Self-esteem is a funny thing. I think we’re all born with it but somewhere along the way it gets damaged for many of us. Self-esteem is simply: “a realistic respect for or favorable impression of oneself; self-respect.” And yet many of us feel pretty much the opposite. We feel an unreasonable disrespect or unfavorable impression of ourselves.
And mental illness may be one reason why.
Self-Esteem and Depression
The relationship between poor self-esteem and depression is pretty simple as poor self-esteem is actually a symptom of depression. People with depression feel bad about themselves. People with depression feel they are lesser than others. And people with depression feel bad about feeling bad about themselves. It’s a vicious cycle. Broken brains; go figure.
Self-Esteem and Mental Illness
But besides being a symptom of depression, low self-esteem may simply stem from having a mental illness, period. Like having a big nose or being a poor speller*, some people feel embarrassed about having a mental illness. Beyond being embarrassed, they feel it makes them less of a person when compared to others. Mental illness simply degrades who some people think they are.
And there are “good” reasons for this. The world does, after all, tend to look down on people with mental illness. Mental illness stigma runs rampant and it’s very hard to maintain good self-esteem when the world around you is telling you there is something wrong with you and you don’t meet the expectations of being human. It’s hard to feel good when others are telling you you’re bad.
But here’s the thing, they call it self-esteem for a reason – and yes, it’s esteem about the self but it’s also esteem from the self. In other words, how we feel about ourselves comes from within.
It’s easy to let external forces affect how we feel, but as they say in Alcoholics Anonymous, what other people think of me is none of my business. And if people want to judge you for a mental illness, that’s really none of your business either. What’s your business is your judgement of your mental illness – not theirs.
And there’s nothing wrong with you for having an illness. Like any other illness, you didn’t ask for it, it isn’t your fault and it doesn’t affect who you are as a person. You are as good as everyone else. You are as whole as everyone else. You are as troubled as everyone else. You are as imperfect as everyone else. You just happen to have a disease alongside of all of that.
So remember, when we allow others to affect our self-esteem we are giving away our power. But you own your power. Take it back.
* For the record, there’s nothing wrong with having a big nose or being a bad speller.