Sandra Schoeneich, LMFT

Every person has some degree of self-esteem, whether it is low self-esteem or high self-esteem. Self-esteem is one’s own awareness of their worth, and how they value and perceive themselves. Our self-esteem lies on a spectrum, and it can fluctuate throughout our lifetime. Different factors influence one’s perception of self, such as family life, relationships, career status, strengths, abilities, talents, financial status, grieving and loss, trauma, and life transitions. So how do you know where your self-esteem lies, and what does optimal self-esteem look like? The answers to these questions are not straightforward, and they vary from person to person. This blog post will explore the various aspects of self-esteem and how to get your self-esteem to a healthy and ideal level for you.

Having low self-esteem or being on the “lower end” of the self-esteem spectrum is not ideal for one’s overall health. So how do you know if you have lower self-esteem and what can you do to change it? Low self-esteem is generally characterized by a lack of confidence and feeling negatively about oneself. When we have low self-esteem, we tend to be extremely sensitive and we are more likely to react negatively towards others and our environment.

One step towards improving your low self-esteem is by taking inventory of your behavior and reflecting on feedback that has been given to you from your relationships, peers, and yourself. Is your partner trying to tell you that you react harshly whenever they try to tell you how they’re feeling? Do you take everything personally? Are you constantly criticizing and belittling yourself? These may be questions that you want to ask yourself.

Another step you can take towards improving your low self-esteem is by reflecting on where it comes from. Have you been emotionally or psychologically wounded in the past? Did you experience trauma at any point in your life? Do you feel that you have experienced rejection one too many times? If you have experienced many hurts in your life, consider this to be impacting your self-esteem. Understand that your low self-esteem may be related to your hurts, and be compassionate towards yourself. Do not shame or ridicule yourself for these experiences or feelings. Exploring these issues in therapy with a mental health professional may be beneficial and healing for you.

Now, let’s explore the other end of the spectrum – extremely high self-esteem. Do you wonder if you have too high of a self-esteem? Do you know someone who has an overly positive and inflated perception of self? Like low self-esteem, high self-esteem tends to be fragile and it can lead to unhealthy behaviors. According to Mark Tyrrell, people with extremely high self-esteem tend to abuse relationships and always put their own needs first, have an air of superiority, are blind to their own faults, and tend to have impulse control problems. These types of behaviors in people can be very frustrating to deal with, and a great amount of conflict can surround individuals with too high self-esteem.

Overcoming extremely high self-esteem is equally as difficult as overcoming low self-esteem, if not more difficult. Similar to working on improving low self-esteem, improving high self-esteem requires reflection and acceptance of feedback. Inappropriately high self-esteem may also serve as a protective defense mechanism, therefore it is critical to explore where this is coming from. Processing these issues in therapy may be helpful.

After exploring how both low and high self-esteem are not healthy ends of the spectrum to be on, now we are left with exploring where healthy self-esteem lies. By now you may have guessed that a healthy self-esteem resides somewhere in the middle. A healthy, balanced self-esteem means that you have a positive perception of yourself while staying humble, and have the ability to recognize your flaws. When you have a balanced self-esteem, you are able to recognize when your self-esteem is dipping lower or spiking up a little too high, and are able to regulate your emotions and behaviors appropriately. Of course, it is only natural that your self-esteem may fluctuate throughout your lifetime, especially while experiencing major life events. If you are struggling with your self-esteem, it may be beneficial for you to meet with a therapist. Contact Symmetry Counseling today to get connected with one of our talented clinicians!

Some information in this blog post was referenced from Mark Tyrrell’s article.

Tyrrell, Mark. (2014). Why high self esteem is a bad thing. Retrieved from
https://www.self-confidence.co.uk/articles/why-high-self-esteem-is-a-bad-thing/