Self-Esteem & Substance Abuse
Self-esteem is shaped by your relationships, your experiences and your thoughts. Healthy SE promotes mental well-being, assertiveness, confidence, resilience and more.
Self-esteem is your overall opinion of yourself — how you honestly feel about and value yourself. It involves judging your worth as a person.
People with healthy SE feel good about themselves and see themselves as worthwhile. People with low SE, put little value on their opinions and ideas and constantly think that they aren’t “good enough.” There are plenty of adults who truly feel down on themselves and have poor self-esteem.
Here’s what you’re going to learn:
- Why you may have developed poor self-esteem
- The difference between healthy SE and narcissism
- How you can tell if your SE needs a boost
- The benefits of healthy self-esteem.
Self-esteem starts forming early in life.
Factors That Shape And Influence Include:
- Your own thoughts and perceptions
- Other people
- School experiences
- Sports experiences
- Work experiences
- Illness, disability or injury
- Role and status in society
Relationships with those close to you, like parents, siblings, peers, teachers and other important adults are especially powerful. Many beliefs you hold about yourself today reflect messages you’ve received from such people over time.
If your close relationships are good and you receive generally positive feedback, you’re more likely to see yourself as worthwhile. However, if you receive mostly negative feedback and are often criticized, teased, ridiculed or devalued by others, you’re more likely to think that you’re not good enough and to struggle with poor self-worth .
Your own thoughts have perhaps the biggest impact on self-esteem. Thoughts include “self-talk”, what you tell yourself, your perceptions of situations, your beliefs about yourself and other people and events. For example, how you measure success and failure in life affects your sense of self-worth.
A series of perceived successes can lead to feelings of positive self-worth and high SE. A series of perceived failures can make you feel inferior and reduce your SE.
Self-worth ranges from very positive to very negative. Neither extreme is healthy.
- Overly high self-esteem. People with unrealistically positive views of themselves feel they are better or worth more than others. They may become prideful and arrogant. They may become self-indulgent and believe they deserve special privileges or whatever they want. And they often regard themselves much more highly than do others.
Critics of working on your SE have raised concerns that this is precisely the self-image being developed, a narcissistic self-image characterized by arrogance, pride and boastfulness. In some cases, people in the manic phase of bipolar disorder may have an intensely inflated but false self-esteem.
- Negative self-esteem. People with negative SE believe that they are worth less than others. They put little value on their opinions and ideas and often feel ashamed of themselves.
- Healthy self-esteem. Healthy SE lies in the middle of the two extremes. It means having a balanced, accurate view of yourself. For instance, you may have a generally good opinion of yourself while recognizing that you do have some limits.
With healthy SE you are confident and think positively about your strengths, abilities, accomplishments and physical appearance. You like and respect yourself despite your faults but also don’t overvalue your strengths. You recognize your basic worth as an individual yet don’t think you’re better or worse than others.
Common Characteristics Of Low Self-Esteem
It’s normal for people to go through times when they feel down about themselves. They lack confidence to do certain tasks and think negatively about their abilities, accomplishments or physical appearance.
However, when you feel bad about yourself in many areas of life and these feelings become long-standing, then SE can suffer, along with many other areas of your life.
Low self-esteem can appear in the way you look, behave and interact with others. How do you know if you think too little of yourself?
You May Have Some Of These Characteristics:
- Negative self-talk, such as, “I’m not worth other people’s time, so I shouldn’t ask for help,” “I’m a failure,” or “I’ll never amount to anything.”
- Frequently apologizing, making self-doubting statements, or making cruel comments about yourself that you wouldn’t make about someone else.
- Focusing on perceived flaws and weaknesses.
- Seeking constant reassurance from others and not feeling better even with positive feedback.
- Refusing to accept compliments or denying positive comments you get.
- Tending to be a perfectionist who’s afraid of failure, which may impair work or school performance.
Benefits Of Healthy Self-Esteem
Healthy self-esteem can improve all aspects of life.
When you value yourself, you’re open to learning and feedback from others, which increases your ability to meet and solve challenges. You have confidence in your abilities and tend to do well at school or work. You feel secure and worthwhile and have generally positive relationships with others.
With Healthy Self-Esteem You:
- Are less prone to painful feelings such as hopelessness, loneliness, worthlessness, guilt and shame.
- Are assertive, which helps you express your needs and opinions confidently.
- Have more secure and honest relationships. You’re less likely to have trouble relating to others, to be overly eager to please others at your expense, or to stay in unhealthy relationships.
- Set realistic standards for yourself and others. This makes you less likely to criticize yourself and others, or to deliberately seek out flaws or weaknesses in yourself or others.
- Weather stress and setbacks better. You’re
often more confident and resilient when facing unexpected challenges, disappointments or illnesses.
- Are less likely to develop certain mental health conditions, such as eating disorders, drug and alcohol addictions, depression, and anxiety disorders.
Since self-esteem affects every facet of life, having a healthy, realistic view of yourself is important. You also deserve to like and respect yourself and to be happy with your life and who you are. And remember, doing so doesn’t mean that you’ve gotten too big for your britches — it means you value yourself.
Activities That Will Help You Feel Good About Yourself
Any of the following activities will help you feel better about yourself and reinforce your SE over the long term.
Read through them. Do those that seem most comfortable to you. You may want to do some of the other activities at another time. You may find it helpful to repeat some of these activities again and again.
Make An Affirmation List
Making lists, rereading them often, and rewriting them from time to time will help you to feel better about yourself. If you have a journal, you can write your lists there. If you don’t, any piece of paper will do.
Make A List Of
- At least five of your strengths, for example, persistence, courage, friendliness, creativity.
- At least five things you admire about yourself. For example, the way you have raised your children, your good relationship with your siblings, or your spirituality.
- The five greatest achievements in your life so far, like recovering from a serious illness, graduating from high school, or learning to use a computer.
- At least 20 accomplishments-they can be as simple as learning to drive a car, to getting an advanced college degree.
- 10 ways you can “treat” or reward yourself that don’t include alcohol, drugs or food and that don’t cost anything. Such as, walking in woods, window-shopping, watching children playing on a playground, gazing at a baby’s face or at a beautiful flower, or chatting with a friend.
- 10 things you can do to make yourself laugh.
- 10 things you could do to help someone else.
- 10 things that you do that make you feel good about yourself.
Developing Positive Affirmations
Affirmations are positive statements that you can make about yourself that make you feel better about yourself.
They describe ways you would like to feel about yourself all the time.
They may not, however, describe how you feel about yourself right now. The following examples of affirmations will help you in making your own list of affirmations.
- I feel good about myself.
- I take good care of myself. I eat right, get plenty of exercise, do things I enjoy, get good health care, and attend to my personal hygiene needs.
- I spend my time with people who are nice to me and make me feel good about myself.
- I am a good person and a lot of people like me.
- I deserve to be alive and loved.
Make a list of your own affirmations.
Keep this list in a handy place, like your pocket or purse. You may want to make copies of your list so you can have them in several different places of easy access.
Read the affirmations over and over to yourself—aloud whenever you can.
Share them with others when you feel like it. Write them down from time to time. As you do this, the affirmations tend to gradually become true for you.
Remember, you are unique and you are loved. There is nobody else like you. You deserve the best!