Self-esteem is a confidence one has in his own abilities and worthiness. A person with good self-esteem generally defends himself and believes he deserves to be treated well. He will speak up when he’s wronged and set healthy boundaries, and he will go after what he wants. A failure to do these things usually indicates low self-esteem.
Self-esteem fits right into the fourth layer on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a famous psychological tool indicating what people need the most. The most basic needs, food, shelter, and water sit at the bottom; next is the need for physical safety; third is the need for love and belonging among other people; and next comes esteem.
The only thing greater than self-esteem is the attainment of self-actualization, when one uses his abilities to their full capacity and lives up to his full potential. Maslow’s high rating of self-esteem shows that it is quite important for people to develop in order to have good lives. A person who has met all five needs in the Maslow Pyramid is thought to be a very happy person indeed.
What is Happiness?
Happiness tends to mean different things to different people. But a simple way to consider it is that all of one’s needs have been met, and all of one’s concerns have been addressed. A person is satisfied with himself and his life. He does not yearn for something other or different; he simply feels blessed with what he has. A love of self, or self-esteem, is often the seed that germinates into happiness because it allows one to live his best life and be content with himself. Inner turmoil that prevents happiness tends to quiet once high self-esteem is attained.
Most people falsely assume that low self-esteem involves looking in the mirror and making a face. In reality, low self-esteem can present in much more subtle and insidious ways. It can manifest in perfectionism, where a person beats himself up for not doing everything just right, or it can manifest in self-harm and drug abuse, or it can manifest in a person repeatedly choosing abusive partners over healthy ones and escaping one bad relationship only to end up in another.
It may even manifest in the form of overcompensation with arrogance and grandiose cockiness. The downside of low self-esteem is that a person fails to see his own worth and demand the best for himself. He does not take care of himself. This can lead to accepting poor treatment, self-harm, and even suicide.
When Do You Develop Self-Esteem
Low self-esteem is most of the time created in childhood, but it can be healed and grown. A person who does not work on building his self-esteem will suffer. It can be many short-term problems, including bad treatment from others and poor success in school or work. These problems can grow within him and become long-term problems resulting in his poor mental health and unhappiness.
A person with high self-esteem, on the other hand, has a much better and happier time in life. He is able to make good decisions that benefit him. His confidence is contagious, making others like and trust him and offer him more opportunities. He takes advantage of good opportunities because he is not crippled by self-doubt. Finally, because he is able to love himself, he is also able to love others and have healthy relationships.
As you can clearly tell, self-esteem is a good thing to have. Developing it can benefit you in a large variety of ways. If you suffer from low self-esteem, your happiness and quality of life are probably quite low at the moment. Fortunately, it is more than possible for you to build your self-confidence and become a much happier and more fulfilled person.
Keep reading Self-confidence 101.