Dictionary.com defines self-esteem as “a realistic respect for or favorable impression of oneself.” This act of valuing oneself is incredibly important in the development of happiness. Being able to self-regulate wards off depression and can help support emotional and physical health. Self-esteem is how our narrative voice, which informs us on who we are/what we value/who we can love/what we deserve/what we can or can’t do with our lives.
There are two main sources of low self-esteem (LSE) one is situational and the second one is having a negative internal dialogue of ourselves. A situational example is enduring a breakup of some form. This can severely affect one’s view of desirability which plays into our sense of self-esteem. The second source is the inability to let go of the internal dialogue, which is referred to as the “inner critic.” The inner critic can turn a mistake into an affirmation you are indeed worthless. This one is more insidious and difficult to overcome but it is not hopeless. This type has shown by some researchers to be a factor in the development of depression and anxiety.
Self-esteem begins at childhood as we begin sensing if we are liked by feedback that comes from others. This feedback can either increase or decrease our self-esteem. Children with healthy boundaries have an understanding of what is expected of them, and have a structure on how to behave within all types of systems. This allows children to accurately predict how others will view them. But children who get mixed messages and/or live in a chaotic environment often learn not to trust themselves thus negatively affecting their esteem. According to Brene Brown, “family messages die hard. Any many times they are very insidious.” Individuals suffering from LSE can be susceptible to internalizing outside criticism. Research measuring levels of stress hormone cortisol have found those with LSE often have higher levels cortisol.
This doesn’t mean that LSE doesn’t have fluidity to it. It can be moved from LSE to higher levels of self-esteem. Check out my services page to see how I go about helping my clients overcome LSE. The overall message from this article is individuals suffering from LSE have to remember they are not alone. The struggle to be accepted by others and oneself is a human condition.
The other thing that is important to remember when working through issues about self-esteem is that the more comfortable you are without being avoidant the higher probability of increasing your self-esteem. After all one cannot “…esteem a person you don’t know…”
Source: Quieting the inner critic, http://ct.counseling.org/2014/01/quieting-the-inner-critic/