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The Psychology of Our Self-Esteem

Sometimes, maybe after a brutal rejection or a hard day at work, we feel terrible about ourselves. We feel dejected and mentally distant from our current environment, spiraling down a hole of negativity. Our perceived image of ourselves deteriorates, and we feel like we aren’t good enough and devoid of value. However, this is normal to an extent, as it is part of our changing moods throughout our life.

But what if it persists for extended periods of time? What if little waves of negativity turn into tsunamis of narcissism and devaluation? Let’s take a look into a couple of different psychological perspectives that explain the intricacies of our self-esteem.

Through a developmental lens, we can attribute our level of self-esteem back to the early seedlings of our youth. Normal, secure attachment as children allows kids to develop a sense of trust and level of safety that enables them to venture out of their comfort zone. They can develop meaningful and lasting relationships with those around them. Now, when we have children that experience insecure attachment, they find themselves stuck in a rut when it comes to interacting with others. Insecure attachment leads to feelings of mistrust and anxiety. These perceptions last throughout their childhood and affect their ability to function later in life. Children that are insecurely attached have a harder time viewing themselves through an optimistic lens and are more susceptible to lower self-esteem. Their secure counterparts however, will view themselves with more self-worth and feel much more comfortable asserting themselves in society and creating lasting bonds with themselves and others.

A humanistic perspective on self esteem emphasizes the importance of active listening and positive regard as crucial pieces in the puzzle of high self-esteem. By centering attention on the client, humanists attempt to assist someone suffering with low self-esteem by comforting them and ensuring them that their actions and thoughts are understandable and redeemable. Through active listening, they give their clients a chance to vent out all their negative thoughts into someone who will thoughtfully converse with them. Humanist psychologists are some of the best people to reach out to if you suffer from low levels of self-esteem.

Cognitive psychologists try to root the levels of self-esteem in your thoughts. They can look into certain common defense mechanisms we may showcase without even knowing. For example, a cognitive approach to self-esteem could see that we utilize the mechanisms of reaction formation to put on this facade of happiness and satisfaction when on the inside we feel that our values are meaningless. They may delve into our past memories, and how they influence the way we think about ourselves in the present. A cognitive approach can identify our schemas, which are frameworks in which we interpret and organize information, and change negative ones to brighter counterparts. Schemas in which we see our bodies as ugly and disgusting can be altered to be viewed as accepting and luscious. The way we think about ourselves is integral to the way we perceive and view our sense of worth and value.

The examples mentioned above are just a few, but many different perspectives of psychology take different approaches to working with it. It can be extremely helpful to utilize some of these on your own to identify and solve any issues of self-esteem. Even if you aren’t exactly feeling down in the dumps about yourself, it is extremely intriguing to see the inner workings of our mind and which methods work to maintain a healthy, stable level of self-esteem. If you’d like, you could dive deeper into a certain perspective you find the most interesting and study up on what that perspective entails. You can enlighten friends and family about what you’ve learned. Allow yourself and others to be more mindful and knowledgeable in the psychology of our own self-esteem.


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