Our lives are full of ups
and downs. From exam grades and work achievements to relationship issues and
daily woes, daily life is full of rewarding and challenging experiences that
can temporarily impact how we feel about ourselves.
Self-esteem, however, is
fundamentally different from the everyday highs and lows—it’s the value that we
believe we are worth. For people with good self-esteem, normal ups and downs
may lead to temporary fluctuations in how they feel about themselves, but only
to a limited extent. In contrast, for people with poor self-esteem, these ups
and downs drastically impact the way they see themselves.
Low self-esteem, or when
we rate ourselves of little value or worth, is characterized by thoughts such
as: believing that we are inadequate, flawed, unworthy, unlovable, and/or
incompetent. Low self-esteem can be caused by a number of factors, including
negative life experiences, abusive relationships, bullying, and even very
stressful life events. Self-esteem may stay low due to our own self-critical
thoughts, which may be triggered by criticism or perceived criticism.
Dr. Sorensen, a leading
expert in this area, suggests that low self-esteem can be the root cause of most
of the pain and discomfort people continue to experience. People with poor
self-esteem often rely on how they are doing in the present to determine how
they feel about themselves. They need positive external experiences (e.g.,
compliments from friends) to counteract the negative feelings and thoughts that
constantly plague them. Even then, the good feeling (such as from a good grade
or compliment) is usually temporary.
While many suggestions to
raising your self-esteem may seem easier said than done, it is possible to develop your self-esteem
and decrease self-critical thoughts and behaviors. Below is a series of changes
you can try to make in order to develop your self-esteem, but you may always schedule a meeting
with one of our counselors for more personal guidance.
When you notice
self-critical thoughts, stop. Take a breath and ask yourself:
Most importantly, be
compassionate with yourself. Acknowledge your strengths. Notice the positives.
Learning to love yourself can be the first (and biggest) step toward good
self-esteem. Check out the resources below for more tips on developing your
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