Self Esteem

Self esteem is a very important aspect of personal development; I would go as far as to say it is the backbone of how a person will feel in general.

Confidence in one’s own worth or abilities; self-respect

I believe that self-esteem is something that can slide up and down a scale of good to not so good, for each of us.  In certain settings we can have good self-esteem and in other settings we may have low self esteem and I think that is pretty natural and likely to be that way, regardless of how well we are emotionally and psychologically.  I feel this is an important point, because one thing that is damaging to self esteem is a desire for perfection.


Perfection does not exist.  Any expectations of perfection are likely to bring on disappointment and feelings of inadequacy.  I remember when I first left home and started a family, I would strive for an appearance of perfection.  Looking back now I see that as fairly normal for any young person setting up their first home.  The funny thing is, back then I was better at creating a house that looked good, rather than a home that felt good.  My home is much more home like now, with all its messy glory at times.

How many times have you witnessed a young Mother screaming at her children for getting messy?  Hopefully it is not something you have had to witness much, but it can be the darker side of reality for someone who is keen to promote images of perfection.  At times a picture of perfection can hold a grim reality behind the scenes.


So what has perfection got to do with self-esteem?  If we do not feel good deep down, if we battle inner demons that tell us we are bad, fake,  not lovable etc;  those kinds of core beliefs can lead to people wanting to ‘mask’. This can lead to people wanting to hide what they believe to be the truth of who they truly are, fuelling feelings of not being good enough and the need for masking and finding external self esteem (vicious circle).  We do not always want to walk around wearing our insecurities for everyone to see. People want to create masks that show the opposite more often.  People struggling to cope, will go out of their way to show they are coping, people who feel unlovable, will go out of their way to prove they are lovable and probably lose themselves in people pleasing.  People that hold nastiness and resentments will try to show what good citizens they are and so on.  People mask.  The mask is a clue to what lies beneath.

How many of you have witnessed all the ‘know it all’ types come out of the woodwork, with the latest EU debate?  How many patronising people have shown their true colours, with their beliefs that their opinion is right and anyone who does not share that opinion is wrong?  Hopefully you have not had to endure too many, but they are about.  I have enjoyed listening to those that have decided, but who weigh up both sides and show tolerance, I would be more likely to see their opinions as valid to be honest, because they display healthy self-esteem around their decision-making and genuine intelligence, interpersonal skills and common sense.

Usually with self-esteem there is internal self-esteem and external.  People with low self esteem can often depend on external self esteem.  For example, people who feel inferior may rely on fancy cars, clothes, houses, plastic surgery and so on, to feel good about themselves.  Some may depend on their work, or where they live, who they vote for, what papers they read, what qualifications they hold, their knowledge of the correct grammar or ‘being right’ and so on; all of which are external self esteem.  This is natural and we all experience this, it is just that some DEPEND on this.

The problem starts when external self-esteem becomes addictive, due to feeding an inner void, a kind of emptiness where low self esteem often feeds.  If external self esteem is the only esteem a person holds, then if they lose their job or if they lose their looks, or if for any reason their external self esteem goes, they can be left feeling extremely anxious, upset, depressed, lost etc.

Another problem when people rely solely on external self-esteem, is they can be rather unpleasant to be around, relationships may suffer.  People with external self esteem can be victims of grandiose attitudes, superiority complexes, arrogance.  Do you know anyone who displays those traits and is likeable?  Often external self esteem is addictive and achievements can feel like they are never enough.  Many achievers risk lying on their death bed, wishing they would have enjoyed some of their achievements more, instead of constantly striving and missing out on the many other joys in life.  Giving time and attention to a loved one and creating a bond with another, can never be beaten by any riches, fame or achievements, in my opinion.

We can at times be impressed by arrogant people if we lack self esteem.  If we feel vulnerable we can be drawn to those that like to appear like they ‘know it all’.  Often these are dynamics that are found in co-dependent, abusive or dysfunctional relationships. Sometimes if we have low self esteem, our standards can be low and we may gravitate to shallow or abusive relationships that can never hold any deeper meaning or depth.

It is a fine line and a delicate balance to develop internal self-esteem, confidence and to avoid the fake plastic mask of arrogance or perfection.  Genuine, down to earth, warm, friendly, honest types of people are usually the masters of this balance.

Arrogance is often low self-esteem and an excessive need for external achievements can also be a sign of low self esteem.  There are some who manage to achieve a lot in life and who remain grounded and do not look down on others, it is those types of people who have the power to make this world a better place in my mind.

The question ‘Who am I ?’ is vital in this topic.  If your answer is your name, you are not just a name.  If you answer a Mother, Sister, Brother, Son, Daughter, you are not just a family member you are a person, who is that person?  If you answer ‘I am a……..’ and state your job or profession, then no, that is just what work you do, that is not who you are as a person.  If you struggle to respond to that question, if you are not sure who you are, then you could be at risk of developing masks to appear a certain way.  That quick fix style of interaction can get you so far.  Some need different masks around different groups of people and then risk further distance from their true self.  This can be hard work, wasted energy and confusion for some.

You learn who you truly are in the quiet empty moments.  You can learn who you are if you face losing everything or a type of rock bottom.  Others often act as a mirror to our true self, so good quality relationships can show us who we truly are.  Some relationships just act as a life raft, to cling to whilst we focus on who we want to appear to be.  Sometimes finding who you are means exploring that empty void where you feel lost.  Let go of what you feel you should be and embrace who you truly are.

Nothing in this life, no substances, no amount of money, no achievements, no amount of external validation will ever feel as good as finding your true self and learning to offer your true self unconditional positive regard, allowing your true self and your life to flow in the right direction.  If you are busy trying to be someone you feel is more acceptable, you are unlikely to be on the right path in life, with authentic happiness and connections.

Plastic aint so fantastic!!

Have a great day!!  Simply ‘be’, that is more than good enough.

Freedom to ‘be’ can often be found when you stop caring how you appear.


Angela Neild

Angela Neild Manchester Counselling


4 thoughts on “Self Esteem

  1. Wow, I loved this article. In fact, I pressed it to share it with my readers.

    I like that you address perfection in terms of people wanting to have perfect self esteem, not just the usual approach of how low self esteem is often linked to a desire for perfection. I also like your take on the question, “Who am I?” and the fact that the way a person answers says a lot about the conditions he or she places on his or her worth.

    You talk about masks that we wear to cover our imperfections and hide what we feel makes us deserve low self esteem. Isn’t it incredible that much of what makes us have low self esteem is a feeling of being lesser than others, yet, in all likelihood, we are comparing ourselves to someone else’s mask?

    You talk about internal and external self esteem. Do you agree that perhaps some of the emphasis people place on short-term, conditional, often uncontrollable external self esteem may be linked to accepting the confused values of many societies which have economic systems based on propelling those images of worth, which prey on our beliefs that we are inadequate (i.e. – buy this car or wear this makeup and you will be worthy of love and attention)?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you for the feedback. It is empowering to stop comparing ourselves with others, and accept we are all equal. I do feel there is a lot of pressure on people to conform to ‘norms’ and that we value worth on material gain all too often. There are many who do see beyond those pressures luckily. I think as most of us get older, we naturally see these concepts and grow wiser to them and become more confident with who we are.

    Liked by 1 person

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