People with low self-esteem often think of themselves in very critical ways, such as “I’m not good enough,” “I’m a failure,” or “I’ll never amount to anything.” And with these thoughts come painful feelings, such as sadness, anger, anxiety, fear, and worthlessness. People with low self-esteem may find it harder to make decisions, because they doubt that they’ll be successful. They also find it harder to make friends, because they’re shy or they don’t think other people will like them. In addition, people with low self-esteem frequently stay away from situations in which they might be judged, so they avoid taking chances or trying new things, especially when other people are around.
Self-esteem is the amount of respect or self-worth that a person has for himself or herself. People are often described as having either high self-esteem, meaning they think very well of themselves and their abilities, or low self-esteem, meaning they are filled with doubts and criticisms about themselves and their abilities. People with low self-esteem may experience many problems in their lives. However, the term “low self-esteem” is only a popular description of the way a person thinks or feels about himself or herself; it isn’t an official diagnosis of a mental health problem. Nevertheless, many mental health care professionals agree that healthy self-esteem is important to many aspects of a person’s life.
In comparison, people with higher self-esteem often report having happier and more satisfying lives. They’re more confident about their abilities to cope with problems and take on new challenges, and also more likely to approach new people to make friends. In some studies, high self-esteem often acts as a protective factor for many people, helping them deal more effectively with common stressors in life.
But despite these potential benefits, many mental health care professionals still disagree about the costs and benefits of helping people increase their level of self-esteem. Some researchers claim that encouraging people to raise their self-esteem does more harm than good or that it encourages people to become more narcissistic or impulsive. However, for people who recognize that their lives are suffering because of their critical, judgmental thoughts about themselves, increasing self-esteem, even just a little, can have many lasting benefits.