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What Is Self Esteem?

Written by Valentina Dragomir, Psychotherapist | Fact Checked | See our editorial process

We all know to some degree what self-esteem is. We have a certain image of what it means to have self-esteem and the fact that it is helpful, you can be more motivated, more focused on solutions and the trust that you can do things. But self esteem is not always the same throughout our life. It can vary and can produce certain effects on a personal, professional, relational level.

We will see below what self-esteem is, how many types of self-esteem there are, how self-esteem helps us and how we can protect it over time.

What is self-esteem?

In the dictionary “esteem” means respect, a feeling of appreciation and respect determined by the merits or qualities of someone or something, a respectful attitude. We can respect not only the other people, but also our own person.

Therefore, self-esteem means the appreciation and respect given to one’s own person according to qualities, merits or other relevant aspects from a subjective point of view. It is important to know that our esteem comes from appreciating facts about ourselves. Otherwise we do not actually have a high self-esteem, but merely a facade.

In psychology we call self-esteem as a personal and subjective evaluation of one’s own person, values, abilities and qualities. The more we see ourselves in a positive light, the higher our self-esteem will be. Conversely, if for various reasons we see ourselves in a negative light, then self-esteem drops. Thus, self-esteem can be influenced by the people we meet and the experiences we have, disease, genetic aspects, thoughts and beliefs about ourselves, feedback from others, comparisons, age and personality.

Important psychologists define self-esteem in general as a measure of how much a person values, appreciates, approves, or likes himself (1).

Your self-esteem is defined by four important components:

  • feeling of security: closely related to what you do and how you do it, new activities you try and the encouragement you receive from others to act without fear of criticism from others or fear of failure
  • identity: what you know about yourself, who you are, your roles, qualities, personality, abilities, needs, feelings and emotions
  • the feeling of belonging to different social, cultural, professional groups, the relationships and experiences you have with the people in these groups
  • the sense of competence: confidence in one’s own ability to do something

Self-esteem is not something we are born with. We learn it, and it is not constant throughout life. Sometimes it will grow based on our experiences and thoughts about ourselves, and sometimes it will drop. But it is important to know that you can do things to raise your self-esteem if you want to.

How many types of self-esteem there are?

Self-esteem can be of many kinds. Some classifications include two types: high self-esteem or low self-esteem. Other classifications add a third type, inflated self-esteem. Each of these types has important characteristics that we can track and change if we feel the need to. Of course, it is ideal to have a high self-esteem, it is the one that brings us the most fulfillment and benefits. So we would not want to change that.

High self-esteem is observed in those who are open, communicative, can receive constructive criticism, accept their mistakes and want to correct them, think as realistically as possible, do not take things personally, appreciate themselves, trust their own skills and are not afraid of failure, they love themselves.

Read the article I wrote about self-love. I have also included a journal with exercises that can help you grow your self-love and increase your self-esteem.

People who have low self-esteem tend to put others first, do not appreciate themselves, have a negative opinion of themselves, the world and others, feel insecure and have difficulty communicating openly. They often compare themselves to others, and this further lowers their self-esteem.

People who have an inflated self-esteem think they are superior to others, more special, maybe even perfect. They underestimate others, find it difficult to listen to or understand another person’s needs or opinions. They often brag and do not accept that they can make mistakes.

These characteristics of inflated self-esteem are descriptive of narcissism, which I briefly wrote about in the article on self-love I recommended above. I recommend you visit the article and look at the table where I compare self-esteem, self-love and narcissism.

What does it mean to have self-esteem?

To have self-esteem means that the evaluation of your own person is positive, it means you respect and appreciate yourself. Usually the expression “you have self-esteem” is associated with a high self-esteem, a positive self appreciation, while not having self-esteem means having a low self-esteem, or seeing oneself in a negative light.

