When I picture someone who defines “healthy self-esteem,” this is a person who accepts that life isn’t perfect and rolls with the punches. Someone who is comfortable with who they are and can get through things that don’t turn out the way they expected. For example, someone who is late due to the subway having issues. Rather than going into a cycle of self-blame and fear about what their boss thinks, they accept it, knowing they got there on time and did the best they could. I think that is the short-term version of healthy self-esteem; someone who truly believes they are doing the best they can.
Healthy Self-Esteem and the Ability to Bounce Back
The term healthy self-esteem is used to define a normal waxing and waning of how you feel about yourself in terms of managing everyday life. In my opinion, it is more about your own personal baseline of positive self-esteem and being able to reset back to that place regardless of the stressor. It is a perception rather than a defining term used to indicate what is normal, healthy, for you. You can manage disappointments or exciting events with ease, recognizing your feelings and emotions but not letting them rule your mood and day. A person who has healthy self-esteem does things that they know will make them feel good and often allows themselves to be put first and not feel guilty about it.
Picture a bell curve. The middle, the highest point is where you lose self-control. This is when the trigger or event is too much to tolerate and you are sent into a spiral of self-doubt and unsettling emotions. Think about events in the past that have kept you in that high arousal state or self-deprecating talk. Did you perpetuate this with more negative self-talk and retelling negative stories? What thoughts did you consciously chose that got you to this icky place? Taking responsibility for our own negative scripts and having the desire to control them is key to keeping you in a healthy state of mind.
Let’s say that you had a great date with a new potential romantic partner. You expect him/her to call you the next day and they don’t. You have a choice. You can call them, go to the place of “what if they never call, what did I do wrong, no one is ever going to love me…” Down the rabbit hole. Or you can assess the situation with logic and emotion. “I had a great time, maybe they are the type of person who doesn’t reach out immediately. I’ll give it a few days before I choose to call or not call. I know I had fun and was real. That’s what matters.” The difference here is even though the circumstance sucks, you’re not letting it rule your mood. This takes practice and can be learned when you give yourself compassion and are easy on yourself.
Do You Want Healthy Self-Esteem?
- Bring Awareness to Your Feelings and Moods. Become aware of your triggers, your vulnerabilities, and how far you waver on the bell curve when feeling sad, blue, or anxious.
- Experience The Emotion. Let it come on fully and accept it. It is difficult for you to stay in a foul mood all day long. The heightening of emotion can physiologically only last for about 20 minutes. Accept that emotions are natural and it will pass. Don’t let it get the best of you. Distract yourself, if necessary (temporarily, don’t avoid).
- Check-In. Assessing where your mood or emotions are at throughout the day is important. It allows you to get to know yourself better and see where your thoughts are. It also allows you to reset into a more positive loving mindset as needed.
- Self-love. Honoring your uniqueness and what makes you feel good. Put yourself first. Instead of jumping when someone says jump, you say I can’t right now I have to finish x, y, or z. You put what is best for you first.
So say the romantic partner never calls or it doesn’t go the way you wanted it too. Someone with a good relationship with themselves, who embodies healthy self-esteem, is certainly upset by it, yet doesn’t let it take over their life. They may find that they are sad, disappointed, or uneasy about their experience, however they recognize that it’s not forever and not all their fault. They are able to turn their mind back to the date and believe they were their true selves.
Healthy self-esteem takes practice and getting to know who you are, your moods, your likes and dislikes, and your preferences. Self-reflection and a little humor can take you to a place where healthy self-esteem is possible.
Emily is the author of Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Being Who You Are.You can visit Emily’s Guidance Girl website. You can also find her on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.