What is self-esteem and how can it affect your assertiveness?

At either a conscious or unconscious level, and whether we like it or not, we all place a value or a measure of worth upon ourselves. Self-esteem refers to how we think and feel about ourselves and the worth that we place upon ourselves as a person.

Self-image and self-concept are also terms used to describe how we view ourselves. If we place little value upon ourselves, and have low self esteem, it is likely that we will not be assertive in our relationships with others. This is because assertiveness is driven by the feeling that we are worthy of care and respect. To improve our assertive capability, we need to understand some of the dynamics around self-esteem. (some of the following information is adapted from the WA Department of Health)

When does low self-esteem become a concern?

Do you ever find yourself thinking that you are 
-       weak, stupid, not good enough,
-       flawed in some way, or useless, worthless,
-       inferior to your friends or work colleagues
-       unattractive, ugly, unlovable, a loser, or a failure?

Most of us at times use these words in the “self-talk” that goes on in our head - perhaps iwhen we are facing a stressful situation you might experience self-doubt. However, if you regularly think about yourself in these terms, then you might well have a problem with low self-esteem.

Low self-esteem is having a generally negative overall opinion of yourself, judging or evaluating yourself negatively, and placing a generally negative value on yourself as a person. Many of us at times can be unhappy with ourselves, but chronic poor self-esteem is characterised by a pervasive feeling of self-disssatisfaction.

People with low self-esteem usually have deep-seated, basic, negative beliefs about themselves and the kind of person they are. These false beliefs are often unfortunately taken as truths about their identity, rather than being recognised as opinions they hold about themselves, that may have been shaped in their childhood. The good news is that this can be changed, and people can learn how to develop more positive self-beliefs about themselves..

How might low self-esteem impact on relationships?

- In their personal relationships, people with low self-esteem might become easily upset or distressed by any criticism.

- They may have an excessive need to bend over backwards to please and appease others, in order to gain approval.

- They could be extremely shy or self-consciousness or even avoid or withdraw from more intimate relationships.

- They might also be less likely to assert themselves or stand up for themselves if they are being unfairly criticised, or bullied by partners or family.

On the other hand, some people with low self-esteem may over-compensate by becoming overly aggressive in their relationships with others.

So in summary, if our past experience has caused us to develop low self-esteem, then this will have probably interfered with our ability to build rewarding relationships with others. Strengthening our self-esteem and sense of self-respect will help us to feel that we deserve to assert our needs and concerns in our relationships with others
You might like to have a look at our page on Self-Confidence that offers many useful tips on becoming more confident