In addition to the things above, the people who have high self-esteem have the following characteristics:

  • they feel confident and trusts themselves
  • can communicate assertively
  • can receive feedback (criticism)
  • can communicate their needs, desires without feeling guilty, ashamed
  • accepts their own positives and negatives
  • may want to grow as a person
  • thinks they are valuable as people
  • is able to set limits where appropriate, stopping any manipulation
  • sees themselves equal to others, neither above nor below
  • takes care of themselves and their own needs
  • respects their own person and others
  • have the courage to try new things
  • are confident that they can handle difficult situations
  • don’t take things very personally
  • loves themselves

How does your self-esteem influence your life?

Whether we like it or not, self-esteem can have an important impact on our lives on all levels. It can impact the quality of our life. If we have high self-esteem we will enjoy life more and we will perform at optimal levels, we will have good relationships both with ourselves and with others.

  • on a personal level high self-esteem brings a sense of well-being, comfort and acceptance, compassion, acceptance of differences and lack of comparison with others.
  • on a relational level we can have more satisfying relationships because we feel secure, open, able to listen, share and create harmonious relationships.
  • on a professional level we can go on an ascending plane, with confidence in our own skills and desire for learning, affirmation, growth.

How to have high self-esteem?

As I said, self-esteem varies throughout life depending on successes or failure, social circles and other experiences. However, there are many ways we can change the how we see ourselves in order to have a high self-esteem. Self-knowledge, acceptance and self-love help increase your self-esteem. You can try various methods on your own or with specialized help through a personal development plan or psychotherapy.

Personal development

Personal development helps and is very effective for increasing self-esteem. It is the process by which you begin to know yourself better and to develop certain skills and qualities. Thus self-esteem can change for the better.


Self-esteem can also be improved through psychotherapy because psychotherapy is a complex process that can touch topics essential to increasing self-esteem:

  • through psychotherapy, negative (limiting) core beliefs about oneself, the world and others are transformed for the better
  • can help improve one’s attitude towards oneself
  • it can help reduce negative self-criticism
  • the person can learn to have a correct appreciation of oneself
  • certain wounded parts can be healed

Let me know if you decide to improve your self-esteem. I invite you to make an appointment.

Know yourself

When you know who you are, it’s easier to trust yourself. Self-knowledge means exploring aspects of one’s person, from psychological qualities to physical aspects. Getting to know yourself is done both through personal development programs and psychotherapy.

Learn to accept yourself

Many people find it difficult or are afraid to accept their own positives. It is easier for them to accept the negative aspects and to criticize themselves than to appreciate what is good in their being. However, this is not fair towards themselves because why would you lean towards the negatives? A balanced attitude is better to have and it would mean accepting both the positives and the negatives alike.

We do not have only good parts or only bad parts. We have them both, and the integrating these aspects helps raise self-esteem and reducing perfectionism.

Try comparing yourself less

A quote from Roosevelt said that “comparison is the thief of joy”. I would say that comparison is the thief of self-esteem if we do not know how to turn the jealousy or envy (which are normal, natural emotions that we feel from comparing ourselves to other people) into something useful for us.

The secret is to accept our less perfect side, and if we still want to compare ourselves, at least learn something from the people we are comparing ourselves with.

Ideally, we should admire and compliment them, feel happy for them, root for them.


  • (1) Self-Esteem Is the Sense of Personal Worth and Competence That Persona Associate with Their Self – Concepts, IOSR Journal of Nursing and Health Science (IOSR-JNHS)
  • Healing Your Emotional Self: A Powerful Program to Help You Raise Your Self-Esteem, Quiet Your Inner Critic, and Overcome Your Shame by Beverly Engel
  • Emoțiile complexe de Ștefan Boncu
  • Self-esteem development from young adulthood to old age: A cohort-sequential longitudinal study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2010, Orth U, et al.

PsihoSensus Therapy uses only reputable resources, scientific articles and research, medical journals and magazines, books and other relevant and reliable documents written by known researchers and specialists in the field, for writing articles. Read our editorial and publishing policy and how we write our articles.

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