Self-esteem is a person’s sense of his/her own self and value. It can be both a positive and a negative evaluation of oneself and it encompasses their beliefs, emotions, and life outcomes.
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What Is Self-esteem?
In psychology, “self-esteem” (SE) refers to a person’s sense of self-worth, personal value, and how they perceive themselves. In psychology, “self-esteem” (SE) refers to a person’s sense of self-worth, personal value, and how they perceive themselves. Our thoughts, attitudes, mindset, personality, experiences, and relationships often influence our self-esteem. It typically refers to our general opinion about own selves and is associated with how we feel about strengths and weaknesses. A person with healthy self-esteem is not easily swayed by others’ opinions and believes they are deserving of respect. Individuals with low self esteem tend to believe they are not good enough and doubt their own beliefs.
One 2020 study 1 defines it as “the positivity of the person’s self-evaluation [that] influences the development of important life outcomes, such as satisfaction in relationships, education, job success, and mental and physical health.” It is often used synonymously as self-worth, self-regard, self-respect, and self-integrity.
Self-esteem popularly stands for the way we view ourselves in relation to others and the world. Consequently, it shapes our beliefs, thoughts, emotions, and value systems. Healthy self-esteem is a desirable trait that makes us better and happier human beings; conversely, poor self-esteem negatively impacts our quality of life, making us vulnerable to stagnation and undesirable life outcomes like mental disorders, financial hardships, unsuccessful relationships, etc.
Nonetheless, the way we develop or maintain our self-esteem is a long and complex process. It starts in childhood, plunges during the adolescent years, ascends to adulthood, and fluctuates throughout the course of our lives. According to circumstances, we experience its highs and lows. But a strong self-belief and a stable value system make us resilient even during difficult times. If not, self-esteem can be gained back by the dedication and hard work through a number of self-help strategies, therapy, and so forth.
Read More About Therapy Here
What Is The Importance Of Healthy Self-esteem?
The American Psychological Association (APA) states that self-esteem is an important parcel of our physical and mental wellbeing. Indeed, knowing your worth and understanding why self-esteem is important makes you secure and confident about your abilities. Because of high self-assurance, you are open to new experiences and learning and developing meaningful relationships. Because of its personal and professional benefits, experts globally view self-esteem as a desirable personality trait associated with positive health and life outcomes.
In fact, with healthy self-esteem, you can be:
- Self-sufficient 2 and independent
- Assertive in your thoughts and actions
- Confident in your identity, skills, and abilities
- Realistic in your goals and expectations
- Open to new challenges
- Better resilient in setbacks and changing circumstances
- Experiencing secure and honest relationships
- Personally and professionally successful
What Are The Factors That Affect Self-esteem?
The development of a person’s self-esteem follows a long trajectory, starting in childhood and fluctuating and developing over the course of his/her life. It is usually influenced by a number of factors, involving the person’s:
- Identity and interpersonal security 3
- Personality traits
- Ideologies and outlook
- Feelings of self-competence and adequacy
- Sense of social belongingness
- Life experiences
- Learned behavior from family, role models, etc.
- Age and sex
- Illness, disability, or injury
- Status and role in society
- Cultural notions and media influence
Read More About Genetics Here
What Are The Types Of Self-esteem?
The process of developing self-esteem is a long one and it tends to fluctuate over time, depending on your circumstances and developmental experiences. Experts view self-esteem as a spectrum and it is normal to experience shifting and varying estimates of yourself as you course through life. However, according to one 2003 study 4, self-esteem most often stays in a range that reflects the overall estimate of your “self-meaning, self-identity, self-image, and self-concepts”. It increases slightly with age and experience.
Popularly, there are three types of self-esteem, including:
1. Inflated Self-esteem
People with this negative type of self-esteem often have an unrealistic and “inflated” sense of self. They think that they are better than others and underestimate everyone else. People with excessive self-esteem are characteristical:
- Arrogant and narcissistic
- Volatile to criticism
- Hostile towards others
- Afraid of rejection and failure
- Prone to bragging to hide their mistakes, incompetence, and flaws
- Unable to develop healthy and meaningful relationships
Read More About Narcissism Here
2. High Self Esteem
High self esteem is usually a positive form of self-esteem in which people tend to have confidence and acceptance in themselves. Such people are usually linked to:
- Psychological resilience
- High motivation and dedication
- Openness to corrective criticism
- Readiness to accept a new challenge
- Willingness to admit mistakes and incompetencies
- Readiness to learn new things
- Peaceful conflict resolution
- Healthy self-love 5
- Enhanced mental health
- Prosocial behavior, like empathy, generosity, leadership, etc.
Read More About Empathy Here
3. Low Self Esteem
The opposite of high self esteem, low self esteem has dire consequences on personal and professional lives. Research 6 links low self esteem to negative and stressful life experiences like abusive experiences, childhood trauma, grief, poverty, etc. Low self esteem symptoms usually involve:
- Feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, and incompetence
- Lack of confidence
- Absence of self-worth
- Fear of rejection and failure
- Frequent need for validation
- Social withdrawal
- Proneness to mental disorders 7, substance abuse, etc.
How Do You Build Self-esteem?
Healthy self-esteem is an essential marker of a happy and fulfilling life. Conversely, low self esteem is associated with poor mental health and negative life outcomes like vulnerability to mental disorders, behavioral addictions (like alcoholism and drug addiction), disrupted careers, and unsuccessful social relationships. Therefore, there is all the more reason to take care of your self-esteem and bolster it from time to time.
Consider the following tips for improving your self esteem:
1. Identify Yourself
Reflect on yourself and prepare an honest estimate of your ideas, strengths, and weaknesses. Specifically look for instances of exalted self-esteem, negative self-talk, and healthy self-assurance. Write down your observations so that you gain a sense of clarity about yourself and your situation.
