Day-to-day challenges can have a detrimental effect on our physical and emotional wellbeing, but people with good support systems are less negatively affected. In general, self-esteem helps us to deal with the negative effects of day-to-day stress.
Coping effectively with life's problems and failures requires realistic expectations. Psychologists call these expectations and judgements 'appraisals'. Life events (such as traffic jams or the boss's gruff voice) are not a problem unless we appraise them as such. Life is never perfect and, to some degree, hassles and problems are a part of normal everyday life. If our appraisals are realistic, we tend to be better able to react to day-to-day life events with a sense of proportion.
The appraisals we make are a product of our belief system. If we hold unrealistic, inflexible beliefs then our appraisals may not be the most appropriate for the situation.
Irrational beliefs often include “shoulds and musts” with an emphasis on perfection: “I must be liked by everyone” and “I must be competent and perfect all the time” are all irrational beliefs. They are difficult - if not impossible - to achieve.
So, can you put an alternative interpretation in the place of an irrational judgement? Suppose someone treats you rudely. You may be tempted to think that that person is horrible, or 'everyone dislikes me'. An alternative interpretation could be: 'I wonder what's happening with that person for them to behave so rudely?' We have the choice how to frame our perceptions.
In addition to these 'primary appraisals', it's important to develop 'secondary appraisals' when we ask ourselves afterwards if there's anything we can do about a life event we have appraised as stressful.
If we feel helpless to change things, or incompetent when facing challenges, then we are less likely to come up with a suitable coping response.
Psychologists have theorised that people have different levels of 'self-efficacy', which is the confident belief that the responses we make to life challenges have a meaningful effect. People with strong self-efficacy face problems with energy and a 'try, try, try again' spirit.
Yet, how does this quality develop, and why do some people appear to have a higher level of self-efficacy than others?
Self-efficacy comes from life experiences and from people who serve as significant models. It's built up over the years by responding to challenges with action, flexibility and persistence.
Research suggests that we can increase the self-efficacy we bring to bear on our experiences in several ways:
Making constructive use of the network of people around you is a coping skill often forgotten by people under pressure. Are there people you can count on to listen to you when you need to talk? Can you speak to them frankly, without worrying about what you say? And are there people in your life you can count on to support you in major decisions?
Studies have shown that people with a good support system are more successful at overcoming depression, maintaining self-esteem and overcoming loneliness.
There is also some evidence that people who have a good support system are likely to have fewer health complaints. The mere task of building your own support system is a coping skill, because it requires personal effort.
Being proactive - instead of reactive (passively waiting for things to get better) - gives us an increased feeling of competence and self-esteem.
Personally, I think there are certain days when we feel more confident than others. I do anyway!