Self-esteem reflects the opinion we have of ourselves, the judgments we make of ourselves and the value we place on ourselves as people. Self-esteems refers to an attitude towards oneself. When we say it is an attitude, we refer to the habitual way of thinking, loving, feeling and behaving with oneself. Self-esteem shapes our personality, sustains it and gives it meaning. It is generated as a result of the history of each person. Self-esteem has a dynamic nature, it can grow and it can weaken. We have to continuously nourish it.
The beliefs about ourselves, other people and about life are all learned. They have their roots in our experiences. Our beliefs about ourselves can be seen as conclusions we have come to on the basis of what has happened to us. This means that, however unhelpful or outdated they may now be, they are understandable – there was a time when they made perfect sense, given what was going on for us. Remember that core beliefs are there to protect us. The key is to identify now, as adults, if we need to continue ¨believing¨in them or if they no longer serve us.
Also, remember that the negative beliefs about ourselves are opinions, not facts. They are conclusions about ourselves based on past experiences (usually, but not necessarily, early experiences). A broad range of experiences, including both the presence of negatives and the absence of positives, can contribute to our core belief, and to our self-esteem.
It is quite common to confuse self-esteem with self-concept and use both as synonymous terms. Although the two concepts are related, they are not equivalent. In self-concept, the cognitive dimension prevails, while in self-esteem the evaluative and affective dimension prevails.
We can say that self-esteem develops from childhood and is impacted by the interactions, opinions, emotional availability that we have received from our primary caregivers, on top of other significant interpersonal relationships experiences. Not only are the words we receive what matter, but the behaviors, the responses that our parents and other meaningful relationships have had towards our demands and needs. As an example, imagine that as a child you have been excited about something and wanted to show it to your mother. She then told you "oh, that it is beautiful", however, she did not look at you, did not approach you and did not connect with your need to be valued. If this happens repeatedly, it will, most likely, impact your self-concept ("what I do is not important enough" "what I say is not interesting enough") and it will affect how my self-esteem develops. So it is important to consider that not only what we say about others is important, but how do we relate to them. Is the quality of the attachment and interaction that will affect our valuation of ourselves.
Regarding the self-concept, we can say that it influences the way we appreciate the events, situations and people in our life. If I have a negative perception of myself, I will not value my achievements the same as if my perception of myself is positive. At the same time, the self-concept influences considerably the behavior and the experiences of the individual. The person develops their self-concept, creates their own self-image
Self-esteem has 3 interrelated components
🌸Cognitive Component: the set of knowledge about oneself. The representation that each one forms about their own person. This varies according to psychological maturity and cognitive capacity. It indicates ideas, opinions, beliefs, perception, and information processing. Self-concept occupies a privileged place in the genesis, growth, and consolidation of self-esteem, and the remaining dimensions walk under the light that the self-concept projects to them, which in turn is accompanied by the self-image or mental representation that the person has of themselves in the present and in the future (aspirations and expectations).
🌸Affective Component: Value and worth that we attribute to ourselves and the degree to which we accept ourselves. It can have a positive or negative nuance according to our self-esteem: "There are many things about me that I like" or, on the other hand, "I don't do anything well, I'm useless." We make a judgment and have a feeling around our personal qualities.
🌸 Behavioral component: Related to intention, decision to act, and to carry out a process in a coherent way. It is self-affirmation directed towards the own self and in search of consideration and recognition on the part of others. It is the effort to achieve respect for others and for ourselves. It includes the set of skills and competencies that each person possesses when demonstrating their attitude to the outside.
🌸 Self-awareness has to do with knowing your strengths and weaknesses, understanding what are the personal qualities that you have.
🌸 Self-concept is the beliefs and ideas about oneself. The self-concept has to do with the cognitive dimension of what you believe about yourself, your self-perception. It will create your self-image and will impact the way you behave.
🌸 Self-evaluation is the inner capacity to evaluate our behaviour as positive or negative. Has to do with the meaning associated with our achievements and failures.
🌸 Self-acceptance has to do with an individual's acceptance of all of his/her attributes, positive or negative. Accepting all our parts as a whole. This does not mean that you like them, but you do accept them.
