Perhaps it is no surprise that Amazon hosts more than 2000 titles on the topic of self esteem. It is an important asset for the quality of life of those who have it, and a detrimental deficit for those in whom it is lacking. Self esteem is a mainstay of self improvement strategies. It’s value extends far beyond the individual benefits of feeling happier and more confident. Research published in the Journal of Health Psychology notes that the influence of self esteem on a person can be used to predict health and illness. In particular those who experience chronic illness have consistently lower self esteem. This is a major contributor to anxiety in teens. A majority of the empirical studies support either a direct or indirect effect between self esteem and chronic illnessi.
Researchers have identified three different levels of self esteemii. Self esteem can be derived both from what is experienced within, and from what is experience in the interactions with others. The first of the levels is personal self esteem: the way a person experiences himself. Personal self esteem includes personality traits and characteristic behaviors that allow him to know that he is an individual. This is based solely on himself. Personal self esteem will be high when he has a positive experience of personal attributes, abilities and talents.
The remaining two levels move beyond the self to the social person interacting with others. One of these is relationship self esteem. This level describes the interactions and attachments that a person has with family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, and others in daily life. Relationship self esteem can be seen in the kinds of roles a person takes on in social settings such as a family dinner or neighborhood picnic. Positive roles contribute to a high quality of life.
The last level is collective self esteem. This level comprises how the person feels about a social group of whom she is a part. Examples of social groups are religion or ethnic heritage. At this level, the experience of the larger group impacts the person’s overall self esteem. A group that values spiritual healing is likely to increase collective self esteem. A group with a negative social stereotype is likely to decrease collective self esteem and contribute to anxiety in teens at risk.
Body, Mind and Spirit Connect in Self Esteem
Self esteem plays into an approach to life as well as both physical and mental health. In the British Medical Journal, author Michael Marmot observes that life is not a level playing field. Each person has unique circumstances of birth and life experience. Those with low levels of self esteem have higher levels of depression; they are not equally equipped to compete in a merit based society. Additionally, Marmot explores the linkage between autonomy (as the agency to self direct one’s life) and self esteem. For those who experience a tilted playing field, the pathway of self improvement to increased self esteem can be a rocky oneiii.
Self Worth compared to Self Esteem
Sometimes the two terms self esteem and self worth are lumped together and thought to be the same thing. This is not true, according to Dr. Christina Hibbert, a psychologist and author who is a subject matter expert on self worth and how to boost self esteem. Dr. Hibbert describes self esteem as the experience that we find ourselves suitable for life and what life calls from us.
In her book Who Am I Without You? she develops a few different aspects within self esteem. First she notes that those with self esteem experience a confidence that they can cope with the day to day challenges of life. Secondly she associates healthy self esteem with a sense of deserving to be happy and well, where we are able to speak up for our needs and wants, feeling capable of achieving themiv.
We can summarize self esteem as the way we believe and feel about ourselves, and this drives our thinking, choices and actions. In contrast, self worth connects us beyond what we do and how we function, into a deeper knowing of what we are. We feel valuable, lovable, needed in this life. We can connect to something larger than ourselves, experiencing the spiritual healing that takes place in deep connection.
Both self esteem and self worth are valuable. Realistically, these two important are not dealt out to all in the same way in the tilted playing field of real life. Every person has the challenge of how to build self worth, how to boost self esteem. In the next article in this 4 part series, there will be a step by step path to do that!
- V Juth, J. M. Smyth, A.M. Santuzzi. How Do You Feel? Self-esteem Predicts Affect, Stress, Social Interaction, and Symptom Severity during Daily Life in Patients with Chronic Illness. Journal of Health Psychology. 2008 Oct; 13(7): 884–894.
- Du, Hongfei et al. “Self-esteem and subjective well-being revisited: The roles of personal, relational, and collective self-esteem” PloS one vol. 12,8 e0183958. 25 Aug. 2017, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0183958
- Marmot, Michael. “Self esteem and health” BMJ (Clinical research ed.) vol. 327,7415 (2003): 574-5.
- Hibbert, Christina. Who Am I Without You? New Harbinger Publications, 2015.