How Going Back to School Online May Help Combat Low Self-Esteem

  • Most women have struggled with low self-esteem
  • There are ways to help build a healthy self-esteem
  • Going back to school is a good opportunity to build confidence and self-respect

What is self-esteem?

Simply put, self-esteem is the way you perceive yourself and how you feel about your abilities and accomplishments.

How "much" you value yourself and the degree to which you consider yourself important is influenced by the people in your life, the experiences you have had, as well as your own expectations.

Why is self-esteem so important?

Look in the mirror. What do you see?

A healthy self-esteem means that you have an accurate understanding of what your strengths, weaknesses, faults, and abilities are. A healthy self-esteem means that you have confidence in yourself and are able to deal with new situations in a positive way.

It also means that you are not narcissistic and do not see yourself as being better than others. Self-respect is part of a healthy self-esteem.

Pretend you are at the grocery store, and you enter a line for the cashier. Suddenly, someone cuts in front you in the line. Think about what you might do in this situation, and what you have done in a situation like this one.

Self-esteem plays a role in how we view ourselves. A healthy self-esteem means that you believe you are important enough to confront the person who has cut you off in the line. If you allow the other person to cut you off, and you are afraid of confrontation, this may indicate a low self-esteem.

A healthy self-esteem can help you grow and develop emotionally and intellectually. It means being able to defend yourself (like in the grocery line) and being assertive when necessary.

It's also important to be able to gauge when someone is mistreating you or when you're sacrificing too much of yourself for the benefit of others. Having a healthy self-esteem means that you are able to accept constructive criticism, as well as having the courage to voice your own opinions and thoughts to others.

How do I know if I have low self-esteem?

If you have low self-esteem, it simply means you believe you are less valuable, or less important, than others. These types of negative feelings can show themselves in a number of ways, like:

  • being too hard on yourself;
  • having constant feelings of guilt;
  • and acting defensively.

You might have some of the thoughts or behaviors listed below if you have low self-esteem.

  • There are certain tasks and challenges that you avoid. In fact, you won't even make an attempt of trying. You also avoid situations that are new or unfamiliar. (This type of behavior indicates that you might have a fear of failure, or experience a sense of helplessness.)
  • You find yourself making self-critical comments, or using negative, hopeless language such as "Why do you always do things like this? You are such an idiot. You're never going to learn this stuff."
  • When things don't go as planned, you make excuses for yourself. To avoid criticism, you blame others, or external forces that are not within your control. For example, an important document doesn't get mailed out in time for a big meeting. You immediately blame the printer for not working fast enough and the delivery person for not getting it there.
  • Others may find you to be controlling, bossy, or inflexible. (This type of behavior usually indicates that you are masking your fear of being inadequate, as well as feelings of frustration and powerlessness.)
  • You prefer not to participate in social events, or don't return phone calls. You avoid situations where you would interact with other people, and prefer to escape using fantasy (or other ways of evading reality).
  • You have difficulty accepting praise, gratitude, or compliments, and try to deflect them. "Oh, don't thank me. It was Jim's idea, originally."
  • It is very hard for you to accept criticism, and sometimes it devastates you.
  • You are constantly concerned and worried about what other people think of you.
  • You are easily affected by negative peer influences.

How can going back to school help improve my self-esteem?

Your self-esteem will be affected by your online courses. When you enroll at a school, college, or university, you are part of a large support system.

Your teachers, professors, enrollment counselor, advisor, financial aid counselor; they are all there to help you succeed. You will have to interact with classmates and tutors.

By having to continually interact with a number of individuals, you can practice meeting new people and navigating new or unfamiliar social situations.

By working on projects, essays, and presentations, your professors and classmates will be giving you constant feedback. Over time, you will learn how to give and receive honest, constructive criticism.

Also, by taking different types of classes, your different strengths and weaknesses will emerge. By focusing on the positive feedback, and learning from constructive criticism, you can develop a healthier self-esteem and self perception. Below are other ways in which your self-esteem can improve by being in school again.

  • You will have a sense of security, because you are now investing in your future. You are acknowledging that you are important, and that it is worth it for you to have an education. You deserve to have a fulfilling job and life!
  • Your school's community can help improve your sense of belonging. When you enroll, you are immediately part of the college. By being part of a group that is independent of close friends and family, you are not only expanding your network, but also actively helping reverse possible feelings of loneliness or rejection.
  • Various projects will help you develop your talents and abilities, as well as teach you about your weaknesses. By working on different things like essays, exams, and presentations, you can learn more about who you are, and develop a more accurate self-perception.
  • With each completed assignment and finished reading assignment, you will gain a stronger sense of personal pride and accomplishment. As you continue taking classes, your sense of competence and confidence will grow.
  • In the virtual classroom, you will eventually have to make an argument during discussion with your classmates. This will help you develop a level of assertiveness, and give strength to your voice. Over time, you will feel more at ease standing your ground, without the process being demeaning, painful, or uncomfortable.
  • Your improved sense of self, and growing confidence will impact your children, too. If you feel more fulfilled and better about yourself, it will show, and your kids will pick up on that good attitude right away!

Victoria Patrick is Content Manager for

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