My intuitive belief, backed up by findings of researchers in psychology is that a healthy dose of self-esteem is necessary for individual happiness. Self-esteem, the way people perceive their own worth, lays the foundation for the thoughts, emotions, actions and behaviours that we adopt. The problem is that each individual has too high or too low of a self-esteem, which affects our inner life, relationships and professional life. It is possible though to discover a balanced perception on our worth in order to live deeply and in harmony with who we truly are.
Healthy self-esteem means the ability to perceive our own worth as realistically as possible, by reviewing our current relationships and achievements and further challenging ourselves. It is less important whether the outcomes of our challenges are successes or failures. It is more important to develop a healthy self-esteem, which enables us to feel content and learn from our personal endeavours. In other words, a healthy self-esteem means feeling good in our own skin while we are improving different aspects of our life.
How can we feel good when we are under the stress of reaching goals? A healthy self-esteem can take away the focus from the stress and increases our awareness into how we can meet are our most important needs as human beings. For example, a healthy self-esteem can make us see how to live meaningfully and take steps in that direction. A healthy self-esteem can help us have “feel good” interactions with different people.
However, reaching the balance point where we possess healthy self-esteem can take years of our life. Each one of us has to first fight with either too high or too low self-esteem, which results from the parenting style we were raised with and from the culture where we grew up.
Having a too high self-esteem means being overly confident about everything we do. We believe that we are much better than the people around us. Thus, there is the risk that our ego inflates and we may miss out opportunities when we could learn something valuable from others.
Especially in love relationships, the too high a self-esteem may turn us into egoistic individuals who become blind to the needs of the loved one. Relationship conflicts may result from excessive pride and too high expectations about “what I want and I need”.
On the other hand, others may struggle with too low self-esteem, the depressing feeling that “I am not good enough, so I deserve less”. As a result, the job, the love life and everything else are a reflection of the lack the confidence to even hope for good things to happen to us.
Having too low self-esteem brings us down and keeps us away from exploring our true potential in life. For example, thinking that “I am not smart enough to study mathematics”, may prevent us from at least give it a shot. Instead, if we think, “I will study mathematics and see how I feel about it”, we may be surprised to see that mathematics is an exciting discipline.
If indeed, you start studying mathematics and you see it’s not your cup of tea, then nothing prevents you from studying other more interesting topics.
How can we develop the sense of a healthy self-esteem? Each one of us knows it deep inside on which side of self-esteem we are. It is a matter of admitting to ourselves that we have too high or too low self-esteem and get motivated to do something about it.
Learning to be humble about everything we do can be useful for those of us with too high self-esteem. This means that we need to become aware that we are not the centre of the world. Our work, while it is fascinating for us and useful for a group of people, may not be interesting for some others.
Learning how to ask for what you want is a skill that those of us with low self-esteem may need to work on. This way the people around us may start paying attention to us and respect us for who we are.
Thinking, acting and behaving according to who we truly are, bring joy, satisfaction and healthy relationships. When we master the skills to live according to healthy self-esteem, we have the chance to discover authentic happiness.
So, let’s start 2014 with a very important resolution: to find our healthy self-esteem! Good luck to everyone who is interested in such a pursuit!
For a detailed analysis of internal and external factors that can influence self-esteem, you might like reading:
Six Pillars of Self Esteem by psychotherapist and writer Nathaniel Branden
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