I wanted to take some time to identify why clinicians are always talking about self esteem (maybe yours doesn’t), but I find it extremely helpful in determining a person’s experience with success which tells me about how they’ll respond to therapy and the speed in which progress is made.
There are lots of different tangents about self esteem as well. Types of self esteem, how to achieve higher self esteem, self esteem and it’s impact on relationships, and more! But for the purposes of this post, let’s just focus on what self esteem is, and the benefits of having a higher sense of self esteem in general.
First of all, self esteem and self confidence are often used interchangeably. However, self confidence is a measure of faith in your own abilities like in a sport, or making new friends. Self esteem is a measure of our own sense of self such as our worth and value in the varying situations. So, someone could have low self esteem and find themselves to be a burden, but have high self confidence in one or more abilities like art or athletics.
This can be confusing for parents of children, especially teenagers who appear to be thriving in school and in their extracurriculars, but express feeling sad, worthless, or burdensome. Remember that these things are separate and that innate self worth and value is internal. External validation can only help so much, and is often merely a starting point to address rational thoughts about the self.
But really, why is self esteem so important? In short, it affects how we think, speak, what we do in our lives (decisions), and how we respond in our relationships. It’s the backbone of our being and is a determinant for the level of motivation we have in taking care of ourselves and exploring our own potential. With healthy self esteem, we respect ourselves, and expect that same respect from others. That means that even if someone disagrees or we get something wrong, we don’t diminish our value in ourselves.
So you can see how much better our lives can be if we have healthy self esteem. Comparatively, if we have low self esteem, we experience ourselves and therefore the world in quite the opposite way. Often times, with lower self esteem, there is a lack of trust in personal values and opinions, which leads to a lot of doubt, self blame, shame, and criticism. If you feel this way about yourself, it is no wonder that life is not as enjoyable. An outside criticism feels more like a personal attack rather than a correction. Social cues can often be misinterpreted to support a negative belief about oneself. Lower self esteem leads to varying degrees and types of depression and anxiety.
As this relates to children and families, you can imagine if someone in the family does not value themselves as much. Or, like I previously mentioned, appears to have a surplus of confidence in a multitude of activities, but still feels as though they are not good enough. If a parent feels this way, certain behaviors may be modeled more frequently on handling typical life events like rejection and failure which can impact a growing child or teenager’s view on themselves.
Oh my goodness, so what do you do?!
Being aware of where your own self esteem is at is the first step to taking any kind of action to support or change it. Children and adults alike often describe general feelings, but there are always thoughts behind those feelings. Notice what those thoughts are first, and then you can decide if they are helpful for your self esteem or not. Learning how to cope with these feelings and thoughts rather than ignore them and allow them to circle your mind unconciously is a sure way to get your self esteem up to where it allows you to have more enjoyment in your life.
We’ll discuss more about self esteem, different types, and concrete steps and activities you can do for yourself and your child next week.