In today’s post I want to share why self esteem is important for improving your health. As someone who has struggled with low self esteem most of my life, I have observed how it impacted my own health and wellbeing. Through my coaching practice I now want to help other women believe in themselves so that they can finally make breakthroughs with their health and find the true wellness they are seeking.
What is self esteem?
Self esteem is defined as the worth or value someone places on themselves. Not necessarily for the things that they do or own, but simply for who they are as a person. Someone with a good level of self esteem is likely to have a strong sense of personal identity and belonging in social groups. It also means feeling competent and confident about your actions and ability to create the life circumstances you desire.
Someone with high self esteem will generally view themselves in an optimistic light. They have a mostly positive view of their physical image, personality traits and capabilities. This doesn’t mean they see themselves as perfect, but rather that they accept who they are and appreciate their strengths as well as their perceived weaknesses. In addition, they believe that others also view and respond to them in a positive way (1).
Some words associated with self esteem:
- Personal value
- A good person
Signs of low self esteem
- Talking or thinking negatively about yourself
- Procrastinating or engaging in self-sabotaging behaviour
- Downplaying your positive traits, skills or achievements
- Comparing yourself negatively to others
- Being overly critical in the face of failure or setbacks
- Feeling excessively self-conscious, anxious or afraid of failure
- A sense of stuckness and inability to create change
- Worrying too much about what others think about you
- Not being aware of or able to express your needs and boundaries
- Lack of confidence in your abilities
- Inability to accept compliments from others
If you can relate to several of these points then keep reading to find out why self-esteem is important for improving your health!
Why self esteem is important for improving your health
There are several reasons why self esteem is important for improving your health:
Sense of worthiness
Having a good level of self esteem means that you feel deserving of improved health. You feel that you are worth the effort it takes to make positive behaviour change. You believe in yourself and you truly wish yourself health and happiness. This might sound strange but deep down, those with a low self esteem might not want this for themselves. They may not believe that they deserve to be happy and that doing things to improve their health is a waste of time, money or effort. In fact, they might even engage in self-sabotaging behaviours which negatively impact their health (2).
Confidence in your abilities
The second reason why esteem is important for improving your health is that it brings a sense of confidence in your abilities. In order to succeed in making lasting changes in your lifestyle, you need to believe that you can! You need to believe that you have what it takes to learn new skills, change your habits and stay motivated long term. You don’t need to know everything right away but having the belief that you are competent and able to learn is key to making improvements to your health. Otherwise, you might give up before you start or the moment challenges arise.
Staying the course
Following on from the above point, having self esteem will help you to stay motivated on your health improvement journey. If you have low self esteem, you might interpret any setbacks as a personal failure and blame yourself or your lack of ability. Having a higher sense of self esteem means you are more likely to appreciate the many factors involved and understand that you are not personally to blame. This makes it much easier to let go of any “failures” and keep moving towards your goals. You can view the situation objectively and find ways to improve without attacking or criticising yourself.
Self esteem is one of the foundations of mental health. At it’s worst, low self esteem can lead to depression like states of feeling useless, unworthy and unlovable. These types of negative thoughts set off a chemical cascade in your emotional body which can lead to a downwards spiral of negative feelings, thoughts and behaviours. On the other hand, higher self esteem results in more positive feelings about yourself and your life. A sense of happiness and optimism can be felt even in challenging situations. A good level of self esteem improves your overall sense of wellbeing (3).
One of the elements of holistic health and wellbeing is having healthy relationships. Having a supportive network of family, friends and/or professionals around you can be the thing that lifts you up and helps you to cope with the stresses of life. Low self esteem can lead to feelings of being unworthy of other people’s love or the belief that they see you negatively. This can result is social isolation and poor mental health outcomes. Therefore, developing self esteem helps you to connect with others and find balance and wellbeing in your life.
Finally, having a good level of self esteem helps to have realistic expectations for your health. Low self esteem often results in underestimating what you can achieve and procrastinating taking action to improve your health. On the other hand, excessively high self esteem can lead to overestimating your abilities and setting too high expectations. This perfectionism may cause later disappointment or giving up if you don’t reach your high standards. Finding balance is key! This means believing in yourself and setting challenging yet realistic and achievable goals for your health.
How to boost self esteem
I’m not going to lie, boosting self esteem can be difficult and take a long time. Often low self esteem develops in childhood and it can take a lot of self-reflection and/or therapy to discover the root cause and to move past it (4). It is important to break the cycle of negative thoughts about yourself which lead to painful feelings and drive unwanted behaviours (or inaction).
This takes mindfulness to become self-aware as well as the ability to challenge the thoughts associated with low self worth. This is why working with a therapist or coach can be helpful as they provide an unbiased, outside view and can reflect back to you this inner dialogue. Replacing negative thoughts with more positive or realistic ones can be helpful to reprogram your mind to see yourself in a better light.
I have written previously about the importance of having self-compassion on your path to health. Self-compassion is not the same as self-esteem but the two often go hand in hand. Having self-compassion in moments of low self esteem means to accept that you are not feeling good about yourself but to commit to speaking more kindly to yourself and accepting and forgiving yourself for your perceived flaws.
Self esteem vs. self efficacy
One of the ways to improve self esteem is by actually taking action and accomplishing things. It should not always be about the things we achieve, however setting yourself goals and reaching them gives you a sense of pride in yourself and your abilities. Even if your goals are small, achieving them sends the signal that you are a capable human and you can do hard things.
The problem comes when not believing in yourself prevents you from taking action and experiencing success because you don’t believe in yourself enough. We then have a catch 22 situation! Taking action requires self-efficacy which again is not the same as self esteem but does overlap. Self efficacy is the confidence in your ability to take action and make change. Even if you don’t like yourself or see your worth yet, you can learn to see yourself as capable and from there begin to take action.
You can increase your self-efficacy by:
- Setting and achieving goals (baby steps are best)
- Taking the time to reflect on past successes and what you have learned
- Understanding and accepting your strengths and weaknesses
- Mastering new skills or behaviours (4)
These four steps don’t necessarily require you to feel good about yourself but they certainly help. And once the ball is rolling and you begin to take action, the benefits will be exponential! Instead of a downwards spiral you will be on the up. Taking action will boost your confidence in yourself which will in turn create more positive thoughts and emotions. Feeling better about yourself will make it easier to keep moving forward.
This process of setting goals, taking action and then reflecting on your successes is part of the AGAR method of health coaching I use with my clients:
So that is it for today. I really hope you found this post useful! Personally, improving my self esteem has helped me to make huge improvements in my health and my life. It is an ongoing journey and I still have my down days like everyone. But overall I am so happy with the progress I have made and it makes me happy to share what I am learning with others.
If this post helped you at all, please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences and I always enjoy connecting with you. If you are interested in applying for health coaching with me, I will be opening up new client spaces from 6th December. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a free 15 minute call to find out if we are a good fit.
Have a lovely day and rest of the week!
(2) MacGee, R. and Williams, S., 2000. Does low self-esteem predict health compromising behaviours among adolescents? Journal of Adolescence. 23(5). Pp.569-582. https://doi.org/10.1006/jado.2000.0344
(3) Paradise, Andrew W.; Kernis, Michael H. (2002). Self-esteem and Psychological Well-being: Implications of Fragile Self-esteem. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 21(4), 345–361. doi:10.1521/jscp.21.4.345.22598
(4) Well College Global, 2019. Personal Wellness Course notes
(5) Baumgardner, A., 1990. To know oneself is to like oneself: Self-certainty and self-affect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58(6), 1062–1072. doi:10.1037/0022-35220.127.116.112
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