What is self esteem? It can be an elusive term to define, but it includes:
- Feeling good about yourself and your place in the world
- Feeling generally positive, perceiving life as containing potential pleasures and opportunities
- Asking for what you want and being able to express your feelings.
Is self esteem the same as self confidence? Not quite. Self confidence applies to particular skills and competencies that we possess. For example, you may be confident in your ability to use a computer, but you may be creating and designing a complicated spreadsheet while actually feeling negative about yourself, and doubting your own worth.
What tends to bring about low self esteem? Contributory factors may include physical and emotional neglect, excessive criticism, and people close to us having unrealistic expectations of us. Low self esteem can affect your thoughts, feelings, behaviour and your relationships. You may find that you worry excessively about what others think of you, that you try too hard to please other people and start withdrawing from others.
There are ways in which you can begin to build up your self esteem. Here are a few ideas:
Be aware of negative automatic thoughts. Everyone has them. Try to notice when you have them, and replace them with a positive thought (eg, remind yourself about one of your qualities)
Do your best, rather than aiming for perfection all the time
Try to spend more time with those who help you to feel good about yourself – and a little less time with those who tend to undermine your self esteem.
Building up your self esteem can take time – but some of the benefits include more satisfying relationships, becoming more assertive, and an increased ability to tolerate and accept differences in others.
Resources within the University to help with self esteem:
The Centre for Staff and Graduate Development offers a Building self esteem workshop.
The Counselling Service is available to you if you would like to discuss your self esteem and how it can be improved.
If there are any particular subjects that you would like to see covered in these pages, please contact the well-being team at firstname.lastname@example.org.