What is good self-esteem? Does it come down to simply being confident? Having good self-esteem isn’t always easy.
From childhood to the end of our lives, we spend our time evaluating ourselves: whether in the eyes of others or our own interpretation of ourselves.
Good self-esteem can be defined by 6 factors: stability, level, autonomy, harmony, importance, and cost. It is a form of self-intelligence allowing us to perform and adapt to our environment when needed. It is influenced by our past, our environment, and other people’s opinions of us.
Read on to learn all about good self-esteem and the benefits it can have on our life.
Table of Contents
- 1 What is good self-esteem? Introduction
- 2 The six dimensions of good self-esteem
- 3 What are the benefits of good self-esteem?
- 4 Self-esteem versus self-intelligence?
- 5 Is good self-esteem an unattainable goal?
- 6 What is good self-esteem? Conclusion
What is good self-esteem? Introduction
Self-esteem could be defined as the relationship between what we are (our physical appearance, professional success, emotional life, personality, etc.) and what we would like to be.
If there is a good balance between these two variables, one would think that our self-esteem is quite good. However, nothing is set in stone!
Indeed, self-esteem is a fragile value that will depend on:
- all our life experiences,
- our environment (which may or may not be stable, secure, and encouraging), and
- the impact of other people’s perceptions of us.
Having good instead of vulnerable self-esteem is the basis of the construction of our personality. Therefore, we must accept and love ourselves and succeed in having good relationships with others.
The six dimensions of good self-esteem
To have good self-esteem is not only to have a high and reasonable idea of oneself but also to be convinced of it and to make it known.
There are six specific points that characterize the construction of good self-esteem:
An excellent index to know the quality of self-esteem concerns its reactivity to life events. Sometimes the facade of self-esteem can break down in the face of difficulty.
Indeed, the intensity of emotional reactions to failures and successes can speak volumes about the inner strength of self-esteem.
Let’s take the example of a testimony of a woman who suffers from low self-esteem behaviors: in front of others, she always looked good. But once she returned home, she was a mess. Those close to her would see it immediately when something was bothering her.
For a long time, she was surprisingly responsive to the slightest problem that challenged her image in front of others. She was afraid of what people would say, and her emotions became unbearable: insomnia, crying spells, tantrums, etc. Her normal social life became impossible.
We can identify a so-called “stable” self-esteem by its role as a shock absorber in the face of successes and failures or approvals and criticisms.
Stable self-esteem allows for relative consistency in behavior and speech regardless of environment.
In short, you remain yourself regardless of people or things changing around you.
Level: high or low self-esteem
It is possible to have self-esteem that is:
- High, i.e., we appreciate ourselves, are confident enough to act and take our place among others, do not collapse in the face of failure or difficulties, etc.
- Low, i.e., we devalue ourselves, are not so sure of ourselves that we often avoid taking action or taking our place among others, collapse easily, or give up when faced with failures or difficulties, etc.
Today, understanding self-esteem only by its level is not enough. Seeking high self-esteem at all costs is not ideal and cannot be the only criterion of good self-esteem.
Indeed, some people with high self-esteem are often anxious, rigid, and in significant intimate, emotional, and relational failure in many life circumstances.
At the same time, some people with moderate self-esteem feel good about themselves and can accomplish great things.
Furthermore, it is possible to lie (and therefore to lie to oneself) about one’s level of self-esteem. Self-esteem is not only a quantitative problem but also a qualitative one.
It is useless to always look for more self-esteem in the eyes of others. There are also other quests to achieve, such as being more serene and peaceful.
We can identify high, good self-esteem by the individual’s self-talk as one of the indicators. I.e., the person can speak positively about themselves when the circumstances lead them to do so, and can accept compliments without embarrassment.
High self-esteem is also identified with one’s attitude towards action: the person can undertake, persevere, and give up without feeling humiliated or making excuses. Regarding her expectations and ambitions, she will adjust her expectations to her value, neither too much nor too little.
