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Understanding self esteem
by TeenHelp February 3rd 2015, 10:58 PM

Understanding self esteem
By Jenny (coolkid98)

Self esteem can affect an individual in many ways. If one has a low self esteem, it can affect their home, school or work life, and their relationships with peers and family members. Many people struggle with a low self esteem in some way, and it is especially common among teenagers. There are many factors which can impact a person's self esteem; these can include the media, families, school and puberty.

What is self esteem?
Self esteem is an individual's thoughts about themselves, their weakness and their strengths. Self esteem is how much an individual feels accepted, valued and loved, as well as how they are thought of by others. Self image, which is the mental picture someone has of themselves, also contributes to an individual's self esteem. People who have a healthy self esteem are able to look positively upon and appreciate themselves. They take pride in their abilities and achievements. Most people experience a low self esteem at some point in their lives, which is why it's so important to know how to improve self esteem and increase confidence.

What are the signs of a low self esteem?
There are many signs of a low self esteem but they typically include lacking in confidence, being fearful of trying new things, feeling inadequate, and constantly engaging in negative self-talk. Additional signs include blaming others for problems or putting no effort into activities or tasks due to the premonition that they will go wrong. A low self esteem can cause an individual to constantly compare themselves to others, or view themselves in a negative light. If an individual has a low self esteem, they may feel like they're under-performing either at work or in school or in college. Other signs of a low self esteem include feeling hopeless, fearing change or new experiences, and being unable to handle criticism.

What causes a low self esteem?
A lot of things can cause a low self esteem. Examples can include abuse, neglect and the failure to meet the expectations of parents or peer groups. Those who have been abused as children are more likely to have a low self esteem later in life. Bullying can also cause a low self esteem because victims may start to believe that the bully's views are factual. If an individual starts to compare themselves to peers, they may start to believe that they are not perfect due to having differing qualities. Parental expectations can cause a low self esteem because if they are high, someone may feel like they will disappoint their parents should they not be met.

Mental illnesses and self esteem
Many mental illnesses can contribute towards having a low self esteem. Depression can cause an individual to have a low self esteem as they often suffer from having self-critical thoughts and constantly put themselves down. This can lead an individual to feel like their life is no longer worth living and can then cause them to end their life or start self harming. This could lead to an individual feeling insignificant which can lead to destructive behaviors. Eating disorders can also cause a low self esteem to an individual because they think negatively about their body and weight, therefore putting themselves down by looking badly upon their body image.

Self esteem and being shy
Self esteem can cause an individual to be extremely shy, however self esteem and shyness are two different things. Signs of shyness include lack of eye contact, becoming embarrassed easily, speaking quietly or not very often, or even avoiding talking to peers out of fear. New or unfamiliar situations can cause an individual to be shy, however it it important to know that there are ways to feel less shy. Examples include thinking of a few conversation starters, rehearsing or planning what to say and practicing with small groups of people such as family members, which can help to increase confidence.

Ways to improve self esteem
A simple way to improve one's self esteem is to stop thinking negatively about oneself. This can be done by changing negative thoughts into positive ones. A way of doing this it to make a table, and write down one of the negative thoughts then write down a positive thing to counteract the negative thing. Connecting with others can also help boost one's self esteem. For example, meeting up with friends or family can greatly improve an individual's mood and how they feel about themselves. Seeking support from others is beneficial; "a problem shared is a problem halved," as the saying goes. Furthermore, exercising and keeping healthy can also make an individual feel better about themselves.

Debunking myths of self esteem
Myth: A low self esteem will go away over time.
Fact: In the majority of cases, a low self esteem needs to be improved by working on increasing one's confidence. However, if a low self esteem is continuously affecting one's life then it is advised to seek medical advice from a mental health professional or other appropriate person.

Myth: A low self esteem causes fearfulness.
Fact: In reality, this is not the case and self esteem can actually be caused by fear of failure or fear of never achieving ones goals or ambitions in life. Those who suffer from a low self esteem can also have a fear of being abandoned, both by family and friends because they believe that they may not be accepted for who they are.

Myth: People are born with a high or low self esteem.
Fact: Both self esteem and self confidence are skills that are gradually built up over time. Nature and nurture contribute to an individual's self image, and an individual's environment can also contribute towards a person's self esteem.

There are many factors that can cause a low self esteem or confidence, however there are also plenty of techniques that can be used to overcome it. It is important to remember that those who are experiencing a low self esteem need a supportive environment that is free from judgement. The list of hotlines can be useful if someone wishes to talk to someone about improving their self esteem, and they can also talk to family members and friends.
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