Learning how to be kind to ourselves.
Self-esteem is one of those terms often used in conversation, but we never really stop to reflect on its meaning. For many it is just another word for depression. Thus, a person with low self-esteem is seen unhappy whilst the opposite is true for those with high self-esteem. From a psychological point of view, self-esteem is defined as the size of the gap between our own personal standards versus our perceived performance relative to those standards (Schafer, 1998). Or simply put, it is a question of whether we are measuring up to our own expectations.
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Self-esteem starts developing at a very early age and is shaped through our interactions with significant others (e.g. friends, family, family, teachers, etc). In other words, we are influenced by and adapt to the expectations of the most important people in our lives. Over time we internalize these expectations and make them our own. Generally speaking, we feel good about ourselves when meeting these expectations, but the reverse is also true when we fail. Failure often leads to negative self-talk which is expressed in statements such as: I am a disappointment to others! I am not good enough! or There is something seriously wrong with me! Hence, in therapy we focus on replacing negative self-statement with positive self-talk. We also learn how to reprogramme our thinking to allow for kinder, more realistic appraisals of ourselves and our perceived flaws.