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What is Self-Esteem?

It has become conventional wisdom that people with high self-esteem are set to succeed in life. It’s one of those inevitable things that you might have dealt with at least once in your life, possibly through tough personal experiences or from lessons in school.

Indeed, you will need to have a high level of self-assurance and confidence to get through the hardships that you have to experience to achieve your ultimate goals in life: be it with your relationships or your career. This is why motivational phrases often go along the lines of “Believe in Yourself” or “Be Proud of Yourself” – because your level of self-esteem can literally make or break your biggest life decisions.

You might also know some people who exhibit signs of low self-esteem: the lack of social skills, self-neglect, pessimism. Fortunately, it’s never too late for anyone to work on their self-esteem and understanding how it works is the first step to improving it.

Defining Self-Esteem

Psychology Today defines self-esteem simply as one’s self-judgement. It can be differentiated into two types: the “trait” self-esteem, which is person’s inherent level of self-esteem, and the “state” self-esteem, which is dependent on the relative success or failure of a relevant or personal goal (James, W., 1980).

Self-esteem can also be defined as one’s subjective evaluation of his or her own value – a measure of how confident a person is of what they can achieve with their own capabilities. It is considered as a major component to a person’s mental health and stability.

What Makes a Person’s Self-Esteem?

You might’ve noticed some people in your life who seem like they were born with high self-esteem. While its not entirely false that a person’s level of self-esteem is genetically influenced, there are dozens of factors that can define how a person developed their level of self-esteem.

  1. Genetic Disposition

Although the concept is still widely debated, many scientists believe that a part of a person’s development is influenced by their environment, while the other half is predetermined by their genes. While genes do not directly predetermine someone’s personality, people can inherit chromosomes that are linked to traits like agoraphobia, social anxiety, differences in blood flow and other conditions that contribute to an inherently low self-esteem.self esteem Know your abilities

  1. Childhood Upbringing

A person’s childhood is the most crucial time in the development of their personality, and that includes their self-esteem. The behavior of family, peers, and the events that happen in this period all influence how the child will see himself and the world once they reach adulthood.

For instance, a child that came from a shaky household is more likely to suffer from a low sense of self worth than a child coming from a stable and reassuring family. Bullying done by their peers is also detrimental to a child’s self-confidence, and you can notice this in adults who have experienced bullying during their formative years.

It is healthy to feel good about you, but self love like narcissism is a curse as much as low self-esteem can be. When children are raised in negative or abusive homes or homes where families don’t communicate well, low self-esteem can develop and lead to other mental health issues such as:

If your self-regard is evaluated on the way others perceive you and you already perceive yourself negatively you will only see the negative and ignore any positives.


  1. Society

The pressures of conforming to society’s ideals can greatly lower one’s self-esteem, especially if a person is insecure with their individuality. We are constantly surrounded by mediums such as television, magazines, and social media, which are all highly influential among impressionable people – and this influence is powerful enough for people to follow whatever they see that is “trendy” or “cool”.


The fear of social rejection is the number one reason why people constantly strive to achieve these projected societal ideals. This constant quest to conform and be accepted by their peers is a major stressor that leads to low self-esteem.


  1. Beliefs

Some religions or beliefs systems have teachings that purposefully devalues a person’s self-worth, such as preaching that a person is inherently bad or sinful, and that they must do certain things for repentance. Meanwhile, some religions create a positive impact on an individual’s self-esteem by instilling a sense of purpose and belonging.

  1. Health

A person’s overall physical and mental health is a major factor in how secure they feel about themselves. Being in tune with your body, mind, and spirit helps give an extra confidence boost when dealing with the stresses of your daily life. Meanwhile, a body and soul that isn’t maintained well will reflect through the individual’s sense of self-worth.

What does low self-esteem look like in the real world?

Depression is a powerful symptom, both physically and emotionally. We may have weight issues, whether obesity or anorexia. Sometimes we feel a lack of control in our lives, so we try to control the one thing we can, and that is what we put into our bodies. If we are told as children that we are unattractive or too heavy, we may become even heavier. Conversely, if we are always told what to do and when to do it, we may lean toward anorexia to show we can control something others can’t. We tend to isolate ourselves to avoid confronting those negative feelings as much as possible.

In some cases a person may develop anxiety disorders that reflect that fear of the negative. Anxiety disorders symptoms include among many other symptoms:

  • unreasonable fears
  • difficulty breathing,
  • uncontrollable shaking,
  • and sense of panic.

Of course, not all individuals show any outward signs of low self esteem. They may live a life that feels perfectly normal to them. If they drink alcohol or use other substances, they may not recognize that something is not right about the amounts they consume or realize that their thinking processes are exaggerated, leading them to more potential problems. Indeed, they may elect to drink alone rather than in public places so that others cannot see them out of control.

