Healthy Self-Esteem When You Have Bipolar

February 11, 2015 Natasha Tracy

I think it’s hard to have healthy self-esteem when you have bipolar. Sure, you can have grandiose self-esteem when you’re manic or hypomanic but that’s not the self-esteem you carry with you into everyday life, nor is it particularly healthy self-esteem. No, I think people with bipolar have low self-esteem because of their illnesses.

What is Healthy Self-Esteem?

I would say that healthy self-esteem is a fair and positive estimation of your self-worth. It’s feeling good about yourself, who you are and what you are. It about feeling like a good human being. It’s about feeling loveable (I Have Bipolar, Will Anyone Ever Love Me?). It’s about being confident in yourself. I think we all know, thanks to bipolar depression, what it’s like to feel horrible about ourselves and healthy self-esteem is essentially the flip side of that.

Why Does Bipolar Cause Low Self-Esteem?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure not everyone with bipolar has low self-esteem, but from what I’ve seen, low self-esteem and bipolar is a prevalent problem. I think it’s hard to be a “sick person,” disabled, and still feel really good about yourself and maintain healthy self-esteem. It’s like the bipolar doesn’t just attack your body but it also attacks your very essence (perhaps soul). It’s hard to know that something is fundamentally wrong with your brain and still feel like you have the same worth as everyone else. There is also something about taking medication every day just to function that also impacts healthy self-esteem. It’s like you’re not a complete person without pills – and just who feels good about that?

And it’s hard to face mental illness stigma every day and not let it infect the view you have of yourself. If your experience is people abandoning you because of bipolar disorder, it’s pretty hard to not internalize at least part of that as your fault. It’s hard not to see yourself as fundamentally flawed as and good as anyone else.

And, as I said before, bipolar depression certainly impairs healthy self-esteem simply by its very nature.

Why People with Bipolar Should Fight for Healthy Self-Esteem

It can be hard to have healthy self-esteem when you have bipolar. Here's why bipolar causes low self-esteem and how to have healthy self-esteem with bipolar.However, all that being said, people with bipolar disorder deserve healthy self-esteem just like everyone else. We are worth the same thing as other people. Our brain flaws do not affect our whole being. Just because we have an illness, doesn’t make us worth less. And just because other people, unfairly, have a problem with us and discriminate against us doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t love ourselves. I realize this is easy to say and hard to internalize but I believe we are worth the fight for healthy self-esteem. I believe we deserve to be on par with everyone else. I believe we deserve to feel positively about who we are – just like everyone else.

How to Have Healthy Self-Esteem with Bipolar

As with so many parts of bipolar disorder, I think the key to having healthy self-esteem with an illness is about combatting the negative self-talk with more logical, positive self-talk. Here’s what I mean:

  • It’s natural to think, “My boyfriend left me because of my bipolar so I must be worthless.” But we can combat that by thinking, “My boyfriend showed prejudice about my illness. That says more about him than it does about me.”
  • You might think, “My family has disowned me because of bipolar; I’m unlovable.” But you could combat that by thinking, “My family is ignorant about bipolar disorder and is taking it out on me. That is not about me; it is about them.”
  • You might think, “Because I need medication every day, I am not a whole person.” But you could think, “My medication is an important part of keeping me healthy. This is just as true for me as it would be for a person with any other illness. I don’t think less of those people, why would I think less of myself?”

And so on. When we catch ourselves falling victim to the low self-esteem-causing thoughts, we can fight those thoughts with rationality and reason. I’m not saying it’s easy but I think it’s doable and it’s worth doing.

And, if all else fails, I think it’s worth looking at therapy to regain healthy self-esteem if you have bipolar. Because you’re worth the effort.

If you’re interested in self-esteem issues, check out the blog Building Self-Esteem here on HealthyPlace.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or Google+ or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter or at Bipolar Burble, her blog.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2015, February 11). Healthy Self-Esteem When You Have Bipolar, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleX, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

March, 25 2019 at 10:00 am

I'm a bipolar man and want to die again...I used to have confidence but after I know I'm mental ill bipolar and many women left me ... I left me too ... no kids (my gf had miscarriage i was sad but now im happy good one less human without bipolar) and she told me she aborted on purpose then got married had kid somebody else I had others but they cheat leave and now I'm old and no woman looks at me if they do flirt maybe its out of desperation to find a loser like me to help pay their rent I tell them I'm bipolar and they move on to next sucker so whatever
Confidence attracts women and I have none...thank you bipolar. Maybe I will die the next manic attempt hopefully last time ambulance saved me but i'm wasting peoples oxygen and I'm wasting God time being here. I fuckinh hate God for creating me sometimes but I guess not god fault I'm shit.