🌸 Self-respect means honoring your worth, preserving your dignity, and taking pride in your abilities, take responsibility for your emotions.
🌸 Self-esteem is a person's overall sense of self-worth or personal value. In other words, how much you appreciate yourself. Is the affective and emotional component of the self-concept.
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* Based in the work of Melanie Fennell , and the Self-Esteem Pyramid model of Jesús Diaz Ibañez
They, in turn, influence your emotions and your behaviour. They are also connected to the beliefs you have about yourself, the world, and others. These maladaptive thought patterns are usually automatic and can be difficult to identify if we aren’t aware of them.
We all experience cognitive distortions to some degree. However, people that have experienced trauma tend to have more maladaptive appraisals of self, others, and the world. They tend to experience more emotional discomfort because of those cognitive distortions. Threatening appraisals related to the trauma and its aftermath may be developed in those experiencing PTSD, such as the overgeneralisation of danger (‘bad things always happen to me’) or judgements of their own actions (‘I should have coped better’).
Based on Dr. Aaron Beck's work, Dr. Burns* has identified 10 common cognitive distortions that can contribute to uncomfortable emotions. These are:
1. All-or-Nothing Thinking
You see things in black-or-white categories. If a situation falls short of perfect, you see it as a total failure.
Example: When a student makes a mistake in the exam, he thinks “I’ve blown my exam completely.”
Drawing a faulty conclusion about something based on one experience. You see a single negative event, such as a romantic rejection or a career reversal, as a never-ending pattern of defeat by using words such as “always” or “never” when you think about it.
Example: you get rejected on a job interview and you conclude that you will never be able to find a job.
3. Mental Filter
You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively, so that your vision of all reality becomes negative. You focus only on the negative aspects and dysqualify all the positive aspects.
Example: You receive many positive comments about your presentation to a group of associates at work, but one of them says something mildly critical. You obsess about his reaction for days and ignore all the positive feedback.
4. Discounting the Positive
You reject positive experiences by insisting they "don't count." Discounting the positive takes the joy out of life and makes you feel inadequate and unrewarded.
Example: If you do a good job, you may tell yourself that it wasn’t good enough or that anyone could have done as well.
5. Jumping to Conclusions:
- Mind reading
Assuming you know what others are thinking. So without checking it out, you arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you.
Example: someone looks at you with a stare and you assume they are negatively thinking about you.
You predict that things will turn out badly when you have no evidence to back your predictions. Before a test you may tell yourself, “I’m really going to blow it, what if I don't remember?"
6. Magnification and Minimization
You exaggerate the importance of your problems and shortcomings, or you minimize the importance of your desirable qualities.
Example: you get a message from your boyfriend saying that he wants to talk to you, and right away, you stat imagine the worst possible outcome.
7. Emotional Reasoning:
Assuming that your emotions reflect the truth.
Example: “I feel guilty. I must be a terrible person.”
8. “Should statements”
You tell yourself that things should be the way you hoped or expected them to be. “Musts,” “oughts” and “have tos” have the similar negative effect. “Should statements” that are directed against yourself lead to guilt and frustration. Should statements that are directed against other people or the world in general lead to anger and frustration.
Example: After giving a presentation at work you think “I shouldn’t have made so many mistakes.”, when in reality the presentation went pretty well.
Labeling is an extreme form of all-or-nothing thinking. Labeling is quite irrational because you are not the same as what you do. You feel that the problem is with that person’s “character” or “essence” instead of with their thinking or behavior.
Example: You may make a mistakes, but you are not a "mistake".
10. Personalization and blame
Personalization occurs when you hold yourself personally responsible for an event that isn’t entirely under your control. Some people do the opposite. They blame other people or their circumstances for their problems, and they overlook ways that they might be contributing to the problem. Personalization leads to guilt, shame, and feelings of inadequacy.
Example: you believe you are a bad father because your child gets in troube at school.
⚠️ Disclaimer: This article serves as a psycho-educational resource only. I encourage you to discuss with your therapist how this applies to your unique situation. Everyone’s experience is different and some information might not be relevant to you.
*Burns D. (1989). The Feeling Good Handbook. Harper-Collins Publishers. New York.