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 self-esteem.