three teens smiling

What Does Self-Esteem Look Like?

Joan Breiner


October 5th, 2014

Before diving into several posts about building and maintaining self-esteem, I thought it best to take a step back and share with you a working definition of self-esteem. Over the years, the concept of self-esteem has taken on many different definitions, but there is one recurring theme: self-esteem is vital to leading a full, healthy and productive life. Continuously developed through every stage of life, self-esteem is a powerful ingredient in the life you lead, for better or worse. As important as it is to have self-esteem, it is equally important to understand self-esteem, how to develop it and how to maintain it in positive, proactive ways (which we will cover in more depth in future posts).

What is self-esteem?
A common misconception about self-esteem is that it is defined simply as being happy or feeling good about one’s self. However, psychotherapist Nathaniel Branden offers a more well-rounded definition, defining it as, “the disposition to experience oneself as being competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and of being worthy of happiness.” With that said, self-esteem is a not simply a reflection of what you think and how you feel about yourself, but more of using life’s challenges and opportunities to motivate you to make and achieve goals while continuing to persevere no matter the outcome. It is not about your grades in school or the degrees you have, your relationships, your bank balance, the car you drive or your job title, but more what you make of it.

Positive self-esteem is:

  • Meeting life’s challenges and not feeling victimized
  • Taking responsibility for your thoughts, words and actions
  • Making conscious choices in your thinking and doing those things that support your strengths and talents

Why is self-esteem important?
Positive self-esteem has been shown to have a direct correlation to higher levels of confidence, healthier relationships, a better ability to cope with life and an overall feeling of self-worth. On the flip side, negative self-esteem has been linked to alcoholism, anxiety, depression and various forms of undesirable behaviors. Your level of self-esteem can directly affect how you move through life, making it an important thing to continuously develop and nurture.

How would you define your self-esteem? Have you ever looked into building a self-esteem curriculum?

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