Some self-esteem may depend primarily on external factors such as financial or status success or physical appearance. Others will focus more on achieving values, and practicing virtues such as being kind, helpful, generous, honest, etc.
Investing one’s self-esteem in internal goals gives one more resilience and strength. In fact, these internal objectives will make it possible to depend less on environmental validation and worry less about conforming.
What makes up our sense of self-worth is probably based on a continuum ranging from success to physical appearance.
We can identify autonomous self-esteem by autonomy from social pressures on what to have, do, or show to be valued by others, such as having a nice car, a spouse, children, etc.
The ability to withstand rejection or disavowal in social support is also a good indicator of self-esteem autonomy.
- Paradise & Kernis, Self-esteem and psychological well-being: Implications of fragile self-esteem, Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 2002
- Crocker, et al., Contingencies of Self-Worth in College Students: Theory and Measurement, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2003
Some self-esteem can appear very invested in a limited area of personal life, whether in professional success or maintaining a “youthful” appearance. When a person fails in this area, he or she is very vulnerable.
Self-esteem can be expressed in a variety of areas, including:
- Conformity (i.e., being like others)
- Physical appearance
- Acceptability and popularity (i.e., making yourself likable and appreciated)
- Success and status (making oneself superior to the majority of others)
- Strength and physical ability (which can also contribute to self-esteem in some settings such as manual labor, school yards, and tough neighborhoods).
The more of these areas there are, the more they will allow for cross-repair. For example, we counterbalance a bad professional experience by relying on our friends, or don’t drown in heartache thanks to our work. This does not cancel out the pain but can partially alleviate it.
We can identify harmonious self-esteem by the diversity of the person’s interests. Ideally, there should be no big gaps between the private person (in the family or with relatives) and the public person (in the eyes of others).
Harmonious self-esteem is also identified with the ability to repair oneself in one area if one is failing in another. This is preferable to denigrating all areas if one struggles in the over-invested area.
When you have harmonious self-esteem, you have the ability not to sink into bitterness, especially if you experience repeated failures.
Importance of self-esteem in your life
There are several important issues related to self-esteem:
- How important are our image and the opinions others have of us concerning our self-esteem?
- Does the defense or promotion of our image occupy a central place in our minds and efforts, or do they simply occupy a legitimate place, without excess?
- Is there anything in our life that defines our identity other than our self-esteem?
We can identify non-overinvested self-esteem when self-love failures do not contaminate all of our thoughts, activities, or emotional states.
Having good self-esteem allows us to digest failures without drama, not constantly monitor our status, and be satisfied with being appreciated without the need to be celebrated.
When you have good self-esteem, you can also pursue goals that will not bring you any social prestige or image.
Self-esteem needs maintenance, development, and protection strategies to stay up to date.
Indeed, some people will use a lot of energy to protect or promote their self-esteem:
- denial of reality,
- escape and avoidance,
- aggressiveness towards others, etc.
All these dysfunctional strategies, for a minimal benefit to self-esteem, will sacrifice many aspects of the quality of life and generate stress.
We can identify thrifty self-esteem in terms of psychological energy by:
- observing a moderate emotional impact of minor life events,
- a generally low level of stress, and
- the low level of tension felt and perceived from the outside when faced with criticism.
Thrifty self-esteem demonstrates an ability to quietly feed on criticism and show interest instead of wanting to avoid or destroy it.
What are the benefits of good self-esteem?
Having good self-esteem brings multiple benefits, such as:
- An internal source of motivation that makes action easier and allows us to persevere in the face of adversity.
- A necessary resistance to social influences and the protection of one’s identity.
Another benefit is that it has a protective and self-repairing effect: self-esteem facilitates resilience to adverse life events.
It works as an immune-type protection that facilitates the rapid healing of emotional wounds.
Numerous studies have shown the short and medium-term emotional impact of failures. Regardless of the quality of self-esteem, failures are always emotionally painful.
When a person says that they are indifferent to failure, it tells us more about the strength of their denial mechanisms than their self-esteem.
