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Hello Idaho: Developing healthy self-esteem

“While past experiences may influence the way you feel and behave, they don’t have to be your destiny," says Optum Idaho's Dr. Dennis Woody.

BOISE, Idaho — Self-esteem is the confidence we hold in our own worth. Optum Idaho's Dr. Dennis Woody says practicing healthy self-esteem can improve your health and outlook across the board.

“With healthy self-esteem you’re capable of being assertive and expressing your needs and your opinions, you’re confident in your abilities, you’re able to form secure and honest relationships and less likely to get involved in unhealthy ones," Woody said. "Ultimately, it translates into more resilience and flexibility when you’re under stress.”

The seeds of developing self-esteem start early, he said, with how we are treated by our parents.

“The first folks who begin shaping our self-esteem are our parents or guardians or people who take care of us. That influences your thoughts, perceptions, the way you interpret things, and how other people might react to you," Woody said. "Your experiences at home, work, or school can also influence your self-esteem positively and negatively.”

But childhood experiences are not the only factor in how someone feels about themself, and even those who struggled growing up can overcome that environment, Woody added. 

“While past experiences may influence the way you feel and behave, they don’t have to be your destiny," he said. "If they’re not healthy, then working with someone to help reorient you, or in therapy perhaps getting support." 

Each person's own thoughts have the largest impact on their own self-esteem, and there are tools to help practice.

"If silently you’re repeating in your head that you are confident and you are able, over time that has a very positive sort of self-coaching influence," Woody said. "On the other side of that coin, is the same behavior with more negative attributes, and that can diminish your self-esteem.”

But developing a healthy level of self-confidence is different than constantly telling others how great you are, Woody said - and in fact, those who go around "blowing their own horn, bragging, or asserting themselves in inappropriate ways" are likely suffering from poor self-esteem, despite what they are saying. 

“When you have healthy self-esteem it does translate to a balanced and accurate view of yourself and your abilities in any situation. For instance, you have a good opinion of your abilities, but you also recognize your own limitations," he said. "And what’s really interesting and rewarding is that you can recognize the strengths in other people. You’re confident in yourself and you can see positive things in other folks.”

If you have a loved one that needs help, call the 24/7 Optum Member Access Crisis Line at 855-202-0973. They can also call the Idaho Careline at 211.

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