Find a Provider

Self-Esteem in Older Adults

What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem is a term used to describe the way you feel about yourself. Changes in health, roles, activities, and lifestyle as you get older may affect your self-esteem. You may feel less important as you become more dependent on others. It may be harder for you to feel good about yourself.

How can I tell if I have good self-esteem?

If you agree with 5 or more of these statements, your self-esteem is good:

  • I do not feel I must always please other people.
  • I generally feel that I like myself.
  • I speak up for myself and feel I have rights.
  • I am happy most of the time.
  • I feel that my struggles are normal.
  • I do not need to prove that I am better than others.
  • I do not need constant validation or approval from others.
  • I make friends easily.
  • I feel good about myself without praise from others.
  • I feel pleased, rather than envious, when those I care about have success in life.

What kinds of things affect self-esteem?

You may have high self-esteem when you have accomplished some goals, like having a good marriage or having done well at a challenging job or in school. When you retire you have a lot more free time and you may feel you have nothing important to do. You may not have as much money. Your friends may have died or moved away. You may feel a loss of control. All of this can contribute to low self-esteem.

How can I increase my self-esteem?

There are many things you can do to help you feel better about yourself. Some of these are:

  • Take good care of your body. Eat well, be well groomed, get enough sleep, and get regular exercise. If you feel well physically, you will feel better emotionally.
  • Take your medicines as prescribed, and learn more about how to deal with any medical problems you have. Make sure you talk to your healthcare provider about any concerns you have about your health.
  • Take control of your time. Be as active as possible. Think about what it is that you do well and that you can share with someone else. Renew or build new interests and hobbies.
  • Take control of your relationships and your social life. Get active in a church, a social group, or a club. Find out what your local senior center has to offer.
  • Be assertive in social situations and at home. When you act as if you deserve good things, you will tend to value yourself more.
  • Make positive statements about yourself, such as, "I am a kind and caring person." Write them on cards and look at the cards several times a day no matter how you feel. This can remind you of the goals you have regarding your self-esteem.
  • If something goes wrong, be careful about blaming yourself. If you are responsible for a mistake, accept the responsibility, repair the error, and move on. You can make mistakes and still be a good person.
  • Volunteer to help others. This can give new purpose and meaning to your life. It helps you feel good about yourself.
  • Become aware of negative thoughts, such as saying to yourself, "I did that badly." Counter the negative statements with positive ones, such as, "That didn't turn out well, but I learned how to do it better next time."
  • Talk with others about possible causes of low self-esteem in your childhood. An accepting and trusted friend or a therapist can help you understand those experiences and put them in perspective. As you become aware of how your life experiences contributed to your low self-esteem, replace criticism with praise. Learn to be your "biggest fan."

If it is hard for you to have high self-esteem, no matter what you do, it may be a sign of depression. Depression is common in older adults and is very treatable. Depression is not a normal part of aging.

Warning signs for depression include:

  • sleeping too much or too little
  • decrease in appetite
  • losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • crying
  • feelings of hopelessness about the future.

If you think you may be depressed, ask for help from your healthcare provider.

Older adults who feel happy and in control of their lives often have higher self-esteem than young or middle-aged people. Good self-esteem will help keep you happy and healthy.

Disclaimer: This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information provided is intended to be informative and educational and is not a replacement for professional medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.

HIA File beha3032.htm Release 13/2010

© 2010 RelayHealth and/or its All rights reserved.