Self Esteem Part 1 - Types of and Impacts on Self-Esteem

in Self-esteem

When delivering an assertiveness workshop, two aspects seemed to hit home with the participants. One was around comfort zones and the other self-esteem.

Individuals had most difficulty in accepting their own responsibility and choice about self-esteem.

What is self esteem?

OK, before going any further, what do you or your clients understand 'self-esteem' to be? Self-esteem typically refers to the way you think and feel about yourself. It combines both your evaluation of personal competence as well as your evaluation of basic worth as a human being.

What impacts self esteem?

The way we view and feel about ourselves has a profound effect on how we live our lives. These opinions are shaped by experiences in the family, at school, from friendships and in wider society.

Most very young children don't really think about self-esteem. They are usually valued and feel valued just as they are - without comparisons or judgments about how accomplished and/or lovable they are. Somewhere as we grow most of us lose that innocence. Beliefs and needs start to impact on our view of ourselves.

The interaction between the environment in which you live and work, and the environment you develop within yourself influences your self esteem.

Types of self esteem

I would categorise three main types, or levels, of self-esteem along a continuum:

Low self esteem healthy self esteem high self esteem

Self esteem is rarely consistent. So when reading the following descriptions, you will probably recognise one or two characteristics from the two that are least like your client. You will probably find one that is most like your client and still not all the descriptions will fit.

1. Low self esteem

The more frequent, intense and lasting negative thoughts and feelings a person has about themselves, the lower their overall self esteem is likely to be. Some of the effects low self esteem can have on an individual's beliefs and behaviours are:

  • Little confidence in their abilities
  • If things go well, they dismiss them as luck or fluke
  • Expect that they will do poorly at a task prior to trying it
  • Give up quickly when faced with difficulties
  • Notice failed attempts and discount/ignore successes and so 'confirm' negative thoughts - ie self fulfilling prophecy!
  • Let things happen to them rather than make things happen
  • Feel they have little control over their own life
  • Give power over to others
  • Wonder what it is about them that causes bad things to happen to them
  • Overly defensive when questioned and avoid asking questions so don't look foolish
2. High self esteem

It is possible to have an apparently high level of self esteem but it is not necessarily based on reality. Some of the characteristics are:

  • Self aggrandisement (exaggerate greatness/importance)
  • Feelings of superiority
  • Notice failings in others and not themselves
  • A sense of entitlement
  • Expect to be treated with respect and, at the same time, do not feel the need to show respect
  • Assume they are better than most, if not all, people they meet
  • Discount/ignore negative feedback by discrediting the source
  • Put others down
3. Healthy self esteem

As for healthy self esteem, here are some characteristics:

  • liking themselves, for the most part, as they are, only occasionally having short bouts of self doubt
  • respecting themselves as well as others
  • compatible with humility, placing them midway between grandiosity and self-effacement
  • confident without being overbearing
  • see criticism and questioning as useful feedback
  • generally take setbacks and obstacles in their stride, and able to accept and learn from their own mistakes
  • unlikely to feel a need to put others down
  • open and assertive in communicating, for instance their needs
  • self reliant and resourceful without refusing help
  • able to laugh at themselves, not taking themselves too seriously
Where do your clients fit on the continuum? How happy are they with it?
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Self Esteem Part 1 - Types of and Impacts on Self-Esteem

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This article was published on 2010/04/01