Identity and self esteem are closely related and developing self esteem and a strong sense of identity are very important to good mental health. Your sense of identity has to do with who you think you are and how you perceive yourself. It’s about how you define yourself. Self esteem is how you value yourself. It has to do with your sense of self-worth. Both affect your mental health, your behavior and how you relate to other people.
It’s important to understand how we develop self esteem and our sense of identity because low self esteem or a poor sense of self can contribute to so many problems in our lives. It’s also important to understand what steps we can take if we need help in these areas.
Developing Your Identify and Self Esteem
You begin developing your identify and self esteem as a very small child. When you were just a baby, sometimes you cried. If your caregivers responded to you promptly and in a loving manner, you probably began to learn and believe that you were valuable. You probably began to learn and believe that your feelings and needs were important. If your caregivers didn’t respond in an appropriate way, though, you may have begun to learn and believe that you were not valuable and that your feelings and needs were not important.
As we get older, we continue developing self esteem. We get messages about our value from teachers and other school staff, from our peers, from other relatives and other people we meet in our day-to-day lives. As adults, we continue to develop self esteem, but we begin to make decisions about our value for ourselves and become less dependent on messages from others.
People with low self esteem are usually more dependent on others for cues, though. They are more likely to be influenced by others. If someone rejects them in some way or criticizes them, they react more strongly and are hurt more deeply. It’s normal to be affected to a degree by the way others treat us, but a strong self esteem allows us to feel good about ourselves even when others treat us poorly. People with poor self esteem tend to take things more personally.
Why Developing Self Esteem Is Important
Developing a strong sense of identity and self esteem is important for many reasons. People that don’t have a strong sense of their own identity may be easily influenced by others. They may have trouble making decisions and may get involved in unhealthy relationships. People that have poor self esteem may be susceptible to a number of psychological problems like depression, anxiety and eating disorders. They may be more likely to become addicted to alcohol or drugs. Low self esteem is not the only cause of these problems but it is often a contributing factor. Children and adolescents with poor self esteem are more likely than other children to have behavior problems and have trouble getting along with authority figures.
Therapy for Developing Self Esteem
Not everyone needs therapy for developing self esteem, of course. However, some people have very low self esteem and it really impacts them in their daily life. If that sounds like you, you should consider seeing a therapist. People with conditions like depression, body dysmorphic disorder, anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder should also seek therapy. Those conditions generally will not resolve on their own and while self-help methods may help some, you’ll likely need professional treatment. A good therapist can help you improve your sense of identity and self esteem.