How important is self-esteem?
How we feel about ourselves crucially affects virtually every aspect of our experience. The way we function at work, our relationships, the way we operate as parents, and how high in life we are likely to rise are all related to self-esteem. Our identities and sense of self-confidence shape our responses to events. The dramas of our lives are the reflections of our most private visions of ourselves. Thus, self-esteem is the key to success or failure and the key to understanding others and ourselves.
Apart from problems that are biological in origin, psychologists cannot think of a single psychological difficulty that is not traceable to poor self-esteem. Anxiety and depression, fear of intimacy or of success, alcohol or drug abuse, underachievement at school or at work, spouse battering, sexual dysfunctions or emotional immaturity, suicide, or crimes of violence are all somehow related to low self-esteem. Of all the judgments we pass, none is as important as the one we pass on ourselves. Positive self-esteem is a cardinal requirement of a fulfilling life.
Let us understand the concept of self-esteem. Psychologists define self-esteem with two components: a feeling of personal competence and a feeling of personal worth. In other words, self-esteem is the sum of self-confidence and self-respect. Self-esteem reflects your implicit judgment of your ability to cope with the challenges of your life (to understand and master your problems) and of your right to be happy (to respect and stand up for your interests and needs).
To have high self-esteem is to feel confidently appropriate to live. In other words, to be competent and worthy in the sense just indicated. To have low self-esteem is to feel inappropriate in life. It means to feel wrong not just about an issue, but wrong as a person. To have average self-esteem is to fluctuate between feeling appropriate and inappropriate, right and wrong as a person, and to manifest these inconsistencies in behavior – sometimes acting wisely, sometimes acting foolishly – thereby reinforcing the uncertainty.
The higher our self-esteem, the better equipped we are to cope with life’s adversities; the more resilient we are, the more we resist pressure to succumb to despair or defeat. The higher our self-esteem, the more likely we are to be creative in our work and to be successful. The higher our self-esteem, the more likely we are to form nourishing rather than destructive relationships. Most importantly, the higher our self-esteem, the more joy, and happiness we experience in the sheer fact of being, of waking up in the morning, and of living inside our own bodies.