Self-esteem is defined by Oxford Dictionary as “confidence in one’s own worth or abilities; self-respect.” In other words, self-esteem is how you feel about yourself. When someone has high self-esteem, they have positive feelings about themselves. On the other hand, someone with low self-esteem has negative feelings about themselves. For example, someone with low self-esteem may believe they are not worthy of love or happiness.
Conversely, mental health encompasses our emotional and psychological well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It is easier to understand mental health when you look at it as a scale ranging from wellness or illness.
How does low self-esteem affect mental health?
Self-esteem impacts every piece of our life. It not only affects how we value ourselves as a person, but also how we take care of ourselves. Someone with higher self-esteem may make more time for self-care and rest. Furthermore, people with higher self-esteem are kinder to themselves, recognize their strengths, and advocate for themselves. On the other hand, people with lower self-esteem may focus on the negatives in their life, make it difficult to move beyond mistakes, and believe they are not good enough.
Lower self-esteem is linked to increased risk of depression and anxiety. We may begin to feel worthless because we believe we are not good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, etc. It can also impact our relationships. When we question our own worth, we often act in ways that demonstrate our insecurities. We may feel like our partner does not love us or feel paranoid about their fidelity.
Feeling comfortable in your own skin is a key part of self-esteem. When we constantly look for validation from external forces, like people around us or our followers on social media, our self-esteem and mental health will be negatively impacted. Thus, our self-esteem develops within ourselves.
What causes low self-esteem?
Often times, we can trace self-esteem damage to rejection and / or lack of positive reinforcement. When our parents, our friends, our partners, or other important figures in our life engage in abuse (whether it is emotional, physical, or sexual), we may feel like we deserve the pain. When we are constantly told our faults, especially by someone we care about, we tend to believe them. Low self-esteem can stem from manipulative relationships, where we are cheated on and / or gaslighted. It can also come from mental health conditions, such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder or Depression. Recently, we have seen social media play a huge role in children’s self-esteem. We often compare ourselves to everyone around us—from our bodies to materialistic items to followers to likes.
Someone with low self-esteem may fear rejection, abandonment, or change. They may also seek approval from everyone around them. Low self-esteem is often hidden by using humor to point out their perceived flaws.
How can you build self-esteem?
Building self-esteem is important. However, shifting the feelings we have about ourselves is not an easy task. Often times, it involves discovering the underlying reasons behind our negative thoughts and learning how to adapt them. Therapy can be a great tool for this! Therapists can guide you through processing and lifestyle changes to build your self-esteem.
However, if therapy is not accessible to you, there are life-changes you can make now. There is always something you can do for yourself. Healthy lifestyle changes are crucial! Taking care of your body is taking care of your mind. Therefore, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and allowing your body time to rest is a great place to start. It is also important to spend time with people who make you feel good about yourself. The more time you spend with people who make you feel not good enough, the more your self-esteem will decline. Remember: what you put in your body, on your body, and around your body affect your physical and mental wellness.
Here are some other things you can do to build your self-esteem:
- Celebrate your accomplishments. Even the small ones, including making your bed, finishing an assignment at work / school, or eating a balanced meal.
- Focus on cultivating your inner happiness. Setting boundaries can be very helpful. You do not have to please everyone around you, especially not at a cost to yourself. When you attach your worth to someone else’s happiness, you have no control over your own happiness.
- Be understanding of yourself and your emotions. It is okay to feel. Whatever you are feeling is valid, but it may not be true. Ask yourself where the thoughts come from.
Having a healthy self-esteem is vital to your quality of life. You deserve to love yourself as much as you love those around you.