*Annoymous and Sad*
May, 7 2018 at 5:56 am


*Annoymous and Sad*
May, 7 2018 at 5:51 am

Positive thoughts? I know that they do exist within me deep down. I once had a therapist who brought up all of my good qualities. She always told me what a gifted writer I was. I would turn my emotions into words on paper, into stories and poems to get out all the dark to process the light. I feel very fortunate to have such an ability to express myself, in order to get it out, to heal. It's helped me tremendously. Getting it out, allowing for it to surface itself and to expose myself to past trauma by looking at it in black and white, rather than keep it stuffed deep within. It feels like a prison to be in a state of mind that is unhealthy, that is ill. You feel like you're serving a life sentence for something you did not do. There is no escape. My release from this hell has been writing. When I write, letting go of the sadness, tears are set free. I had my best friend help me cope with this, too. We took all of my writings of bad experiences and made a small fire on a barbecue, out in an open free space, where it was so beautiful by a lake surrounded by trees and mountains, so peaceful. We rook the ashes and allowed the water to wash away the bad. It was as if I had cleansed all these harnful toxins out of my body, flushing them away, in order to rebuild a healthier me. Sure, there will always be times where I am faced with negativity and surrounded by energy-blocking situations and people who do not and will not understand me, and that's okay. I do not expect anyone to understand Bi-Polar. I used to hear about the disease and until I became aware that I shared the same illness as countless others, I too was ignorant, scared, and uncomfortable with the notion of such a condition. It sounded a bit like Schizophrenia to me at first. I genuinely felt remorse for anyone with Bi-Polar, or any mental illness. I think it's misunderstood greatly and there needs to be more education as well as programs out there for persons seeking help for themselves and wanting to learn more on certain conditions such as Bi-Polar, in order to better support a loved one battling this. We are not horrible people, we are people dealing with an illness. This illness does not define who we are, it is not all of us, but it is a part of us. It is challenging, frightening, humiliating, and a daily chore that we have, but it does not have to own us nor should it control and bring us down. Anyways, being ordinary is boring. I have been often referred to as eccentric, to which I proudly recognize as a unique and very special trait of mine. Some of the world's most fascinating people are eccentric. Do not change and love who you are. You are not weird. You are not broken. You are whole, no matter what you are dealing with.

*Annoymous and Sad*
May, 7 2018 at 5:10 am

I am a total perfectionist and when I fail at something, I feel like I've let myself down. It can be the slightest error and then I feel like an idiot. I feel like I have no control over who I am anymore. I hate having the depression, the manic episodes, the nightmares, everything about the disease. I just want to be done with it. It messes me up and I feel like I cannot be socialable. I hate leaving the house. I feel like I have no real reason to since I was laid-off due to a work-related injury. Now I sit at home like a zombie, doing nothing. I was so happy that my husband was coming home and it was his Friday. Now all I can think about is how much I screw up, how mentally and physically broken I am. I was fine until something I did not do right, set off my depression and I became irritated with myself.

Allen anderson
May, 26 2017 at 1:09 pm

It's can be easy to have self esteem if you can get proper treatment but if you have Medicare and are stuck with few choices it's almost impossible most of my life I had resorses to deal with my illness but in the last 15 years they have become much less bounced from place to place develop kid ney falure dur to lythium had colon cancer and now erictile dysfunction and am stuck in depression that I have never felt it's Ben a year trying to find a solution I beat cancer managed my stage two kidney falure but now I have gained weight don't work out every day or eat right high blood pressure and isolation so no it's not always manageble sometimes you can find a way through and some don't that's why a good percentage die overdose suicide I have stayed clean but it's no important to me it's hell is like a spring shower compared to this you can say it's more mangeble than this I was once very hi functioning and happy now I want to die

November, 1 2016 at 11:10 am

I know sometimes I have a low selfesteem. The other day I felt like a friend dropped me because of my polar. I started thinking that I was a weird person. But suddenly, I told myself that I many friends who don't judge me. I don't need a person like her as a friend. There is something wrong with her and not me

October, 8 2016 at 6:55 am

Hi Natasha, again I'm thankful, finding your writing on this topic. Worthless is how I woke up today. Feeling very alone, although I have a wonderful, supportive husband, my parents know I have some type of "mental illness" as I've never told them the truth. My sister knows, as do a couple of my dear friends. My realization this morning, is that I'm really all alone. Should anything happen to my husband & my parents, who would take me in or see to it that I'm cared for? I also have two adult step children who I know would never take me in. This is where my feelings of worthlessness come from. Because when I'm alone (I guess if I live that long, given my constant thoughts of death) I feel like there will be no one making me feel like they care. I have no children of my own who would care. I'm worthless & that's s terribly sad way to feel. A horrible sense of poor self esteem and feel like I'm worthless to anyone & everyone that will be left. I feel this way this mornimg & now I know my bipolar brain will beat this drum. Add this to all of my other bipolar ongoing unhealthy thoughts. Thanks again for being here.

