The Significance of Self-Esteem
“Self-esteem” is a well established buzz word that is popular in society and the mental healthcare community alike. Self-esteem can be seen practiced in daily affirmations with young children, celebrated in the body positivity movement, or perhaps less obviously in a comedian’s self-deprecating humor. Academically, self-esteem has been generously defined and researched as an overall self-evaluation, existing on a continuum from high to low, and measured by the amount of capability, success, worth, and value people assign to themselves (Baumeister, Campbell, Krueger & Vohs, 2003). It is an ever evolving construct that persistently trends, and my purpose in writing this note, to whomever it may find, is to spark curiosity, serve as a reminder, or add depth to your journey with self-esteem.
Exploring Meanings and Implications
I would like to invite you to take a moment to reflect on what self-esteem means to you. What words do you associate with self-esteem? What connotation does it have? What does high or low self-esteem look like? Where does it show up in life? What comes up for you? What is it like for you to reflect on this concept? For some, self-esteem may simply be associated with confidence. Others may visualize someone that is hunched over and looking at the ground. While it may be considered a personal strength to some, it can be stigmatized, uncomfortable, or heavy for others. A mental health practitioner doing this exercise may recall that low self-esteem can be correlated with anxiety, depression, disordered eating, substance use, career difficulties, relationship issues, and many other mental health concerns. Personally, I have learned that self-esteem is more nuanced, influential, and powerful than it appears on the surface, and it is worth a deeper look.
Impacts on Wellness, Decision Making, and Resilience
Research reports that high self-esteem may predict physical and mental wellness and personal satisfaction in life and relationships (Arsandaux et al., 2020; Moksnes & Espnes, 2013). It is also associated with improved decision making and productivity, coping with stress and overcoming adversity through resiliency, and these are only a few examples of many. Overall, a correlation between a positive view of self and general health and happiness demands further inquiry. It feels necessary to note that by no means is self-esteem a magic wand, and I want to honor all those navigating their unique obstacles in their own power and timing. However, if this message calls to you and you find yourself on a treasure hunt for mental health “tools”, I wonder what may come of a check-in with self-evaluation, whether it’s a tune up or a brand new exploration. While this task may feel daunting, my wish is that what you are looking for may appear on a journey of falling in love with yourself.
Arsandaux, Montagni, Macalli, Bouteloup, Tzourio, & Galera. (2020). Health Risk Behaviors and Self-Esteem Among College Students: Systematic Review of Quantitative Studies. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine. 27. 10.1007/s12529-020-09857-w.
Baumeister, Campbell, Krueger & Vohs. (2003). Does High Self-Esteem Cause Better Performance, Interpersonal Success, Happiness, or Healthier Lifestyles?. Psychological Science in the Public Interest. 4. 1-44. 10.1111/1529-1006.01431.
Moksnes, U. K., & Espnes, G. A. (2013). Self-esteem and life satisfaction in adolescents—Gender and age as potential moderators. Quality of Life Research: An International Journal of Quality of Life Aspects of Treatment, Care & Rehabilitation, 22(10), 2921–2928.