Having High Self-Esteem Is Essential to Good Health
by Dr. David Lipschitz
Do you feel good about yourself? Do you compare yourself favorably to others? If you answered "no," your health could be at risk.
A large study by the MacArthur Foundation found that high self-esteem is a powerful predictor of health and longevity. If you don't feel good about yourself today, you likely will not fare as well as someone who has high self-worth and a positive attitude.
People with high self-esteem are confident of success, feel loved and are content with themselves and their lives (and not coincidentally, they usually have a good body image).
Conversely, people with low self-esteem often have a negative self-image, find themselves unattractive, lack confidence and could be described as shy. A poor self-image relates negative thoughts about yourself -- always feeling like a failure or unlovable.
But the picture of a person with low self-esteem varies greatly. Not always the classic "shrinking violet," people with low self-esteem are often workaholics and highly competitive. Underneath a strong exterior, a person with low self-esteem is extremely critical of himself.
Low self-esteem often contributes to dysfunctional relationships and destructive behaviors. In extreme cases, people with low self-esteem do not take care of themselves, have few friends and are often alone.
Research shows that an individual's self-esteem is largely determined during childhood. Children who are loved and supported by their families often have high self-esteem. On the other hand, children who are criticized, neglected or abused by their loved ones often exhibit low self-esteem later in life. Children also are affected by the school environment -- doing poorly in class or being taunted and bullied by classmates.
Of course, self-esteem is affected throughout one's life. As an adult, self-esteem can be damaged severely by a bad relationship, a difficult work environment and being physically or emotionally abused. Loss of trust can be particularly damaging.
In any form, low self-esteem can have a major impact on your health. In addition to affecting how you age, it leads to stress and increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and cancer.
Low self-esteem can be associated with nutritional disorders including morbid obesity, anorexia nervosa and bulimia. It is also an important cause of depression and fatigue. It is associated with a much higher risk of suicide and addictive behaviors including alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling, compulsive spending and promiscuity. Low self-esteem also may be the root cause of criminal behavior including burglary, violent crime, sexual assault and white-collar crime.
Many psychiatrists and behavioral specialists believe that low self-esteem has all the hallmarks of a life-threatening disease. It is similar to depression, anxiety and heart disease -- all conditions that an individual cannot control necessarily.
Just like many behavioral disorders, low self-esteem has causes, symptoms and signs, a natural history and serious consequences that could prove fatal. It is imminently treatable, and positive treatment can greatly affect the quantity and quality of life.
Low self-esteem is not a narrow issue. It can affect individuals across the spectrum, regardless of age, ethnicity, sex or socioeconomic status. If you think you have low self-esteem, consider a screening test to gauge your situation. There are numerous screening tests for low self-esteem available on the Internet. A good site is www.queendom.com.
If you feel this is a problem for you, there are many tools for improving self-esteem. First, become empowered to improve your self-image. Make sure your needs are met, and actively look for the good in you and in others. Learn to reward yourself for a job well done, and work on eradicating negativity.
Avoid destructive relationships, and build trust with those around you. Finally, learn to recognize and understand the destructive nature of bad habits. This takes a great deal of work and can be a lifelong struggle. A good site to get started is at www.GetReadyForLove.com.
How you feel about yourself affects every aspect of your life. Never be disheartened, look on the bright side and be empowered to help yourself live a healthier, happier life.