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The Good and the Bad of Having High Self-Esteem

high self esteem

Healthy self-esteem is a healthy thing to have. It means that you are comfortable with yourself, that you've made a commitment to yourself to be content, non-judgment of yourself, and to not try to please the world.

Some of the traits of these self-confident people, with healthy self-esteem include:

  • They're Humble – They don't put themselves above others. When someone compliments them, they take it, but they don't get a bloated ego over it.
  • They're Truthful – Honesty breeds self-confidence. Liars spend most of their time worrying about whether or not they'll be caught in a lie (unless they're narcissist, which will be discussed later). 
  • They Can Compartmentalize Their Emotions – They can do this in a good way, by keeping their emotions in check and understanding them. They don't let emotions affect their relationships.
  • They Believe in Others – People with healthy self-esteem tend to believe that people are inherently good. They also trust that other people can make their own decisions and accomplish the things they set out to do. They're appreciative of other people's skills.
  • They Do What They Say – People with healthy self-esteem are accountable. They show up on time, and they keep their promises or try their best to anyway.
  • They Focus on the Now – They do not dwell on the past but prefer to focus on the present. They are not controlled by things that have come and gone.

Now that you know what people with healthy self-esteem are like, it's time to get an understanding of high self- esteem, how it differs from a healthy one, and why it may or may not be associated with narcissism.

High Self-Esteem Definition

People with high self-esteem are often compared to those with healthy self-esteem, but there are some differences.  There may be more than one type of high self-esteem, which is why it's believed that this may not always be a good thing.

Healthy self-esteem is a strong feeling, something that allows for self-connectedness. High self-esteem can be fragile, which would not be a good thing. A fragile ego, which could lead to narcissism (or be a sign of it), isn't a positive thing. This person may seem confident, but they could be a ticking time bomb inside.

To other people, a person with high self-esteem may appear to be narcissistic. They seem full of themselves when their confidence is on the negative side. A positive symbol of high self-esteem comes when a person is overly helpful to other, wanting to help them boost their own self-esteem.

A problem lies in that action as well. Another person boosting someone's self-esteem does not make for a lasting boost. You need self-love and self-concept to truly find the confidence that comes with high, or even healthy, self-esteem.

It’s also important to understand self-concept. What is self-concept? It's your awareness of yourself as a being, as an individual. And self-love is when you love yourself just the way you are.

High Self-Esteem and Narcissism

There's confusion for some people when it comes to narcissism and self-esteem, although there shouldn't be. They are two completely different thing – not to say that someone with narcissism can't have a high self-esteem.

The differences, at a basic level, are that narcissists are envious – they want what other people have – while high self-esteem brings about a peace of mind – the person is content and happy with themselves. When high self-esteem is unchecked, however, it can lead to narcissism.

It's understandable how people that don't know the psychology of narcissism or the positive side of high self-esteem can confuse the two.

Where Is Your Self-Esteem Level?

Now that you have a more in-depth look at the levels of self-esteem, you may be wondering how yours measure up. You can take an online self-esteem test to help you determine where you are on the scale of things.

Once you've determined where your self-esteem is at you can work on increasing it, or work at keeping it steady.

While someone with healthy self-esteem won't have much fluctuation in their self-love, those with low and high self-esteem can often see a lot of change – which can sometimes be affected by the opinions and actions of others.

Get Your Self-Esteem in Check

If you have high self-esteem, but you still have feelings that aren't healthy, you should work on the traits listed for healthy self-esteem.

People with low self-esteem can also benefit from inheriting some of those traits – though, depending on your background, therapy may be needed when it comes to dealing with low self-esteem.

How Humans Form Self-Concept

self concept

Self-concept is described in a few ways. No matter the description, it is essentially the view of one's self – how you see yourself.

Depending on what you read, this can be a view solely of your own devising or a view that is also based on the views of others.

What Is Self-Concept?

The self-concept definition is that the compound word is a general “blanket” term referring to how you perceive yourself. You're aware that you exist, so you have self-concept.

This is also referred to as self-schema. Your identity, under this blanket term, comes from a culmination of the self – if that makes any sense. Breaking things down to the minor details will help you get a better sense of self.

1. Your Existential Self

This is your initial realization that you are not connected to another, but you are yourself. It's the beginning of discovering your self-identity. People have this realization in childhood.

You exist. When you touch things, they move. When you do something, people react.

2. Your Categorical Self

It's after you realize that you exist, and you are a single self, that you also realize you are only a small part of something bigger. You understand that as a person you are also part of the world, though still an individual.

Looking at Your Self-Identity

Who are you? Your self-concept, self-identity, your self-image, stems from who you see yourself as.

While you will be the main determining factor in your opinion of who you are, other people can also affect your opinion. If someone tells you you're worthless, you may begin to feel worthless even if you hadn't prior to them saying it.

