What is self-esteem?
Our sense of self-esteem is basically how we perceive and value ourselves. A healthy sense of self-esteem is intimately tied to our overall mental-wellbeing, and individuals with a poor sense of self-esteem are significantly more likely to suffer from poor mental and physical health compared to those with a more favourable view of themselves (Trzesniewski et al., 2006). In addition to this, a poor sense of self-esteem in adolescence can predict negative outcomes later in life, including a greater risk of substance dependence, mental health problems, and poorer life and relationship satisfaction (Boden et al., 2008).
It can be extremely difficult to have even a remotely positive self-image, particularly for an adolescent in the modern age, whom social media continues to bombard with images and messages that seem designed to always make people want more and never have any satisfaction. The negative effect of increased social media usage on adolescent self-esteem is well established, with Kelly et al. (2018) finding that a higher rate of daily social media use amongst both male and female adolescents predicted lower self-esteem, higher weight dissatisfaction, and greater prevalence of depressive symptoms, with the effects particularly pronounced amongst female adolescents.
It is true that building a healthy self-image in our current social landscape can seem impossible for many of our young people who feel hopeless and lost, with no confidence, self-assurance, or sense of value. However, with the correct guidance, our young people will hopefully feel better equipped to cultivate a positive self-image.
Skillsyouneed.com provide a superb step-by-step guide on how to build a higher sense of self-esteem:
1) Identify and Challenge Your Negative Beliefs.
"The first step is to identify, and then challenge, your negative beliefs about yourself."
This can seem daunting, especially if you have already become accustomed to an endless stream of bleak and defeatist thought patterns. However, realizing that changing your negative self-belief begins with you is a crucial step to take.
2) Identify the Positive About Yourself
"It is also a good idea to write down positive things about yourself, such as being good at a sport, or nice things that people have said about you. When you start to feel low, look back at these things, and remind yourself that there is plenty of good about you"
It is easy to become overly self-critical and not believe you have anything to offer the world as a teenager. But the simple act of writing down positive things about yourself can be incredibly uplifting and give you a fresher perspective. You can then see that are indeed things about you that are worth celebrating - and lots of them!
3. Build Positive Relationships—and Avoid Negative Ones.
"You will probably find that there are certain people—and certain relationships—that make you feel better than others, if there are people who make you feel bad about yourself, try to avoid them."
Make sure you surround yourself with people who make you feel valued and appreciated as a human being should. A higher sense of self-esteem will simply not be possible if your friends, partner, or peer group seem to tear you down at any opportunity.
4. Give Yourself a Break.
"You don’t have to be perfect every hour of every day. You don’t even have to feel good about yourself all the time."
None of us feel good about ourselves 100% of the time. It is human to have doubts and negative feelings every now and again. Take the time to embrace the imperfection that comes from being a human.
5. Become More Assertive and Learn to Say No.
"People with low self-esteem often find it hard to stand up for themselves or say no to others."
The inability to stand up for yourself will only make life more difficult. It will increase your likelihood of being exploited, manipulated, or devalued. Make sure you respect your own boundaries and say no to anything that simply does not feel right.
6. Improve Your Physical Health.
"It is much easier to feel good about ourselves when we are fit and healthy.
However, people with low self-esteem often neglect themselves, because they do not feel that they ‘deserve’ to be looked after."
Making time to exercise can be a powerful boost to self-esteem. Physical exercise helps to release endorphins, which are chemicals that improve our mood and make us feel good.
7. Take On Challenges.
"People with low self-esteem often avoid challenging and difficult situations."
The only way to grow is to experience new challenges. Challenging situations show us what we are good at and what our limitations are, increasing our self-esteem in the process.
In conclusion, having healthy self-esteem provides us with many benefits. It increases our likelihood of living a happy and fulfilled life, of enjoying good mental health, and enabling us to fully participate productively in our social landscape without any guilt or apology for who we are. With the proper resources, guidance, and initiative, cultivating a healthy self-image will seem less like an impossible ideal for our young people and instead be something that is completely achievable for us all, no matter who we are.
Boden, J. M., Fergusson, D. M., & Horwood, L. J. (2008). Does adolescent self-esteem predict later life outcomes? A test of the causal role of self-esteem. Development and psychopathology, 20(1), 319-339.
Kelly, Y., Zilanawala, A., Booker, C., & Sacker, A. (2018). Social media use and adolescent mental health: Findings from the UK Millennium Cohort Study. EClinicalMedicine, 6, 59-68.
Trzesniewski, K. H., Donnellan, M. B., Moffitt, T. E., Robins, R. W., Poulton, R., & Caspi, A. (2006). Low self-esteem during adolescence predicts poor health, criminal behavior, and limited economic prospects during adulthood. Developmental psychology, 42(2), 381.