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Emotional health explained: Exploring self beliefs

The seven assets of emotional health, individually written in a hexagon shape. All together they form a flower pattern
The seven assets of emotional health

This blog is part of a series exploring the seven assets of emotional health.

Self beliefs make up one of the seven components of our emotional health, and refer to the collection of beliefs we hold about ourselves, including our self-esteem, self-worth, perceptions of how we actually are and view of our ideal self.

So what are emotionally healthy self-beliefs?

1. We’re able to accept ourselves, even when things are difficult

While the individual beliefs we hold about ourselves will be challenged and moulded through our daily experiences, an emotionally healthy individual will be able to recognise that they have value and worth as a person, regardless of their current circumstances.

For example, although ending a relationship may cause us to question specific beliefs about ourselves, alongside this, we can still appreciate that we’re valuable as a person and loveable by others. We’re also able to value ourselves without needing to compare and feel superior to others in order to feel validated.

2. The beliefs we hold about ourselves are tolerable

Self-acceptance does not mean that we have to think that we’re perfect. It is emotionally healthy to be able to view ourselves simply as human, with areas of strength and areas for growth, such as recognising that “art isn’t one of my strengths”. Nonetheless, the beliefs we hold about ourselves will ideally feel tolerable and not cause emotional discomfort.

The famous psychologist, Carl Rogers, believed that individuals are only able to achieve their full potential when their view of who they actually are matches closely with their ‘ideal self’. In this way, if there is a large discrepancy between our perceptions of our actual self, and who we think we ‘should’ be, or would like to be, this can have an adverse impact on our mental health and wellbeing. One of the reasons why social media can contribute to poor self beliefs is that it can promote unrealistic expectations of our ‘ideal self’ and what we ‘should’ be like.

3. We’re able to display an ‘authentic self’

Finally, we should have an ‘authentic self’, where we’re able to act in accordance with our true ideals and wishes. If we cannot accept ourselves for who we are, or we perceive that others will only accept us if we are a certain way, we may display a ‘false self’. Research shows that displaying a false self in order to gain approval is associated with lower self-worth and increased symptoms of depression.

Having an authentic self also means that we’re able to consider challenges to our self beliefs without distorting our experiences. For instance, if we fail an exam, we’re open minded to consider a range of possible explanations (e.g. “Maybe I didn’t do enough revision”), rather than immediately accepting it as a fixed character flaw (e.g. “I’m stupid”), or employing a defence (e.g. “the examiner wasn’t a fair marker”).

Jessica Tanner, Research Lead

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