Self-esteem comes from inside you
What is self esteem? Some people think self esteem is feeling good about yourself. But self esteem is more than that.
Self esteem is something that must come from inside your own heart. Self esteem doesn't come from someone giving you a trophy or telling you you're great. Self esteem is about believing in your heart that you are able to make choices you are proud of, and that even when you make a mistake, you are still worth loving.
When you don't have strong self-esteem, you could say you have low esteem, or low self-esteem.
Let's break "what is self esteem" down some more.
What is self-esteem part 1- Competence
The first half of having self esteem (and preventing low-esteem) is knowing you are able (competent) to make choices that stay true to what you know is right and wrong. Why? Because when you make choices that are in line with your core values (what you know is "right"), you are proud of yourself. You are doing things that feel "right" inside yourself. So when you work hard and earn a good grade, when you treat someone kindly (the way you would like to be treated), or when you are honest even when you might get in trouble, these are all times that you feel good about the choices you make and therefore feel good about who you are as a person.
When you make choices that aren't inline with your core values, like lying, cheating, or being mean to people, you may feel shame or guilt, so you feel wrong inside yourself. You aren't proud of your choices.
"Being proud of yourself without anyone else having to tell you you've done good- that feels better than getting a free double scoop ice cream cone every day for the rest of your life!" the tree said.
So what is self esteem? Self-esteem grows inside you as you make choices you can be proud of. Each time you face a challenge in life, and you make a choice you can be proud of (a choice that feels right inside), you build self esteem. You learn more and more, in your heart, that you are able (competent) to handle life in a way you can be proud of- and that is a big part of what self esteem is.
Having self esteem doesn't mean things have to always go perfectly, or that you never make a bad choice. A big part of self-esteem is knowing that when you make a mistake, you have the ability to do better next time. Strong self-esteem can help you work through the tough times because you know you are able to do what you think is right, even if it's hard.
Self-esteem part 2- Worth
The other half of self-esteem is in knowing that no matter what, you are a person who can and should be happy. Even if you make a bad choice sometimes, or even if times are tough, you are still worth loving, just because you are you.
Unhealthy self esteem = low esteem
What is low esteem?
If high self-esteem is feeling that you are able to handle life and you are worthy of happiness, then low esteem (or low self-esteem) is not feeling ready to handle life or not feeling worthy of happiness.
Sometimes people with low esteem act like people who think they are really great. People who brag or bully may seem like people who think a lot of themselves. But self esteem is more than just feeling good about yourself. True self esteem comes from making choices that are in line with your core values- things like being honest, treating people with respect, and being responsible for your actions.
People who hurt others or put other people down are actually not acting in line with core human values, so really, they are showing a lack of self-esteem, or low esteem.
Facing challenges is a great way to build self esteem and improve low esteem
True self-esteem comes from knowing you have the ability to handle life, including new things, challenges, and everyday stuff.
Each time you try something new and prove to yourself you can do it, you are building self esteem.
Each time you face a difficult situation and make a choice that is in line with what you believe is right, you build self esteem.
Each time you make your own breakfast, put your own clothes on, help your little brother, do your homework… you build more self esteem because you show yourself what you are able to do.
So what is self-esteem?
True self esteem comes from knowing you can do things that feel right inside. And no matter what, even if you make a mistake, you are still worth love and happiness. So, the bigger the challenge, the more self esteem you can build!
More self esteem resources
The National Association for Self-Esteem provides resources and materials as well as a definition of self-esteem.
The kidshealth.org site also includes a definition of self-esteem and tools to address low-esteem.