Several of our Therapists that are seeing clients in person have now been vaccinated. In addition to offering in person appointments we are also seeing clients for online sessions via video call.
Monday, 25 Feb 2019

The Art of Cultivating Self-Esteem

By Dr Becky Spelman

The concept of self-esteem is loaded with several misconceptions. We all know vaguely what it relates to, but as far as exact definitions go, the facts often become skewed by assumption.

Many think of it as confidence, which is partially true, though that doesn’t quite tell the whole story. If you have a high degree of self-esteem, it’s reasonable to expect you’d be confident. But if you’re confident, it doesn’t always follow you have high self-esteem.

Even more prevalent is the idea you’re born with it. You either have it, or you don’t – similar to the misnomer surrounding confidence – it is a God-given trait, or a lucky inheritance based on your genetic lottery ticket.

The truth, is, nothing could be further from reality.

They are similar, yet still remain distinctly separate from one another. To have confidence isn’t always of the self, but can also be to have belief or faith in a specific outcome – an external projection that often belies our true feelings.

To have self-esteem, on the other hand, is to have an innate sense of self-worth. It is an unshakable belief in yourself and your abilities; a constant that does not fluctuate.


Someone with a strong sense of self-esteem would never let themselves be shoved around in a relationship, taken advantage of or allow their name to dragged through the mud.

But how do you get to the point of holding yourself in such high regard?


Esteem is built on the repetition of ‘esteemable acts.’ By taking part in positive activities that make us feel good about ourselves, we cultivate the feeling of self-worth.

Self-esteem is gained, earned, learned and relearned throughout our life. It is, in effect, a skill. Although, one we confuse as a trait. We learn how to make ourselves feel good about who we are, and over time, fine tune this ability.

So when we refer to self-esteem, we’re doing so within the context of self-care and self-nurture, of which esteem is the desired result. However, as we cover quite often in this blog, there are no cut and dry answers to what the ‘right thing to do is.’

Whatever makes you feel good is unique to you, and will be your truth. But to experience genuine feelings of inner goodwill, your esteem needs to be something you cultivate for yourself. That is, you can’t defer responsibility for how you feel to someone else.

If you rely on validation from those around you to feel a sense of worth, what you feel isn’t a true reflection of esteem. You feel good only because someone has affirmed or re-affirmed something you either didn’t believe or were doubtful of before. Nothing has changed.

As soon as that input is no longer given, your contentment leaves just as quickly. The key is for you to become the one who provides that sense of validation, independent of others, reaffirming your own self-worth.

Placing the outcome of your wellbeing in the hands of someone else is like building a house on quicksand. It is finite. And just as the house will sink, people come and go. You simply can’t rely on others to provide you with this core need.

The only real constant in life is yourself.

For your sense of well being to be long lasting, it must come from within. You must accept yourself as you are with all of your faults, and love yourself unconditionally.

That is the true essence of self-esteem.

It is earned by learning and relearning how to treat yourself with the utmost respect.

*** If you’re struggling with addressing any form of addictive personality behaviours, one of our specialists would be happy to provide you with an initial consultation to help determine the best way forward.

Check out other related articles

  • 01 Sep 2017

    4 everyday steps to take to boost self-esteem

    Low self-esteem is a relatively common problem but that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be taken seriously. Affecting many different people for a variety of reasons, low self-esteem negatively influences other aspects of your life, limiting the joy and fulfilment you should be experiencing........

  • 01 Oct 2018

    The Most Effective way to Treat Social Anxiety Disorder

    Social anxiety is a state that can affect people from all walks of life. Everyone has experienced a jangling of nerves before a big interview or date; this is normal. But when this sense of nervousness reaches such heightened levels it interferes with rational thought over a sustained period, it shi.....

  • 24 Jun 2016

    Psychodynamic psychotherapy for Low Self-Esteem

    From a psychodynamic perspective, the genesis of a person’s self-esteem is usually rooted in childhood experience. Several factors may contribute, from obvious criticisms or abuse from parents and bullying at school, to more subtle factors such as missing out on experiences that would build a sens.....