August, 8 2016 at 11:25 pm

Can it be the other way around? If one holds them self in low esteem for a prolonged period might they cause their mental illness? My personal experience is a feeling of low self-worth for a long period before my mental illness struck. Sixteen years later, after doing a google search for something on the internet, I came across a paper I wrote 34 years ago as an electrical engineering grad student and found that it had been a significant contributor to the development of semiconductor technology and is still being cited. That gave me a prolonged boost in a feeling of my self-worth and worth to others. My psychiatric symptoms disappeared shortly after.

September, 25 2015 at 12:38 am

My self esteem has never really been that great. Over the years I tried to compensate for this by being a perfectionist, obsessively so and finding my worth and value in things. But since I've been officially diagnosed with the up and downs of having bipolar disorder my self esteem has taken an even further nose dive. It's most notably reflected in the way I take care of my self and my home. Slowly I am coming to grips with this illness and picking up some tools along the way to help me cope alot better
Sometimes being mentally ill has to do with how we are treated growing up.
I was abandoned by my biological family and emotionally, physically and sexually abused by my adoptive parents. My dad is dead and I stopped talking to my mom a couple of years ago. It was a matter of self preservation, essential to my survival. We'd had a terrible fight. Everything that I had stuffed down over the years came flooding to the surface. It had taken alot of courage to finally stand up for myself and it felt good to get all that off my chest. She of course was in denial and hung up on me. Stubbornly we were both waiting for the other to appologize. My well meaning friends said don't worry, eventaually she'll come around. I knew that would never happen. It took a couple of years to grieve her loss
Then this week I received a large package in the mail from my adoptive mother. My first reaction was what now. I didn't want to open it but eventually I did. it contained all her pictures of me. Essentially saying I'm done with you too. I don't ever want to see your face again. At first this made me cry, obviously I was hurt, but then I realized, finally this pain and suffering has an end to it. It's time to pick up the broken pieces of my life and give them to God

March, 10 2015 at 11:06 am

One thing I am forcing myself to say more to help with my self esteem:

February, 28 2015 at 5:29 am

Of course my ability (or disability) to do what I want (or need) to do can (as a result of the bipolar disorder) affect my self esteem especially when I can't seem to break free of the depressive phase of the disease... in addition low self esteem (for other reasons) can also make the disease worse. Sometimes it's hard to tease the two sources of low self esteem apart.
I find the depressive phase more damaging to me while the manic phase more damaging to others. Either way my self esteem gets affected because it tends to negatively impact relationships around me especially when the two poles become severe. Thankfully due in part to medication that does't happen as often

February, 28 2015 at 3:59 am

Over the years my self esteem has been affected by many factors, not all of which is directly related to having bipolar disorder.
Sometimes it's about internal beliefs of my own self worth, i.e not measuring up to my own standards. This can be especially hard if you're a perfectionist like me
At other times it's about external beliefs, not measuring up to what I believe my support system of friends and family expect me to be
Sometimes it's about what society as a whole values, i.e. money (power, prestige) looks (especially weight), education (level thereof or just getting good grades), health, relationalships etc that I may not feel I measure up somehow.
Sometimes it's just simply about the stigma of having a mental illness and not feeling free to talk about it with others without feeling judged.
Taking into consideration all these factors (and then some) on any given day and my self esteem can be either fine or take a severe nose dive

February, 17 2015 at 12:46 am

Natasha, I think a great deal of the low self-esteem (at least for me) is the stigma associated with having a mental illness (bipolar). It seems that no matter what your family, friends, spouse, family practitioner, etc. know about bipolar; the side looks, the dismissive attitude when having an episode are difficult, shameful and low self-esteem perpetuates itself.

Paul Winkler
February, 16 2015 at 5:22 pm

Thanks, Natasha. I agree with with what you say here in principle.I would haved to say that, for me personally, I would need some of that "therapy to regain healthy self-esteem" to make major inroads. Meanwhile, as the years go by I'm very gradually improving in that area. Good thing i've learned patience!

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