Assessing Levels of Self-Esteem

If you’re curious as to how you fare in the self-esteem department, psychologists have formulated plenty of ways that can help you define how high or low is your level of self-esteem. Take note, however, that these assessment tools are flawed, and results should not be taken as the absolute truth. It’s highly recommended that you take multiple tests to compare between results and use them as tools for self-improvement.

(If you feel that your low self-esteem is debilitating, it is highly recommended that you consult a psychologist for a professional assessment.)

  1. The Rosenberg Scale

The Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale is one of the most widely-used measures of self-esteem, thanks to its simplicity as compared to other scales. It contains 10 items that a respondent will answer on a scale from 1 (Strongly Agree) to 4 (Strongly Disagree), with some of the items being reverse-scored. Higher scores indicate low self-esteem, and vice versa.

The Rosenberg scale is considered highly reliable and consistent, which is why it has become the most cited scale for measuring self-esteem. The 10 items used for this scale are:

  1. On the whole, I am satisfied with myself.
    At times I think I am no good at all.
    3. I feel that I have a number of good qualities.
    4. I am able to do things as well as most other people.
    5. I feel I do not have much to be proud of.
    6. I certainly feel useless at times.
    7. I feel that I’m a person of worth.
    8. I wish I could have more respect for myself.
    9. All in all, I am inclined to think that I am a failure.
    10. I take a positive attitude toward myself.
  2. The Coppersmith Self-Esteem Inventory

The Coppersmith Self-Esteem Inventory is the second most widely used measure of self-esteem. It contains 50 items that the respondent has to associate with given phrases such as “like me” or “not like me”, according to what best represents their feeling about the given sentence.

Enhancing Your Self-Esteem

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Improving your self-esteem takes a lot of work and dedication, as you’ll need to willingly get out of your comfort zone. Aside from taking special classes, you can begin by switching up a few things in your life – be it through your mindset, habits, and daily routine:

  1. Exercise regularly.
  2. Wake up early.
  3. Do what makes you happy.
  4. Let go of little mistakes, everybody makes them.
  5. Surround yourself with supportive people.
  6. Be less critical of yourself.

Although self-esteem is important in sustaining a good level of mental health, it’s perfectly natural if you feel insecure every now and then. A high self-esteem won’t solve all your problems and breeze you through life’s struggles. In fact, there is such a thing as a self-esteem that’s TOO high!

But self-esteem will definitely help you stay strong through the countless challenges you will face in life. Sometimes, self-esteem is even built through these hardships. It’s a long process, but achieving the right level of self-esteem is never impossible!


Self esteem and confidence

A person with a healthy self esteem has the confidence to seek what they want without causing another person to feel unworthy. Confidence is really what a healthy self esteem looks and feel like. Confidence is often a quiet thing that is sensed by others. When you enter a room others will feel the presence of confidence and actually gravitate toward the confident person. When we note that a person is rather friendly and personable, it the sense of confidence to which we are attracted. Standing tall and delivering a grand smile is confidence. Allowing a person to cut in line is confidence. Sharing a table in a restaurant with a lone diner is confidence. Buying a stranger’s coffee is confidence. It may be hard to smile at first and risk being seen, but in time that recognition will look and feel right to you because you really do have a lovely smile.

Quotes About Self Esteem

Low self-esteem is like driving through life with your hand-break on. Maxwell Maltz

Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one. Eleanor Roosevelt You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection. Buddha 

Self-care is never a selfish act—it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others. You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens. Louise Hay

People who want the most approval get the least and the people who need approval the least get the most. Wayne Dyer

Most fears of rejection rest on the desire for approval from other people. Don’t base your self-esteem on their opinions. Harvey Mackay

There is overwhelming evidence that the higher the level of self-esteem, the more likely one will be to treat others with respect, kindness, and generosity. Nathaniel Branden

Altruism raises your mood because it raises your self-esteem, which increases happiness. Plus, giving to others gets you outside of yourself and distracts you from your problems. Karen Salmansohn

Self-esteem is made up primarily of two things: feeling lovable and feeling capable. Lovable means I feel people want to be with me. They invite me to parties; they affirm I have the qualities necessary to be included. Feeling capable is knowing that I can produce a result. It’s knowing I can handle anything that life hands me. Jack Canfield

Self Esteem and how Self Awareness can help

Being self-aware means you have a keen understanding of your personality, which includes your vulnerabilities and strengths, your beliefs and thoughts, your incentives, and your feelings. Read More
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