Your self-esteem is more than just a meaningless term thrown around by psychologists. Self-esteem is the set of beliefs about oneself that people use to understand their role in the world. A person’s self-esteem affects how they think about themselves, what they’re capable of, and who they are.
If a person’s self-esteem is extremely low, they can miss out on important opportunities throughout their lives. Instead of believing that they are worth taking opportunities, people with low self-esteem may instead let them pass by. If it’s extremely low, a person’s self-esteem will perpetuate negative thought patterns. This is because people simply may not believe they are worth better.
However, extremely high levels of self-esteem can also leave a person feeling isolated and alone. They may seem arrogant or cocky, and people may start avoiding them. In response, a person may believe they intimidate people and that there is nothing wrong with them.
Knowing the difference, and understanding the importance of having healthy self-esteem, can lead to a better life. Keep reading below to learn more about self-esteem, and how you can tell if your level of self esteem is healthy.
Different Factors Determine Your Level of Self Esteem
While some people innately form and maintain healthy beliefs about themselves, most people can’t. For most people, the beliefs they have about themselves come from a variety of sources.
For example, a person may have low self-esteem if they can’t relate to normal perceptions of beauty. If someone is large and dark-haired, and media messages suggest that only thin, blonde people are beautiful, then they won’t feel beautiful. It can follow that if someone doesn’t believe they’re beautiful, they’re not worthy of being loved.
Media messages may shape a person’s beliefs about themselves. Yet, so can someone’s different experiences and the people around them. If their friends avoid them or are usually worried about them, someone may start to believe there’s something wrong with them.
These external factors work together to form the most important factor affecting self-esteem: their internal thoughts. Information from the outside world directly shapes how people think about themselves. If those outside influences can form negative thought patterns, then those they will only chip away at a person’s self-esteem.
Low Self-Esteem Is More Than Just Feeling Bad
A person with low levels of self-esteem doesn’t just feel sad for a few days. Instead, they can feel trapped and desperate, while also feeling inadequate and unworthy of basic needs. It may seem like they’re just sad, but in reality, they are stuck in a loop of mental anguish.
For example, a person with low self-esteem may believe they don’t deserve to eat a meal, even if they are hungry. This may lead to them starving themselves, which leads to worse self-beliefs, since they may think they’re incapable of taking care of themselves. Negative beliefs feed into each other, and will only ever make things worse.
It’s healthy to believe that you should lose an extra 10 pounds, or save more money. It’s healthy to withhold the things someone may enjoy from themselves if it’s out of self-love. It’s fine to skip a meal if someone wants to lose an extra 10 pounds and are following a healthy weight-loss regiment.
However, it becomes unhealthy when a person withholds things out of a sense of self-loathing. If someone skips a meal because they believe they don’t deserve it, that can be a sign of a serious mental health issue.
The best way to care for someone you think may be suffering from a low level of self-esteem is to remind them they’re valuable. Reiterating how much a person means to their friends and family may break negative thought cycles. It can break the negative loop someone may feel trapped in.
Self-Esteem Can Be Too High, Not Just Too Low
Just like how people can ensnare themselves in negative thought patterns, they can be trapped in positive ones too. These thought patterns boost a person’s self-esteem to potentially unsafe levels. As a result, they may seem arrogant and full of themselves, which may lead to people avoiding them.
Yet, people with self-esteem that are too high may need help just as much as people whose levels are too low. It’s easy for people with extremely high self-esteem to fall into delusions about themselves. They can start to believe that they have powers most people don’t or that they understand the world differently.
When these delusions take hold, it can be difficult to convince someone that they’re wrong. A person with extremely high levels of self-esteem may not believe they need to listen to other people. Speaking with them can feel like speaking with a bombastic and arrogant wall.
Believing strange things about themselves is only one thing to be wary of. People with high levels of self esteem may also suddenly crash. They may not be able to keep themselves in such a positive light for long, and their esteem may come crumbling down.
When that happens, people with high levels of self esteem may act dramatically and dangerously. They can threaten suicide or self-harm out of desperation to reclaim the positive light they were in. If they reach that point, it’s best to call a professional to immediately help them.
However, it’s not impossible to talk with someone with extremely high levels of self-esteem. It’s just important to remember that they may be deluded, and you should never address the delusion directly. It’s better to suggest an alternative and healthier belief about themselves, rather than directly saying someone is wrong.
Healthy Self-Esteem Is a Crucial Part of Mental Health
Although there are a lot of factors that can affect someone’s mental health, a healthy level of self esteem is crucial. If people have unhealthy beliefs about themselves, then everything else will be unhealthy too. Their perceptions of themselves will be reflected in their relationships, career, and everything else.
Luckily, a person’s self-esteem can always change. It’s as fluid as everything else that makes up a person’s health. Poor self-esteem can always improve, no matter the circumstance.
All someone needs to do is work at it. One of the ways to work at improving self-esteem is by reading supportive articles. You can keep reading those here, where we will always update you with the latest information on psychology and mental health.