Self-esteem, self-worth and the life-changing magic of working on them
Have you found yourself looking around and thinking that everyone else seems to have their life sussed and that they appear way more confident than you feel?
And if you’re being totally honest, it intimidates the life out of you. What do they have that you don’t and how can you muster up even a little of whatever ‘that’ is?
Confidence, I believe, is the end result, it’s what we see in other people, in how they behave and how they show up. But what’s behind this apparent confidence are feelings of self-esteem and self-worth. All too often, we try to get to the end point and do what we think is necessary to feel more confident; when what would serve us much better is putting our focus on building our own self-esteem and self-worth. Doing this means that the confidence will come later.
Both these terms – self-esteem and self-worth – are often used interchangeably and it can often be tricky knowing which one we need to concentrate on more. However, their meanings are in fact quite different. Some people prioritise building their self-esteem, while others prefer to focus on strengthening their sense of self-worth. The truth is that the development of both is actually essential in developing and maintaining a sense of confidence and feeling connected with who we are.
So, what is self-esteem?
Self-esteem describes just how you think and feel about yourself, which can change, depending on your mood, the circumstances you find yourself in, your activity and performances, or indeed how reliant you are on the approval of others. It’s how you perceive and evaluate yourself and is the internal scale on which you assess and rate your qualities and your own personal attributes.
And, what is self-worth?
Self-worth is about who you are, not about what you do. It is a much more steady and comprehensive form of self-esteem that comes from really knowing who you are and having a strong sense of belief in your worth, and in your place, in the world. It is the belief that you are indeed loveable and valuable regardless of how you view your own personal attributes.
How can you tell the difference?
Whereas self-esteem relies more on the external factors in our lives, such as achievements and successes, to help us define worth, our self -worth comes from the internal sense of being good enough and worthy of love and belonging from others.
The chances are that if you have a good level of self-worth, you will view yourself favourably and believe strongly in your own ability to set and achieve your goals. More importantly, you will tell yourself and accept as true, that you definitely deserve good things. You know you have healthy self-esteem when, what you think, feel, and believe about yourself, is honest, genuine and most of all based in reality. Maintaining good self-esteem levels can often depend on successfully gathering the evidence you need, about what you are truly like as a person; answering questions such as who am I now and how can I know whether it is true or not?
In contrast, when you have low self-esteem, you downplay and deliberately ignore all of your positive traits. If you struggle with feelings of low self-esteem, then the chances are, that you believe that you are not appealing, a little dull, self-centred, unlovable, unpopular and essentially just not a good person, because of who you are.
If you have low self-esteem you most likely have experienced some of these thoughts:
I believe that others are better than me.
I don’t know how to ask for what I want.
I am prone to focusing on my weaknesses.
My greatest fear is failure.
I struggle with saying no and setting boundaries.
I always put other people’s needs before my own.
What causes low self-esteem?
Perhaps, unsurprisingly, but your issues with low self-esteem often start in childhood. If you were not given the love and acceptance, you deserved, as a young child, or if you grew up feeling heavily criticised, or if you were bullied, it is safe to assume that you will likely have issues around your feelings of self-esteem.
Thankfully, there are steps that you can take to improve your self-esteem, some of which could include:
Awareness heals. Try and become more aware of your negative thoughts. Name them so you can tame them!
Challenge the stories you are living your life from. When you think about the stories you believe to be true, ask yourself are they really? Are they even your stories or did someone else hand them over to you?
Mind your language. Observing how you talk to yourself is a great place to start. We can surprise ourselves at just how poorly we speak to ourselves, so start trying to change this by nipping it in the bud!
Forgive yourself for past mistakes. Remember you were just doing your best with what you had at the time. It’s time to release and let go and show yourself some compassion.
Benefits of working on your self-esteem
Working on your self-esteem really benefits your decision-making abilities, your relationships, your mental and emotional health and of course your overall inner sense of well-being.
You will feel much better in yourself, as well as about yourself, and that has to be a good thing.
You will have greater certainty over what it is you can do.
You will be much better equipped to maintain healthy relationships with others because you have a healthy relationship with yourself.
Most importantly, when you have strong self-esteem you are connected with what your needs are, you’re clear on what you want and feel extremely safe to ask for them to be met.
You make no apologies for being who you are, and that is exactly what leads you to feeling more confident in and about yourself. Remember it’s not who we are that holds us back, it’s always who we think we are not.
Niamh Ennis is Ireland’s leading Transformation Coach and Author. She’s known for her practical solutions to life’s challenges and her ability to tell you not what you want to hear but always what you need. Niamh will be speaking at the IMAGE Business Club Event in The Westbury Hotel on March 23 called Starting Over. Find her on Instagram @1niamhennis or visit niamhennis.com.