Self-esteem can be defined as the collection of perceptions we hold about our worth and value. It includes self-appraisals of our intelligence, career success, social competency, social likeability, and physical and sexual desirability.
There are two facets of self-esteem- global esteem and stability of self-esteem. Global self-esteem is measured from high to low. Unrealistically high self-esteem can cause interpersonal difficulties and can result in reckless decision making. Low self-esteem is characterised by chronic self-doubt, self-criticism, anxiety, and underperformance. Stability of self-esteem ranges from stable to unstable, for example someone with unstable self-esteem would experience frequent significant shifts in their self-esteem sometimes moving from feeling good to bad because of one piece of negative feedback. The more unstable the self-esteem the more it will vary in response to external events; the more stable the self-esteem the more resilient it is to external events. If an individual has unstable self-esteem they may be anxious to avoid any negative feedback from others, resulting in not taking up professional, social and romantic opportunities that arise. However, using avoidance as a strategy to protect self-esteem is ultimately an unsatisfactory choice as we can start to feel depressed because of the opportunities we miss out on.
Assertion training requires an exploration into an individual’s self-concept in order to identify barriers to assertion. This can include building a sense of personal rights and needs, as well as training in behavioural assertion skills.
Self-development is an umbrella terms for working on self-understanding, self-esteem, and assertion. Essentially self-development is the process of enhancing the internal and external aspects of one’s life.
Counselling can be of assistance with all these aspects of self-development. With a supportive therapist an individual can explore their sense of self, the personal narratives they hold and tell themselves, identify areas of potential growth, areas of emotional pain and trauma, and develop cognitive and behavioural strategies for implementing change in self-conception and lifestyle.