Some people genuinely like who they are -quirks and all. But often, the situation is more complicated. For instance, you might view yourself differently than your friends or family do. You might be more harsh or critical of yourself than you need to be. Alternatively, you might not see your shortcomings the way others do. These perceptions of yourself are based, in part, on your self-esteem.
Your self-esteem influences the way you think and behave toward yourself and others. If you can learn how to have high self-esteem, you're more likely to view yourself in a positive light. It might also help you to see and accept those shortcomings. Healthy, positive self-esteem can provide many benefits to boost your mental health and improve your sense of well-being.
Low vs. High Self-Esteem: Examples to Enhance Understanding
Your level of self-esteem is determined by how you feel about yourself. The word "esteem" means regard or admiration. So self-esteem is the regard or admiration that you have for yourself. It's the way you view yourself through your own eyes.
If your self-esteem is high then you have a great deal of regard and admiration for yourself. If your self-esteem is low, it means that you lack a certain level of admiration or regard for yourself.
Self-esteem is a reflection of the way you view different aspects of your life, such as your physical body, personality traits, quirks, accomplishments, goals, skills, and values. We develop this sense of worth and value through experience - both internal and external. Internal elements include the confidence we gain from accomplishing goals we set for ourselves. External elements might include things like comments we receive from others and the type of friends we attract.
The terms "high self-esteem" and "low self-esteem" are often used in casual conversations. But it can be helpful to look at examples of each to fully understand what self-esteem is and how it can affect behavior and your overall mental health.
When a person has a high sense of self-esteem, they typically believe that they are valuable individuals that deserve respect and are confident and comfortable taking up space. They are pleased with who they are, and high a high sense of self-worth. They recognize they bring something special to the table and are proud to be who they are.
Some examples of high self-esteem behaviors include:
- Following your own values
- Forgiving yourself when you make a mistake
- Going through life at your own pace
- Raising your hand when you have a question
- Sharing your ideas with others
Just because a person has high self-esteem, it doesn't mean that they believe they're perfect. In fact, it's likely that if you have high self-esteem you recognize and accept your shortcomings for what they are while you work towards self-improvement.
When a person has a sense of low self-esteem, they might not view themselves as being valuable. They typically feel as though their accomplishments are unimpressive, and that they might not have the skills they need in order to reach their goals. They might try to take up as little space as possible because they don't feel as though they are deserving.
Some examples of low self-esteem behaviors include:
- Being overly critical of your work
- Believing you're difficult to love, like, or get along with
- Comparing yourself to others
- Feeling like you're behind in life
- Questioning why people would want to be around you or be your friend
People with low self-esteem tend to focus on their shortcomings. They have low rates of self-acceptance and might constantly feel like they're not enough. This can lead to mental health struggles and even negatively impact their relationships.
Benefits of High Self-Esteem
Why is having high self-esteem important? Your level of self-esteem affects your daily life from the moment you wake up to the minute you fall asleep. It shapes your internal dialogue and can influence your choices and perceptions.
For example, the way you feel about yourself can influence the friends you keep and the romantic partners you choose. It can also influence where you work, the boundaries you set with others, and the goals you believe you can accomplish.
Research provides insight into the specific benefits of having high esteem.
Boosts Mental Health
According to one study from the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, having high self-esteem can protect against the development of certain mental health conditions. The study included 201 participants between the ages of 13 and 18 years old. All participants were tested to measure their levels of anxiety, depression, and self-esteem at the start of the study, as well as three years later.
Results showed that participants that had higher rates of self-esteem showed fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety at the start of the study and three years down the line when compared to individuals with low levels of self-esteem. In addition, participants with high self-esteem also reported lower levels of attention problems.
Increases Life Satisfaction
Self-esteem is so powerful that it can affect the way you feel about your life. Several studies have found that high rates of self-worth have been linked to increased levels of life satisfaction.
Why does this connection occur? Research shows that there are most likely several influential factors involved. For example, some studies found that high rates of self-esteem also lead to higher rates of openness and communication with peers. All of these factors can come together and have a positive impact on a person's life satisfaction.
The better you feel about yourself, the better you feel about the life you're living.
Lifts Your Mood
It might not come as a surprise, but when you have high self-esteem, you also feel happier. According to a 2022 study from Sage Journal, happiness, self-esteem, and even motivation are all linked.
The study included 480 participants and measured their subjective happiness, levels of motivation, and rates of self-esteem. The results showed that there was a positive correlation between these elements, meaning that the higher a person's self-esteem and motivation, the happier they become.
This suggests that you can improve your mood by changing the way you feel about yourself.
