Self-esteem

Having a healthy sense of self-esteem means you have a positive opinion of yourself and essentially, like who you are. This may sound like a simple thing, but many of us struggle with self-esteem and the effects can be devastating. When you don’t feel good about yourself and your abilities, this can make certain elements of your life more difficult.

Here we take a closer look at the impact of self-esteem and where it comes from. We also look into coaching and how this offer the support you need to build self-esteem and fulfil your true potential.

What is self-esteem?

The term self-esteem is used to describe our overall sense of self-worth and how much we value ourselves. Our self-esteem is made up of various beliefs we have about who we are and what we’re capable of. As you can imagine, this can have a huge impact on the way we experience life. 

Self-esteem can affect our motivation and how likely we are to take risks and pursue our dreams. For example, if you have low self-esteem, you may have dreams of working in a certain industry, but don’t believe you’re capable of doing it. This lack of self-belief might stop you from trying to pursue a career you really want.

If you have high self-esteem, however, you’re more likely to believe in yourself and put the work in to break into your chosen career. You might feel more able to try new things and take risks because you know your worth and understand that even if it doesn’t work out, it’s not a reflection of your character or value. 

Here are some signs that you have healthy self-esteem:

  • You feel confident
  • You feel able to say no when you need to
  • Negative experiences don’t impact your view of yourself
  • You feel able to ask for what you need

Signs of low self-esteem include:

  • A lack of confidence
  • A desire to please people
  • Having an overall negative outlook
  • Feelings of shame
  • Unable to ask for what you need

What influences self-esteem?

Our self-esteem is often formed in our early years and is influenced by many factors. Genetics and personality type has a role to play, but often it is the experiences we have that contribute to our self-esteem levels.

If you grew up around people who were particularly critical of you, for example, family, friends, teachers or other authority figures, you may be more likely to experience self-esteem problems. Other experiences such as bullying and experiencing abuse can also be influential in your self-esteem levels. 

Your particular circumstances can also come into it. If you have a chronic illness or disability, if you face discrimination, if you’re struggling financially - all of these concerns can affect your relationship with yourself. 

The difference between self-esteem and confidence

Self-esteem and confidence often get confused, and while they do overlap, there are differences. Confidence relates to our trust in our abilities to cope with challenges and “engage successfully with the world” (Burton, 2015). 

Confidence tends to be based more so on external factors. For example, we can generally build confidence when we succeed at a task. Self-esteem is more internally-based and, when we struggle with our self-esteem, succeeding doesn’t always help us feel better about ourselves.

Confidence is a belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities externally. When people are asked to describe who they are, say in work for instance, they feel some kind of power and importance which appears to be driven by the abilities or knowledge they have obtained through training and learning and this empowers them to be 'somebody of value'.

Self-esteem is the value you place on yourself from a stand-alone view, internally. When people are asked to describe who they are from a stand-alone, internal point of view most tend to talk about their negative aspects which in turn appears to make them devalue who they really are.

- A life coach explains the difference between confidence and self-esteem.

How self-esteem impacts your life

Over time, having low self-esteem can impact your mental health and well-being. It can lead to conditions like depression, anxiety, eating disorders and self-harm. You may also find that having a mental health condition contributes to low self-esteem. 

Having healthy self-esteem can change the way you experience life and the direction you choose to take it. When you have a good relationship with yourself, you’ll tend to be better able to handle stress and even avoid the unhealthy side-effects of stress. You may find building strong relationships easier and feel able to leave unhealthy ones. 

Understanding your true value helps you develop emotional resilience. This means when you’re met with obstacles, disappointment or even failures, you’ll be able to bounce back quicker. 

Your confidence is also likely to improve alongside your self-belief. You’ll feel happier to take more psychological risks (like starting a new career) and go after what you really want in life. If you feel your self-esteem is currently low, the good news is that with self-work and intention, it can be built up. Many people find it helpful to get support during this process.

Niko Everett shares her advice on building self-esteem.

How can coaching help you build self-esteem? 

Building up your self-esteem involves unlearning habits of behaviour and thinking you’ve picked up from past experiences. It can feel difficult, especially at first, to challenge your inner critic and treat yourself with compassion. If you find you are struggling with this, you may benefit from speaking to a professional.

The role of a coach who works in this area is to help you uncover what’s blocking you from building self-esteem. Through questioning techniques and possibly NLP techniques they can help you identify limiting beliefs you may have and change them. They can support your self-acceptance journey, offering tools and techniques to help you on your way. 

A coach can also help you understand who you really are and what you want from life, underneath your existing negative thought patterns. As your self-esteem rises they can help you to take the action needed to make your goals a reality.

The role of our mind is to keep us safe. When those feelings of doubt, self-hate and worthlessness come up, understand that our mind is simply trying to keep us safe. Your freedom will come when you acknowledge what your mind is trying to do, but explain to it that you are safe, and are not under threat. Your goal is to counteract the negative self-talk with words of resilience, strength, and of how much you’ve grown since this experience.

- Life coach Ben Bidwell on building self-esteem.

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