Thoughtful Thursdays- What is self-esteem?

Welcome to a new feature called Thoughtful Thursdays where I will introduce and share with you important information and how-to’s on a variety of psychological issues.

While I’m very open to sharing my personal experiences I think it’s important to balance anecdotes with expert advice that you can apply in real life. So for this week’s Thoughtful Thursday feature I asked London psychologist, Dr. Emma Hormoz, to give her professional advice on the issue of self-esteem.

Self-esteem is the mother of all psychological issues, which is why this will be a two part blog post because it’s simply too big a beast to tackle in one go.

My experiences with self-esteem are complicated. I’ve not had much of it, I’ve dreamed of finding it and I’ve worked hard on building it up.

However, even in my late twenties I’m still not entirely sure what self-esteem is. I know I’m not alone in my confusion so I asked Dr. Emma  Hormoz to help answer questions and clarify common misconceptions about this issue.

self esteem quote

Q: Dr. Hormoz, what is self-esteem exactly? Is it the same as self-confidence?

Self-esteem and self-confidence often get confused by most people; but how can we improve on it if we do not quite understand it? Self-esteem refers to how we value (and we think others’ value) our worth, whereas self-confidence can be more related to our skills and abilities. For example, a person may be extremely confident in their ability to do their job, but when it comes to believing someone would love them, they may struggle. Self-esteem and self-confidence are not mutually exclusive, meaning that our self-esteem and self-confidence can fluctuate depending on the situation.

Q: Does self-esteem come from within myself or is it also influenced by my relationships and environment?

Self-esteem can be highly influenced from childhood. During this time we are highly receptive and soak up new information like a sponge as we try to make sense of this world. This makes our early life experiences particularly important in shaping beliefs about ourselves and others. 

So if we had any factors which would have made us question our self-worth as a child, this may contribute to low self-esteem.For example, being bullied by peers could lead one to feel they are not acceptable to others and consequently question their self-worth.If a person believes they have low worth they may act in certain ways which perpetuates this. - EmmaOr another example could be if a person’s parents did not have good self-esteem, then they may not have been able to instil this in their child. It is important to note that these are examples, and every person is different and experiences situations differently.

To really know what has lead your low self-esteem requires thinking about your experiences as an individual and the meaning of these experiences to you. Of course negative experiences as an adult can also knock our self-confidence and in turn our self-esteem. Examples can be a bad relationship, losing a job etc.

If a person believes they have low worth they may act in certain ways which perpetuates this. For example, putting up with a negative friendship or relationship because they find it hard to believe they deserve more. Or remaining in a job they are unhappy with because they feel they could not achieve anything better.

Q: Is it up to me to boost my self-esteem or can I also rely on others to help increase it?

It is a tricky idea to rely on others to increase our self-esteem – remember that self-esteem is all about how we value ourselves. Your friends and partner can value you extremely highly, but if you think of yourself as worthless, they cannot change that. I would say that while we cannot rely on others to improve our self-esteem, we should make sure that the people around us are not perpetuating our feeling of worthlessness.

The good news is that by understanding what has contributed to our low self-esteem, and understanding what continues to maintain that, we can make changes and improve how we feel about ourselves.

Big thanks to Dr. Emma Hormoz for answering those questions. Watch this space for her second post on how to boost your self-esteem.  

About Dr. Emma Hormoz

Dr Emma Hormoz is a Psychologist and CBT therapist who works in London. She is trained to offer Cognitive behaviour therapyEmma Hormoz(CBT), Psychodynamic counselling and integrative therapy.

She predominantly works with adults with a range of mental health difficulties, such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks, OCD, PTSD, social phobia, low self-esteem, health anxiety and much more. Visit her website for more information.

  • Brian

    I consider myself to be very confident in all aspects of my
    life, but I do not have the necessary self-esteem to do many things that I can
    and I want to do. I can relate to the
    doctor’s comments about questioning my self-worth and not valuing myself, when
    I know many other people value me. I
    have tried hard and consistently to overcome this barrier in my life. Is there any hope for me?

    • thelifestyledirectory

      “Where there is life, there is hope.”- One of my favourite quotes of all time. Self-worth and self-love has the word self in front of it for a reason. That’s because you define it and you have to do it. You don’t need to have found a cure for cancer to deserve self-love and self-worth, just being yourself is enough. If you need help seeing reasons why- think about personality traits you value in others, these are often ones you value yourself and posses. In my wallet I have a list of personality traits that I wrote that remind why I am uniquely awesome. On bad days when people shake my self-worth just to make themselves feel better, I go back to this list and say to myself, Screw them!

      Self-love and self confidence are cyclical. If you can do self-love you will have self-confidence at your ability to do that well – it’s one of the biggest keys to happiness so work on it every single day until you master it. The next blog post is all about boosting self-esteem with a few important how-to’s. I hope this helps you. xox C

      • Brian

        Thank you. You cheered me up.