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Self-esteem & self-belief

Our self-esteem is made up of the way we see ourselves and the feelings we have about ourselves.

It's based on how we see aspects of who we are. These aspects include our strengths and talents, skills and achievements, and relationships.

Not everyone can assess these things accurately. Often people draw incorrect conclusions about themselves.

The beliefs that a person has about themselves (positive or negative, correct or incorrect) are likely to affect:

The following video talks about negative thinking and how to defeat it.

Healthy self-esteem

When we say a person has healthy self-esteem, we mean they generally think positively about themselves. They think they have value and worth. They also tend to accept their failures, weaknesses and imperfections.

Healthy self-esteem is about accurately assessing your true value and holding this view deep inside. This forms the foundation of all your interactions and experiences.

When you have a healthy self-esteem, you're more likely to believe that you'll succeed. When things go wrong, you're more likely to conclude it could happen to anyone. When you face hardship, you'll probably think you're still OK, even if life is a struggle.

This kind of balanced approach can help you take risks even if you're battling with uncertainty. You're more likely to persist when you need a lot of effort and the temptation is to quit. You'll try new things even if you're feeling fearful or intimidated. And you'll pick yourself up after failure despite disappointment. This flexible approach to the struggles of life is called resilience.

Low self-esteem

When we say a person has low self-esteem, we mean they have a more negative view of themselves. They may be quick to think the worst about their personality, abilities or body. They may decide that if something goes wrong, it's their fault or they don’t have what it takes.

These beliefs are usually based on an inaccurate assessment of themselves.

Positive experiences don't usually change these negative beliefs. Nor do other people's good opinions or reassurances. This is because there's a negative bias. Negative bias is when someone only pays attention to things that support their negative view of themselves.

Generally, low self-esteem tends to keep itself going. The person is less likely to take risks because of previous failures. They may withdraw from others because they've been hurt or disappointed. They may be very critical and harsh towards themselves. What maintains low self-esteem from the Centre for Clinical Interventions talks about what keeps low self-esteem going.

Improving your self-esteem with self-belief

Self-belief is an important part of doing well despite life's challenges. People who believe they're up for a challenge are far more likely to succeed. Those who expect failure or are too worried about a negative outcome to even try, are more likely to fail.

To believe in yourself, you first need to notice your negative thoughts. Then you need to learn to respond differently to those thoughts.

If you can notice a negative incorrect thought and replace it with a more positive realistic thought, you may feel more able to try new things. For example, you might find yourself thinking, “there's no point applying for that job as I won’t get it anyway.” Try replacing that thought by, “I’m just as good as the next guy at this, and I won’t know unless I try.”

Positive experiences of achievement and success are very important for growing self-belief. Even if the positive experiences are initially quite small.

There are some things you can do to help boost your self-belief.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by psychologist, Canterbury DHB Mental Health Services. Page created October 2018.

Page reference: 547950

Review key: HIMEN-176608