What is Healthy Self-Esteem and How Do I Get It?

Get Healthy Self-EsteemHealthy self-esteem is essential for many reasons. For example, it relates to valuing ourselves, aspiring for challenges, having emotionally healthy friends and mates, and more.  Physical and emotional health allows us to live a life filled with joy and fun experiences.

Let’s look at healthy versus unhealthy self-esteem and some of the differences that come from those dynamics. We’ll also explore how to have healthy self-esteem and to attract other healthy people as well.

The American Psychological Association defines self-esteem as “the degree to which the qualities and characteristics contained in one’s self-concept are perceived to be positive.” American Psychological Association. Self-esteem. APA Dictionary of Psychology.


Healthy Self-Esteem Looks Like This:

  • Believing in yourself
  • Willing to risk-taking chances to be happy and to try new things
  • Not backing away from conflict, but instead working through it
  • No fear of failing and willing to take chances with new experiences
  • Believing in yourself and your abilities
  • Not feeling threatened by others who may be successful
  • You don’t worry about having to be perfect – do your best
  • Setting healthy boundaries with those around you
  • Speaking up to those around you and standing up for your beliefs and values
  • Feeling confident in yourself without being arrogant
  • You can recognize your flaws without being self-critical

These are just some of the signs of having a healthy self-esteem. Now let’s compare this to some examples of an unhealthy self-esteem.


Unhealthy Self-Esteem Looks Like This:

  • Fearing being criticized by others
  • Difficulty in accepting being wrong
  • Often accusing others of negative behaviors or calling out their faults
  • Struggling to forgive yourself or others
  • You are not valuing and or trusting your beliefs, decisions, etc.
  • Avoidance of trying new things for fear of failing or looking “bad” in front of others
  • Often seeing things as “all good” or all bad”; only black or white.
  • difficulty accepting positive feedback or compliments
  • Not believing in yourself
  • Being sensitive to receiving negative feedback
  • Lack of boundaries

This list is certainly not complete. However, these examples demonstrate everyday negative experiences.


How Unhealthy Self-Esteem Occurs

Often unhealthy self-esteem begins in childhood. As a result, It is common for parents to repeat their negative childhood beliefs with their children.  These beliefs are often not on purpose but come from the parent’s lack of healthy self-esteem, likely from childhood. Sometimes this behavior comes from the adult’s self-hatred.

Sometimes, a parent may be sharp or critical with their child without realizing its effect. Or the parent may take out their anger, fears, worries, etc., on an innocent child, not realizing the depth of hurt it creates. Often a parent doesn’t understand how vulnerable a child is and wants to please the parent.

There are many stories of children of military families who often move around. Therefore, situations often become difficult for the child to make new friends because they must start at a new school, mates and experiences.  Therefore, what usually happens is the child becomes the kid “on the outside” and can easily be teased or left out of making new friends.

Regardless of how the child’s experiences were created, the negative effect often stays deep inside that child as they grow and become adults.


What Do I Need to Do To Have a Healthy Self-Esteem?

The Mayo Clinic staff created an excellent list for having healthy self-esteem: for example, Amy Morin, LCSW, has some good techniques to improve your self-esteem:

  • Utilize positive, supportive self-talk. (for example, my project wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty good, especially for a first-time effort.)
  • Speak back to those negative thoughts. For example, use supportive self-talk.
  • Think about how a positive, confident person would sound. And try that out on yourself. As you practice, it will get easier. Pick something easy in the beginning and practice.
  • An article written by Mayo Clinic staff states you need to feel better about yourself to move forward actively. You might be working on finding ways to be proud of yourself, even if it’s a small task, but you did the job well.
  • Another department with the Mayo Clinic says to challenge your negative feelings and thoughts to see if you can find a more accurate belief about your thinking. For example, look for those statements that don’t need to be perfect but are still worthwhile.
  • Amy Morin, LCSW, who is a psychotherapist, says to practice using supportive self-talk with yourself. In addition, she also recommends acting as if you already feel confident to be kinder to yourself.

Another article from the Mayo Clinic discusses positive things to do to override negative thinking about yourself. Here is a sample:

  • Identify those situations that trouble you, for example, a negative co-worker that intimidates you. Then see what you can do not to let those statements affect you. Instead, realize that she must feel inadequate herself or not need to put other people down.
  • Watch those times when you are not kind to yourself or put yourself down.
  • Remember that all-or-none thinking is not an accurate way to think. Instead, pick out what you are doing right and adjust those things that need improvement.
  • Don’t mistake feelings for inaccurate thoughts. Even though you may feel inadequate doesn’t mean you are. 


Other related things to consider:

  • Constantly challenge your negative thinking. Is it genuinely accurate, or is it what you always thought about yourself or someone told you?
  • Negative thoughts about you can lead to depression. So be aware of your thoughts and correct them in positive ways as much as possible.
  • Remember, how to create healthy self-esteem is not taught in schools. So how are you to know how to navigate new situations on your journey through life?
  • It often helps to seek out a psychotherapist who works with these issues: clients’ thoughts, behaviors, and negative beliefs about themselves.


How Will My Life Change if My Self-Esteem is Healthier?

  • You will attract healthier friends and one day a healthy mate.
  • Always being critical of yourself hurts deep inside. If your self-esteem is healthy y, you won’t be nearly as critical of yourself as you were in the past.
  • When you have a more positive belief about yourself y, you will be able to try new things in your life without an intense fear of failing.
  • You will be making healthier choices of how to live your life and navigate challenges along the way.
  • And one of my favorite results is that if you choose to have kids, you will be able to guide them in positive ways and nourish and teach them how to live a healthy, enjoyable life.
  • You will also be able to teach your kids how to find a healthy mate one day.

This list is not all-inclusive, but you get the gist, I hope. If you do the work and begin to believe in yourself and see the extraordinary things about you, your path will dramatically improve in positive ways. But you must do the work!


Closing Remarks

The most important concept I want you to remember is to honestly know that you are worthy of a good life, to believe in yourself, regardless of what you experienced in the past. Don’t let others treat you negatively or disrespect you.

And remember that you can change for the better, but you must do the necessary work. It’s often beneficial to seek a psychotherapist who can guide you on your journey to health and a good life. Be well.

For more information regarding Self-Esteem, please check out my other articles here.

About Susan Saint-Welch

Susan Saint-Welch LMFT has counseled couples and individuals for many years on issues such as dating, marriage, family drama, coping with difficult times, improving self-image and living the life you love. She provides psychotherapy for clients in California and Dating, Couples and Life Coaching for clients outside California through secure video conferencing. She has published numerous articles regarding these issues on her website, on YourTango.com and on MSN.com.

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