2. Acknowledge The “positive” And The “negative” Aspects
Realistic self-esteem depends on how honestly a person identifies oneself and acknowledges the positive and negative aspects of his/her personality. As human beings, our personalities comprise the dualistic and antagonistic opposites of good and bad and it is only fair that we understand their role in our lives.
Besides preparing a list of the “positive” and “negative” aspects of yourself, develop a positive internal dialogue. Revisit the list time and again to remind yourself of the things that make you proud and feel good about yourself. When it comes to the negative aspects of life, challenge the inaccurate or false notions and damaging habits. Look for ways to prevent yourself from falling back on old and negative life patterns.
3. Improve Yourself
Look for ways to boost your self-esteem. Value the person you are and make the effort to better yourself. As you grow, take steps to leave behind negative life patterns that undesirably impact your life.
4. Build Positive Relationships
Try to build relationships that are uplifting, and fulfilling, and make you feel better than the others. Spend time with people who make you happy. Learn to accept and give compliments. Avoid negative people and relationships that drag you down.
5. Set Realistic Expectations And Goals For Yourself
Replace your negative thoughts with positive, constructive statements. Set goals and expectations that are realistic and fulfilling. Don’t be too hard on yourself, as building up self-esteem takes time. Be patient throughout the process and approach yourself with empathy, understanding, and encouragement.
6. Develop A Value System
Based on your thoughts, beliefs, and circumstances—develop a strong value system. Have firm faith in your values and practice them frequently. This not only boosts your self-esteem but also gives you a strong sense of identity and confidence.
7. Be Open To Change And Challenges
Identify negative thoughts and situations that impact your self-esteem, like a crisis at work or a change in roles or a challenging situation involving a spouse. Work towards bettering the circumstances through understanding and peaceful conflict resolution so that all the parties involved can move forward healthily.
8. Focus On Your Physical And Mental Wellness
Possessing good mental and physical health boosts your self-esteem. In fact, research frequently attributes low self esteem as both a cause and a marker of serious mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, eating disorders, etc. So, in order to enjoy healthy self-esteem, maintain your well-being with the necessary requisites, such as a balanced diet, good sleep hygiene, physical activity, enjoyable hobbies, etc.
9. Avail Therapy
You can also avail yourself of certain therapies that help you identify and correct your negativity and guide you on how to improve self-esteem, including:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
- Group therapy
Read More About Group Therapy Here
Self-esteem virtually affects every facet of our lives. Therefore, maintaining a healthy and realistic view of ourselves, our purpose, and our goals is of utmost need to lead a fulfilling life.
Self-Esteem At A Glance
- Self-esteem is a person’s sense of his/her own self and value.
- It shapes our views, beliefs, and emotions.
- It is influenced by a number of factors, like identity, ideas, skill sets, social status, age, etc.
- It has three major types: inflated, high, and low self esteem.
- Healthy self-esteem is usually associated with personal and professional successes, as well as mental health.
- Self-esteem can be improved through self-help strategies and therapy.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Is low self esteem a mental health problem?
Low self esteem is not an actual mental health problem, but it is one of the causal factors of mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, eating disorders, etc.
2. What is it like to have low self esteem?
People who have low self esteem often feel unloved, incompetent, and inadequate. They are constantly afraid of making mistakes or disappointing people.
3. What are self-esteem examples?
People with high self esteem have certain distinguishable characteristics that set them apart from people with low self esteem. High self esteem makes people acknowledge mistakes, be open to criticism, be comfortable with compliments, and resolve conflicts peacefully.
4. Can we help boost self-esteem issues with therapy and counseling?
People with low self esteem can benefit from therapy and counseling. A therapist can help such people recognize negative self-talk and develop life skills that improve self-esteem. However, boosting self-esteem is a long process that requires a lot of patience and determination.
5. What can cause low self-esteem?
Low self esteem often stems from experiences of abusive relationships, childhood abuse, and trauma, chronic illness, grief, poverty, disabilities, etc.
- Pazzaglia, F., Moè, A., Cipolletta, S., Chia, M., Galozzi, P., Masiero, S., & Punzi, L. (2020). Multiple Dimensions of Self-Esteem and Their Relationship with Health in Adolescence. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(8), 2616. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17082616 [↩]
- Hajloo N. (2014). Relationships between self-efficacy, self-esteem and procrastination in undergraduate psychology students. Iranian journal of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, 8(3), 42–49. [↩]
- Baumeister, R.E., Tice, D.M. (1986). Four Selves, Two Motives, and a Substitute Process Self-Regulation Model. In: Baumeister, R.F. (eds) Public Self and Private Self. Springer Series in Social Psychology. Springer, New York, NY. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4613-9564-5_3 [↩]
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- Auttama, N., Seangpraw, K., Ong-Artborirak, P., & Tonchoy, P. (2021). Factors Associated with Self-Esteem, Resilience, Mental Health, and Psychological Self-Care Among University Students in Northern Thailand. Journal of multidisciplinary healthcare, 14, 1213–1221. https://doi.org/10.2147/JMDH.S308076 [↩]
- Juth, V., Smyth, J. M., & Santuzzi, A. M. (2008). How Do You Feel?: Self-esteem Predicts effect, Stress, Social Interaction, and Symptom Severity during Daily Life in Patients with Chronic Illness. Journal of Health Psychology, 13(7), 884–894. https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105308095062 [↩]
- Nguyen, D. T., Wright, E. P., Dedding, C., Pham, T. T., & Bunders, J. (2019). Low Self-Esteem and Its Association With Anxiety, Depression, and Suicidal Ideation in Vietnamese Secondary School Students: A Cross-Sectional Study. Frontiers in psychiatry, 10, 698. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00698 [↩]