According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, the definition of self esteem is: a confidence and satisfaction in one’s self; self respect. When thinking about what is self esteem, you can think of how much you like yourself or value yourself. People often talk about having good self esteem or bad self esteem. Sometimes they refer to high self esteem or low self esteem. We would like to suggest looking at in it terms of healthy self esteem or less-than-healthy self esteem, instead.
What Is Self Esteem That Is Healthy?
The definition of self esteem that is healthy is a realistic sense of self esteem. It’s not about being conceited. A person with healthy self esteem does not believe she should become a fashion model when her appearance is just average and she doesn’t believe she should become a rock star when her singing voice is just so-so. However, she doesn’t believe she’s ugly, either, when she is really of average appearance.
A person with a healthy self esteem believes she is a person of equal value to others. She believes she has a number of good qualities. She realizes she makes mistakes sometimes but doesn’t beat herself up too much over them. She feels comfortable in her body and generally has confidence in her abilities.
What Is Self Esteem That Is Less-Than-Healthy?
The definition of self esteem that is less-than-healthy is an unrealistic sense of self esteem. A person with less-than-healthy self esteem has an overly negative or pessimistic view of herself. She does not see her good qualities, exaggerates her bad qualities and dwells on her mistakes or failures. She dislikes herself and this likely impacts her daily life, though to varying degrees.
Some people with less-than-healthy self esteem suffer from conditions like depression, body dysmorphic disorder, anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder. Not all people with less-than-healthy self esteem have a psychological disorder, but less-than-healthy self esteem is a symptom of some disorders and it can also be a contributing factor in the development of some disorders.
Developing a Healthy Definition of Self Esteem
Developing a healthy definition of self esteem is an important task for all of us. It’s a task that we begin as small children and our self esteem continues to develop throughout adolescence and even into adulthood. As small children, we develop a sense of what is self esteem based on cues we get from others. We rely on others to tell us if we are valuable, if we are good enough, if we measure up to their expectations of us. As we get older, we begin to internalize a sense of self esteem and we rely less on cues from others.
If all goes well, by the time we are adults we have internalized a strong and healthy sense of self esteem. We believe we have value. We like ourselves. We have confidence in our abilities. If all does not go well, however, we might grow up doubting ourselves. We might not believe we are valuable and we may lack the confidence we need to move through our day-to-day lives.
Improving Our Sense of What Is Self Esteem
If our sense of self-esteem is less-than-healthy, there are things we can do. Focusing on our good qualities and our accomplishments can help. Critically examining our negative believes about ourselves can be eye-opening; we may realize that those beliefs are not realistic or accurate after all.
Psychotherapy is useful for those that suffer from less-than-healthy self esteem that causes them significant distress or that interferes in their day-to-day lives. Therapy is particularly indicated for those that suffer from conditions like depression, body dysmorphic disorder, anorexia or bulimia along with less-than-healthy self esteem.