Promotes Healthy Behaviors
Having high self-esteem can also help you make better choices. Research shows that self-esteem and health promotion behaviors are connected.
One 2022 study from the Journal of Frontiers in Psychology discovered that participants with high self-esteem were more likely to make healthy nutritional decisions and engage in physical activity than those with low self-esteem. The high self-worth group also reported greater rates of feeling responsible for maintaining their own health, were more likely to use social support, and showed greater rates of stress management behaviors.
When you feel good about yourself, you're more likely to engage in activities and make decisions that keep you feeling good (and healthy!).
Improves Overall Well-Being
Several studies show that there is a link between self-esteem and a person's subjective well-being. Research shows that high levels of self-esteem are correlated with increased levels of well-being. This highlights the idea that when a person feels good about themselves, they also feel good about the way their life is going.
How to Have High Self-Esteem
Where would you rank your self-esteem on a scale from one to ten, with one being the lowest and ten being the highest? If your self-esteem lands on the higher end of the scale, then you might already have a strong sense of self-worth. If you ranked your self-esteem towards the lower end, don't panic. Self-esteem fluctuates over time and we've all experienced lower moments. It just means that you might need a little TLC to give you the boost you need.
Explore the strategies below to learn more about the steps you can take to increase your self-worth and gain more positive self-esteem.
Recognize Your Abilities
Set aside some time to make a list of the things you're good at. This can be anything from listening to making the perfect lasagna. If you struggle to come up with ideas, reach out to loved ones to give you some ideas.
After your list is complete, reflect on what you wrote. Which abilities on your list make you happy? Do your best to incorporate these activities into your schedule. You might not be able to do everything on your list every day, but maybe you can add them to your routines once a week.
The more you engage in activities that you're good at and that bring you joy, the more confident you may become in your skills. To learn more about your best abilities, take the Core Strengths Assessment and apply your top traits as often as you can.
Learn New Skills
Another way to boost your self-esteem is to work on the aspects of yourself that you feel could use some improvement. What skills do you want to learn and what habits do you hope to include in your life?
For example, if you want to increase your focus, you might want to begin a mindfulness practice. Or, if you want to spend less time online, you can start hobbies like reading or taking walks to keep you away from your screen.
Reflect on traits, hobbies, and habits you currently have that you feel no longer serve you. Then, choose a few on your list and swap them for new aspects that might boost your mood. As you learn new skills and practice habits you're interested in, you might feel a self-esteem boost.
Set and Work Towards Goals
What are some goals that you hope to achieve? These can be small, like stretching when you wake up, or big, like finishing your degree. Write them down. Next to each goal, note how challenging you believe it to be, as well as how important it is to you.
Start with your small goals that you find highly valuable. Make an achievement plan and follow the steps you've laid out. Then, move on to your bigger ones. Reaching goals takes time, so remember to be gentle with yourself.
When you work towards your goals, it can increase your sense of purpose, fulfillment, and achievement.
Explore Positive Thinking
Ever heard of the power of positive thinking? It's when a person does their best to think affirming thoughts, stay optimistic, and avoid unhelpful thought distortions. Positive thinking can decrease rates of negative self-talk and help you treat yourself the way you would a friend.
To embrace the power of positive thinking, you can read and reflect on motivational quotes and affirmations. Visit these topics at the start of your day, set your intentions going forward, and maybe even journal about them. You can also place affirmations on sticky notes around your house for constant reminders.
Foster Strong Social Relationships
Research shows that social relationships and self-esteem are connected. When you surround yourself with people who treat you well, that connection helps boost your sense of self-worth.
Reflect on the people who are in your inner circle. How do they make you feel? Do the relationship dynamics seem healthy? Do you feel like you give and receive equal amounts of support?
You might decide that some relationships don't serve your needs and that you need to take steps to protect your well-being. For the ones that are fulfilling, make sure those people know they're appreciated, and work to strengthen those bonds.
Seek Additional Support
We can all use some extra support now and again. If you feel like you could use some additional guidance as you build up your self-esteem, or feel like you have more challenging barriers to overcome, it might be a good idea to talk to a mental health professional.
A counselor or therapist can help you reflect on unhelpful patterns in your life, set boundaries, and overcome past difficulties that may still be weighing you down. Then you'll both come together to discover coping strategies that work for you and make a plan to move forward.
Remember that self-esteem can fluctuate and that it's okay to have some low days. When negative thoughts or feelings pop up, turn to the resources around you for support. Building and maintaining high self-esteem can take continued effort. However, with practice, patience, and self-care, you'll be on the right path to creating a positive relationship with yourself.