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What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem is basically the opinions we have of ourselves. Opinions are really our thoughts about ourselves, thoughts about which areas we are doing well in compared to others and which areas we feel we don't have as much of an advantage. These views may refer to internal and external characteristics. Inner characteristics would be, for example, intelligence, various types of skills, our ability to handle and solve tasks, our skills in relationships with other people as well as human qualities such as kindness, helpfulness, leadership and social skills. External characteristics are the appearance characteristics such as beauty, height and physique. You could also add items such as what kind of clothes, phone or computer we own or what kind of conditions we live in (housing, family car and other living conditions).

What is low self-esteem?

Low self-esteem is, therefore, having a generally negative view of ourselves. It is very personalised regarding how people describe low self-esteem and it is obviously different regarding what characteristics are important to people and what message they have been given that matters. Some are more occupied with inner characteristics, and others by external ones. It is often a combination of both. Therefore, low self-esteem is characterised by judgement of ourselves. People with low self-esteem judge themselves harshly and that can cause great distress, depression and anxiety. The judgements are actually our views of ourselves and are more often not based on facts. In theory, these views are often called core beliefs. If our core belief are very negative then they are going to have a profound impact on our life and behaviour, whether in school, work or social communication in general.

The consequences of low self-esteem can be various. Low self-esteem can lead to risk behaviour. People are at risk of trying to impress others in search of approval by drinking alcohol, smoking/vaping, trying drugs or committing a crime such as stealing/breaking windows. People are at risk of not setting appropriate boundaries and not saying no even if they do not want to do something, e.g. sex. Likewise, low self-esteem can greatly reduce the likelihood that we succeed because we have convinced ourselves that we need to change in order for others to like us. Low self-esteem can lead to mental health problems and vice versa, especially a variety of anxiety disorders (social anxiety, learning/exam anxiety, general anxiety disorder), depression and eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, bulimia nervosa disorder, orthorexia, overtraining).

Low self-esteem can have an extensive impact on the future as we can let our views, not facts, control decision-making. This can affect what studies and work we undertake as well as affecting the boundaries we set in communicating with other people (with spouse, co-workers, parents, friends, etc.).