impact on our lives and still influences our behaviour. If in our childhood we have been criticized a lot, have been punished a lot, neglected or experienced some form of abuse it leads to low self-esteem. As a child we tend to internalize a lot that is whenever we are punished, we believe that it our fault or if we were neglected, we believe we don’t deserve love. We form beliefs and attitudes which revolves around our experiences hence, the kind of events build our self-esteem.
Our self-esteem can either make or break us. Someone with high self-esteem would feel confident, be open to new experiences and learning opportunities and constructive criticism, be able to cope with adversities healthily, would understand that not everything is about them, and would not take everything personally, experience greater well-being and good mental health. High self-esteem acts as a buffer against mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse disorders.
A person with low self-esteem would likely try and escape from uncomfortable or challenging situations to avoid facing the music because of excessive self-doubt and to achieve a temporary feeling of relief, they may blame themselves even when objectively it isn’t their fault, struggle with decision making. They may be overly critical of themselves and their life and focus more on their shortcomings and discount achievements. They are likely to develop unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with their real or perceived inadequacies and may also struggle with their mental health. One might miss out on opportunities for growth and success on the personal, educational or professional front, and struggle with one’s intrapersonal and interpersonal relationships as well. For instance, you may skip interviews or not apply to colleges because you believe you won’t get selected, or you may start to push away a potential romantic partner because you believe you are not good enough for them. These setbacks and self-sabotage further decrease one’s self-esteem and harm their mental health.
However, it should be noted that no one is confident and has high self-esteem all day every day; it is when one constantly experiences low self-esteem that it starts becoming detrimental to their mental health and wellbeing.
It is on us to decide if we want to work on our self esteem for better future or not.