The terms self-esteem and self-worth are often used interchangeably. Their meanings, in reality, are quite different. Some people focus on building their self-esteem, while others prefer to strengthen their sense of self-worth. In actual fact, though, the development of both is essential to feel content, grounded and to love yourself.
What is self-esteem?
Self-esteem is what we think and feel and believe about ourselves – itis the manner in which we evaluate ourselvesSelf-esteem is a feeling of satisfaction that someone has in herself and her own abilities. It can quite often be linked and tied into achievements or feelings of success. So if you’re doing well at work, or smashing a target, etc. then your feelings of self-esteem will increase. However, the opposite is also true. If you’re not doing well at the current time, then your self-esteem will plummet – and it will damage how you feel about yourself and will no longer consider yourself to be valuable.
Healthy and unhealthy self-esteem
Building and maintaining healthy self-esteem depends on gathering evidence about what we are like as a person.
Unhealthy self-esteem, on the other hand, can present itself in the form of two extremes. Firstly, you can think too highly of yourself, which can lead you to fall into the trap of narcissism. When your self-esteem is too high, you exaggerate your positive traits or deceive yourself about your faults and weaknesses. A narcissist may believe that her opinion matters more than anyone else’s, based on the self-perception that she is smarter than everyone.
In contrast, when you have low self-esteem, you underestimate – or utterly ignore – your positive characteristics. If you struggle with low self-esteem, then you may tell yourself (what I refer to as ShitFM because it’s the radio station in your head that talks s**t to you about yourself) that you are stupid, lazy, boring, selfish, not enough, or generally a bad person because of the things you think, say, and do. You view yourself through a harsh and negative filter. It becomes difficult to understand why people enjoy your company or sincerely believe any compliments that people give you.
Which leads us to self-worth
So rather than trying so hard just to “feel good” about ourselves, isn’t it better to “know” that our self is essential good and valuable. This is self-worth plays an important role.
It’s worth noting though that it is possible to feel high self-esteem, or in other words, to think you’re good at something, yet still not feel convinced that you are loveable and worthy.
What is self-worth?
Self-worth is recognizing “I am greater than the sum of all of those things”. It is a deep knowing that I am of value, that I am loveable, necessary to this life, and of incomprehensible worth.
Where does self-worth actually comes from? Well, there are different ways of looking at this. You could say that you – simply by virtue of being human – have intrinsic value, goodness, and capabilities. Regardless of whether you are upbeat, talented, or successful, you are good enough. Self-worth comes from the realization that you always have the capacity to do good and make a positive impact in the world, however small it may be.
Another perspective says that your self-worth is based on your wants, which are, again, common to everyone. Deep down, you desire peace of mind, contentment, relief from suffering, the realization of your potential, and a sense of belonging. These wants give you inherent value. Just as you respect others because of their wants, it’s crucial to respect yourself in the same way.
Think of a child. You know how they just believe they’re good and loveable and valuable? They know who they are and what they enjoy. Go into a room full of 3-year-olds and ask them who is good at singing or dancing and they will all put their hands up! They believe they’re talented because they simply know they are of worth and have great potential. They haven’t had a chance yet to believe otherwise. We need to get back to that childlike sense of who we are, that deeper knowing that we matter just because we are.
Self-Esteem and Self-Worth Are Both Necessary
Now, while self-worth should act as a foundation, as your mental armour during difficult times, this doesn’t mean that self-esteem is unnecessary or irrelevant. You can believe that you are lovable and good enough, but this is just one aspect of seeing things for how they really are. In all kinds of situations, be they work environments or relationships, having a down-to-earth view of yourself (health self-esteem) will allow you to be more honest about your qualities and, in turn, able to more effectively grow as a person. Indeed, self-esteem and self-worth are complementary when it comes to our wellbeing and healthy mind set.
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