Self esteem is all about your feelings of self-worth, how you feel about yourself as a person, how much you respect yourself, how much you value yourself, and the extent to which you expect other people to value you and respect you. In simple terms, if you have high feelings of self-worth then you feel that you are inherently worthy of love and respect, whereas if you have low feelings of self-worth then you feel that you are not worthy of love and respect.
So, this section is all about a personâ€™s evaluation of his own worth. Self esteem has two components: beliefs (such as â€œI am worthyâ€); and emotions (such as pride or shame). Some psychologists believe that we all have our own normal level of self-worth (â€˜trait self-esteemâ€™), but that we can all also experience short-term variations in response to changing circumstances or individual events (â€˜state self-esteemâ€™).
Itâ€™s actually proved very difficult to generate a universally accepted self esteem definition (indeed, some psychologists criticise the concept of self esteem, while others suggest that it is a basic human need), with some people drawing a distinction between self esteem and self respect. Some psychologists describe it as a stable sense of self-worth and value, while others describe it as the sum of self-confidence and self-worth.
One definition describes it as the balance between a personâ€™s feelings of preparedness to face lifeâ€™s challenges, and the right to achieve happiness. Most definitions seem to define it in terms of two parameters rather than just worthiness alone. As you can see, a self esteem definition is difficult to agree on, but my personal view is that feelings of worthiness, of self-value, are the central component.
Low self esteem
Low self-esteem can be very damaging because it is accompanied by many limiting beliefs. The sufferer believes he or she is not worthy of success and is unable to achieve his or her goals.
The feelings of inadequacy and self doubt tend to create a vicious circle: lack of feelings of self worth lead to a belief that you are incapable of achieving the goal, leading to less than best effort, leading to failure to achieve the goal, leading to the lack of feelings of self worth.
The lower your self-esteem, the more likely you are to fail, creating further negative feelings, reducing your feelings of self-worth still further. Maxwell Maltz described low self-esteem as â€œdriving through life with your handbrake on.â€
High self esteem
High self-esteem has the opposite effect, allowing people to achieve things because they believe they are worthy of success and achievement â€“ they believe they will achieve, but they do not linger on failure.