Namely, there are differences in repair speed that occur afterward: some rebuild very quickly after a failure, and others brood over it longer.
The true nature of self-esteem becomes more apparent during the post-crisis period in its self-repairing function than during the crisis itself.
Another benefit of good self-esteem is the positive effect on bodily health and not only on the psychological level.
Indeed, a study investigated the physical benefits of the tendency to self-value and the reflexive inclination to spontaneously have a “positive self-delusion.”
It has long been known that these positive self-delusions, at least in small doses, are part of what makes up good mental health.
In this study, researchers asked volunteers to undergo very precise psychological stress tests. In fact, it consisted of counting backward in decrements of 7 starting from the number 9,095 and backward in decrements of 13 starting from the number 6,233.
To activate self-esteem, the researchers told the volunteers that this type of test was a good marker of general intelligence and that they would be compared to other candidates.
It sounds simple, but it was enough to pressure the volunteers’ self-esteem. In addition, they had to do this as quickly as possible while being filmed.
Throughout this experiment, they measured the impact of this exercise on:
- Cardiovascular variables, including how quickly heart rate or blood pressure increased and how quickly they returned to normal after the test.
- Biological variables, such as the level of cortisol in the blood.
Of the 92 volunteers studied, both men and women, there was a clear parallel between self-esteem and good physical resistance to stress.
Following this research, it would seem that self-esteem is indeed good for health.
- Metalsky, et al., Depressive reactions to failure in a naturalistic setting: a test of the hopelessness and self-esteem theories of depression, Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 1993
- Sedikides, et al., Are normal narcissists psychologically healthy?: self-esteem matters, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2004
- Taylor, et al., Are self-enhancing cognitions associated with healthy or unhealthy biological profiles?, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2003
Self-esteem versus self-intelligence?
Finally, self-esteem could be defined as a form of self-intelligence, in all the senses of intelligence:
- It is the ability to know and understand (static self-esteem).
- It is also the ability to adapt to new situations.
- And finally, it is to discover solutions to difficulties we encounter (dynamic self-esteem).
Therefore, self-esteem allows us to be the best version of ourselves at any moment in relation to our environment.
It is also offered to each of us in different ways. Namely, it is influenced by social, medical, and psychological inequalities. For example, it is easier to value yourself if you were born in a democracy, if you are healthy, if you have a job, if you were loved in your childhood, etc.
Self-esteem is also a factor in repairing these inequalities: thanks to self-esteem, we can’t weaken in front of our lacks and not reduce ourselves to them.
We can value ourselves despite our handicaps because it allows us to make these handicaps evolve, not only to adapt to them but to help us catch up and make them less significant.
A lot of self-esteem and confidence is developed late, often after thirty or forty years, especially in people who had to build it themselves.
It is essential to stress that intelligence is not made to shine but to adapt. The same is valid for self-esteem: its objective is the peaceful control of adjustment processes to the environment.
Is good self-esteem an unattainable goal?
Wanting good self-esteem might seem like an unreachable goal, but it is simply an ideal we seek to get closer to if we wish.
What is living if not getting closer to our ideals? Whether they are ideals of:
- hard work,
- personal development,
- inner journeys that make us learn and sometimes heal from our past, our wounds, etc.
All this is neither boring nor tedious. Above all, it is perfectly compatible with everyday life.
In fact, getting closer to your ideals is even rather interesting, provided that you put yourself on the right path with the right means.
What is good self-esteem? Conclusion
Good self-esteem is not only about having a high and good idea of yourself but also about being convinced of it and wanting to make it known.
There are several dimensions to consider, such as being autonomous in the face of criticism or having harmonious self-esteem to feel good about yourself and completely in line with your values and thoughts. These dimensions and others are to be taken into account to define good self-esteem.
It is not easy to have good self-esteem, but practicing it by trying to get as close as possible to your ideals is possible. To do this, you need to set feasible goals within your own means.
And finally, having good self-esteem brings many benefits in our daily lives, both psychologically (feeling better about ourselves) and physically (having less stress).