There's actually a theory about how people grow into their self-identity. It is referred to as sociocultural psychology or social-cultural perspective. This perspective on the self was brought about by the genius mind of a Russian psychologist named Lev Vygotsky. The theory looks at how children develop their own behaviors, thoughts, and beliefs.

When it comes to self-identity, there are a few things that will help you describe yourself, or answer the question of who you are.

1. Look at Physical Things

These are the basic things about you, the ones you learn at a young age – such as age, eye color, height, weight, etc. Even though there are facts behind these traits, you may see yourself as “too skinny” even at an average weight.

2. Look at Your Personal Traits

This is the part of you that is based on what you're like, as opposed to what you “look” like. Are you friendly or reserved? Do you go with the flow or are you always worried?

3. What are Your Roles in Society?

These are things that mold who you are, but may also be the ways other people see you. Maybe you're a parent or a grandparent. You could be a spouse, a fiancé, or a significant other of some other type. You may be the member of a sports team, a coach, or a mentor.

4. Determining Your Existential Self

These are the less “specific” aspects you see within yourself. This can be as basic as understanding that you're a human being, or as complex as accepting that you're a spiritual being.

Who Is Your Ideal Self?

There is an ideal self and a real self in each person. All people strive to be someone, which is their ideal self. The real self is who you actually are.

The ideal self isn't necessarily even remotely close to your real self, although it can be. It is the people whose real self and ideal self are far apart from each other that tend to live unsatisfied lives.

People base their ideal self-image on the things they've experienced in life, the people that they look up to, and the requirements of society.

Self-Concept – The Difference Between You and What Other People See

When it comes to self-concept, how you see yourself can sometimes get screwed because you allow the opinions other make of you affect your outlook.

A lesson that is difficult to learn comes from the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. The fourth agreement tells you not to take things personally – as in not letting the opinions of others affect you personally.

This lesson makes sense when it comes to self-image because you need to learn that the image of you others perceive is more of a reflection of themselves than it is a description of you.

Embrace Your Self-Identity

Improving your self-image begins with finding a way to be happy with yourself. If you can't accept your flaws, you will never be able to grow as a person.

The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem

the six pillars of self esteem

Nathaniel Branden was a psychotherapist (he died in 2014) who studied the psychology of self-esteem. He wrote books about the importance of it, including his 6 pillars of self-esteem that would explain how individuals could nurture their confidence and relationships.

More About Nathaniel Branden

Although not directly tied into his work with self-esteem, it is still interesting to note that Branden was a supporter of the philosophy of Objectivism, which was started by Ayn Rand (whom Branden had a personal and business relationship with).

He spent most of his time (before, during, and after his relationship with Rand), however, developing psychological theories and working on therapies.

He was also into politics, mainly backing Libertarianism and having a prominent role in this political movement.

What are the Six Pillars of Self-Esteem?

Branden believed that healthy self-esteem was a cornerstone to happiness. He believed that if your self-esteem needs were not being met, it could cause psychological issues, like depression and anxiety. He also thought could affect relationships and more.

To him, having self-esteem was having to competency needed to function in life and be happy. He understood that well others can nurture your self-esteem, it is mostly an internally generated feeling that one needs to focus on for themselves.

To help people focus on themselves and develop self-esteem, Branden came up with the six pillars of self-esteem. It was meant as a framework to guide people on the path to happiness.

The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem are:

1. Living Consciously – Being aware of your thoughts and actions is an important component of healthy self-esteem. Branden believed in living mindfully as a tool for happiness. Many people in the fields of therapy, metaphysics, and psychiatry would agree.

2. Accepting Yourself – Self-acceptance is an important tool in your self-confidence arsenal. You are who you are, and until you accept it you can't do anything about it. It's important to accept yourself, flaws and all.

3. Personal Responsibility – You are responsible for who you are. While your past shapes you, you need to take responsibility for who you've become. Your actions are your own, no one else forces you to do things (in normal cases, anyway). When you actually take responsibility for who you are you can learn to work toward who you want to be.

4. Being Assertive – Do you stand up for yourself and your needs, or do you feel like a doormat to someone else? This is where assertiveness comes in – it is not a bad thing. Being assertive is simply expressing your needs, just make sure you do it appropriately, and without rudeness.

5. Living Purposefully – Everyone has a purpose, but not everyone strives to meet that purpose. In fact, many people don't even know what their purpose is or how to find out what it is. Being mindful of who you are and the things that interest you will help you determine your life purpose.

6Integrity – Being whole and sticking with your moral principles is important when it comes to developing healthy self-esteem. In the six pillars, Branden meant this to be a point where people matched their behaviors and their convictions.

These 6 pillars of self-esteem, when followed, are meant to help you have high self-esteem. This is the healthy high self-esteem, not selfishness. In the book, they are listed as “practices,” because they are something you need to consciously be doing on a daily basis in order to make them a normal part of your life.

