What is Self-Esteem?

Self-esteem is the level of self-worth people attribute to themselves.  It can be either positive (high) or negative (low). It is based on a person’s perception of their own value in terms of personality, intelligence, creativity, physical appearance, sportsmanship, or social status.  Having high self-esteem is different from being arrogant or conceited or considering others to be of low value.


People with high self-esteem value themselves, their work and their contributions to their professional field as well as to their family and community.  They feel that others appreciate their relationships. They are more likely to have healthy boundaries aligned with their values and to be assertive.  They feel that they deserve respect from others. They are less likely to become depressed and engage in self-destructive behaviors.


People with low self-esteem do not value themselves. They feel unimportant, insignificant.  They may prioritize pleasing others over their own well-being in order to be accepted. Thus low self-esteem often leads to poor boundaries, depression, and self-destructive behaviors including staying in unhealthy relationships.


Some possible causes for low-self esteem:

  • Loneliness
  • Lack of supportive relationships
  • Abuse or neglect
  • Low academic achievement
  • Low job satisfaction
  • Unemployment
  • Poor body image


Self-esteem is not constant and can fluctuate with life experience. A person with high self-esteem may suffer from lowered self-esteem after a failure while a person with low self esteem may enjoy a higher sense of self-worth in the presence of success. Self-esteem can be improved.


Ten Ways to Improve Self Esteem:

  1. Positive self-talk: If you tell yourself you are no good, you may start believing it even if it is not true. Notice what you do well, or what you like about yourself.
  2. Avoid comparing yourself to others: Figure out your own strengths rather than compare yourself to others. Beware of social media as people tend to post things that show them in a flattering light, which does not always show the whole picture.
  3. Don’t strive for perfection: Nobody is perfect. Life is not perfect. Perfectionism leads to procrastination.
  4. Don’t be too hard on yourself when you make a mistake: you are human; humans make mistakes. Learn from your mistakes and move on.
  5. Focus on the things you can change: know the difference between what you can control and what is out of your hands.
  6. Do things you enjoy and/or things you are good at: enjoyable activities lift your mood and promote positive thinking; if you excel at something, your self-esteem goes up.
  7. Notice every success even the small stuff: Every step is a small victory that can help you feel better about yourself. We tend to focus on the negative. Instead, celebrate your victories.
  8. Exercise: Exercise is good for your body and mind. You will have more energy, sleep better, and be more positive if you exercise and fresh air is good for you.
  9. Surround yourself with supportive people: hang out with people who make you feel good about yourself not with those who criticize you or invalidate you.
  10. Be helpful and considerate to others: you may find that being helpful or making someone smile makes you feel better about yourself.