What is self-esteem and can counselling in Wellington assist clients? Self-esteem has been described as the overall evaluation a person has of themselves. Knowing what you know of yourself do you feel good about yourself? (high self-esteem). Or do you feel bad about yourself? (low self-esteem). Our self-esteem can be linked to specific aspects of ourselves. For example, if being a successful sports person or having academic qualifications are important, being successful in these areas will boost your self-esteem. This may be the case even if the success in these areas is detrimental to family, friends, relationships, or social life. A person may have high self-esteem if they focus on their strengths, for example, being a great sportsperson. But if they are a great sportsperson who focuses on their weaknesses then they are likely to develop low self-esteem. Other research has indicated that those with low self-esteem do not have a clear understanding of themselves. They are confused in their own self-belief and have little understanding or insight into their behaviour which leads to identity confusion and low self-esteem.

Our self-esteem develops through childhood and there appears to be a lowering during early adolescence for some teenagers. This has been attributed to changing schools and beginning to develop a more realistic understanding of a person’s strengths and weaknesses. During early adolescence bodies are also changing. Young people become self-conscious which may lower self-esteem, this is especially true for young girls. By the late teens and early twenties self-esteem begins to rise again and appears to stay stable for most of adult life until older age, where it appears to drop again. There may be a drop in self-esteem if there is a life changing traumatic event. The drop in self-esteem in older people has been attributed to a rampant stereotyping of the elderly by society. Stereotypes learned as a child become self-stereotypes when we reach older age.

Personal happiness has been linked to high self-esteem while low self-esteem has been linked to depression. It is obvious to see that someone who is self-confident and able to socialise easily will have higher self-esteem and thus potentially be happier. But high self-esteem does not equate to success. People with low self-esteem are as likely to be successful in their career or business. Also research has shown a person with high self-esteem may be deluded in the belief of their popularity. Personality tests have shown that those with high self-esteem have unrealistic views of their popularity in comparison to the view held by their peers. Interesting research has found a link between high self-esteem and criminal behaviour.

Here are a few tips to help raise low self-esteem.

  • You control your own self-esteem. Although there are outside factors that may influence our self-esteem ultimately we are in control of how we feel about ourselves.
  • Control your own standards. Decide for yourself how you want to be. Don’t let others tell you to improve your life by getting a better job or being more social.
  • Accent the positive. We all have many fine qualities. Learn to accept and concentrate on the positive aspect rather than the negative.
  • Control negative self-talk. Try to avoid talking about or thinking about yourself in unflattering terms. You might describe yourself as unattractive or socially inept.
  • Get realistic standards for yourself. By setting realistic standards you have a greater degree of success for yourself.
  • Learn to appreciate failure. Failure can help teach you where you went wrong, and how to improve in the future.

Christopher Swane - Depression and Anxiety Psychotherapy - Wellington New Zealand