Other Beliefs Held by Nathanial Branden

Branden, in his studies, would encourage people to build both their self-worth and self-confidence through the building of their self-esteem. He also believed in individualism as an essential part of human freedom.

To be free and find happiness, Branden also believed that people need personal autonomy.

That means being able to make your own choices and pursue your own passions. For people that have started their own businesses or done work in a field that they are passionate about, this dream of personal autonomy has been realized. People that are forced into the family business or to go to a college that is not of their own choosing are robbed of personal autonomy.

The Self-Esteem Movement

Because he included an emphasis on internal practices, instead of relying on others to help boost self-esteem, his form of bettering self-confidence was seen as different from other people in the same field.

His beliefs started what some people referred to as the “self-esteem movement,” something we need more of right now.

What Is Self-Esteem and Why Does It Matter?

what is self esteem

How do you feel about yourself? What do you think of yourself when you look in the mirror? Both of these things have a lot to do with the question, “what is self-esteem?”

People can have high self-esteem, low self-esteem, or healthy self-esteem. Keep reading if you're curious about where you fall on the scale.

Exactly What Is Self-Esteem?

To understand your self-esteem, you need to know what it is.

Self-esteem is your view of yourself, what you're worth, and your value. It's how you see yourself, sometimes affected by how you think other people see you (though this perception isn't always factual).  It’s basically a scale of how much you like yourself.

Self-esteem is considered a personality trait. While self-esteem levels can fluctuate, it's normally a stable feeling. People with healthy self-esteem maintain a healthy view of themselves, for the most part.

What creates and affects your self-esteem, aside from what you believe other people think about you (which is part of self-concept), includes your own beliefs about who and what you are. You may judge yourself based on your appearance, your emotions, and your common behaviors.

What is self-concept? It's a view of yourself based on a combination of how you see yourself and how others see you. Self-concept isn't always the best view of a person since other people's views of you are not always actual reflections of who you are, but instead are mirrors of themselves.

Determining Your Self-Worth

The act of measuring your self-worth isn't always a healthy thing. Every human being has worth, although far too many think they are worthless.

Some of the things people use to judge their self-worth include appearance, money, acquaintances and friends,  career, and success. Of course, everyone knows that each of these things is viewed differently by different people – what is success and riches to one person may look like the poor house to another.

Someone that sees themselves as a good person, good looking, feels happy and successful has positive self- esteem. What is low self-esteem? That's when someone isn't comfortable in their own skin, or maybe they're not satisfied with their relationships or job choices.

People with higher confidences have more respect for themselves usually. Respect synonym – esteem, admiration, appreciation – these all show a person that feels good about themselves and content in their lives and the choices they've made.

1. Appearance

Someone that is happy in their own skin and unconcerned with looks has healthy self-esteem. They may smile at themselves when they look in the mirror, but they don't spend all day looking in the mirror either.

People with low self-esteem might not want to look in the mirror. They are not always, but often, unhappy with what they see. It could be something about their weight, their hair, their skin, or even the shape of their nose.

2. Money

When you don't have enough money to pay your bills and can make you a bit down on yourself. Many people judge themselves, and sometimes others, on the amount of money they have in their pockets or the size of their homes and types of cars they drive.

3. Relationships

From platonic friends to the person you spend your life with, there's a chance you're judging yourself (and being judged) by the type of people you hang out with.

4. Career and Success

One person may find happiness in a career slinging fast food, and see the fact that they have a paycheck and a roof over their heads as being successful. To someone else, not having a four-digit income each year spells complete disaster, and it makes them feel worthless.

Looking at the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale

If you aren't sure where you are on the confidence scale, you can take a test like the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale. This is a scale that was developed by a sociologist named Dr. Morris Rosenberg, which is used to determine a person's self-esteem.

You can find versions of this test online, and answer the presented questions with a scale of “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.” With ten questions you will be rated 0 to 30 points. The lower the points, the lower your self-esteem, with 15-25 being the normal, healthy, range.

The Negatives of High Self-Esteem

Narcissism and self-esteem are not synonymous with one another. A narcissist can have high self-esteem or low self-esteem.

While they may seem similar, there are differences. They want others to see them as “royalty,” so to speak. Someone with high self-esteem is happy with themselves no matter what others think of them.

That doesn't mean having high self-esteem is always a good thing. That also doesn't mean someone that thinks highly of themselves and has healthy self-esteem couldn't be a narcissist either.

Where Are You on the Scale?

Now that we’ve answered the question, “what is self-esteem?” You can take the test above to figure out where you rate when it comes to self-esteem.

What can you do to improve low self-esteem? Do you need any improvements? Do you have positive self-esteem? You may be surprised at your results.

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