Self Esteem

What Is Self-Esteem?

Self-esteem can be hard to define. More than just feeling good about yourself, taking pride in your accomplishments or liking what you see in the mirror, self-esteem is concerned with the way we judge our own worth. Self-esteem as the "ability to look upon yourself as having value." We tend to look at the equation backwards. We think that how we look dictates our level of self-esteem when in fact it is our self-esteem – our ability to see ourselves as having value – that dictates how we react to the face in the mirror.

To understand self-esteem, it helps to break the term into two words. Let's take a look at the word esteem first. Esteem is a fancy word for thinking that someone or something is important or valuing that person or thing. For example, if you really admire your friend's dad because he volunteers at the fire department, it means you hold him in high esteem. And the special trophy for the most valuable player on a team is often called an esteemed trophy. This means the trophy stands for an important accomplishment.

And self means yourself! So when you put the two words together, it's easier to see what self-esteem is. It's how much you value yourself and how important you think you are. It's how you see yourself and how you feel about your achievements. Self-esteem isn't bragging about how great you are. It's more like quietly knowing that you're worth a lot (priceless, in fact!). It's not about thinking you're perfect - because nobody is - but knowing that you're worthy of being loved and accepted...

Why Self-Esteem Is Important

Self-esteem isn't like a cool pair of sneakers that you'd love to have but don't have to have. Everyone needs to have self-esteem. Good self-esteem is important because it helps you to hold your head high and feel proud of yourself and what you can do. It gives you the courage to try new things and the power to believe in yourself. It lets you respect yourself, even when you make mistakes. And when you respect yourself, others usually respect you, too.

Having good self-esteem is also the key to making good choices about your mind and body. If you think you're important, you'll be less likely to follow the crowd if your friends are doing something dumb or dangerous. If you have good self-esteem, you know that you're smart enough to make your own decisions. You value your safety, your feelings, your health - your whole self! Good self-esteem helps you know that every part of you is worth caring for and protecting.

How Kids Get Self-Esteem

When a baby is born, he doesn't see himself in a good way or a bad way. At first, only a baby's family might help him develop good self-esteem. They might encourage the baby when he tries to walk or praise him when he eats his cereal. They also care for him and help him when he needs it. These positive words and actions teach him to see himself as important and feel good about himself. Even though he's so young, he's already learning that he's valuable and lovable.

As a kid gets older, many other people come into his life who can help him develop his self-esteem, such as teachers, coaches, friends, teammates, and classmates. They can help him learn things and cheer him on. They can help him figure out how to do things for himself and notice his good qualities. They can believe in him and encourage him to try again when he doesn't do something right. These types of people and activities help kids develop good self-esteem - and become kids who see themselves in a positive way and feel proud of themselves and what they are able to do.

A Little on Low Self-Esteem

Maybe you know a person who has low self-esteem and doesn't think very highly of himself or seems to criticize himself too much. Or maybe you have low self-esteem and don't always feel very good about yourself or think you're important. Sometimes a child will have low self-esteem if his mother or father doesn't encourage him enough or if there is a lot of yelling at home. Other times, a person's self-esteem can be hurt in the office. A boss may make an employee feel dumb or perhaps there is a bully who says hurtful things. These are the people who intentionally or unintentionally instill this feeling of low-self esteem into others and dent others confidence. Watch out the enemy.

And there are some kids who have good self-esteem, but then something happens to change that. For example, if a kid moves and doesn't make friends at first in his new school, he might start to feel bad about himself if he thinks he won't ever make friends. A kid whose parents divorce also may find that this can affect his self-esteem. He may feel bad if he begins to think he's to blame or that he's unlovable. And if a kid feels he is too fat or too thin, his self-esteem may go down if he starts thinking that means he's not good enough. Even going through the body changes of puberty - something that everybody does - can affect a kid's self-esteem.

Low Self-Esteem and Depression

Low self-esteem does not necessarily lead to depression but studies have shown that the two often go hand in hand. In fact the World Health Organization (WHO) uses low self-worth in its description of depression. 1 Low self-esteem makes you your own worst enemy. Thoughts of "if only I were prettier, if only I was good at sports, if only I was funny or popular, if only I was strong enough to fix this" crowd out everything else. Even if we receive praise, the voices inside our own heads discount it. Like Julia Roberts said in Pretty Woman "the bad stuff is easier to believe."

Boosting Your Self-Esteem

Of course it's OK to have ups and downs in your feelings, but having low self-esteem isn't OK. Feeling like you're not important can make you sad and can keep you from trying new things. It can keep you from making friends or hurt how you do at school. Having strong self-esteem is also a very big part of growing up; as you get older and face tough decisions - especially under peer pressure - the more self-esteem you have, the better. It's important to know you're worth a lot.

If you think you might have low self-esteem, try talking to an adult you trust about it. He or she may be able to help you come up with some good ideas for building your self-esteem.

In the meantime, here are a few things that you can try to increase your self-esteem:

  • Remember that your body is your own, no matter what shape, size, or color it is. If you are worried about your weight or size, you can check with your doctor to make sure that things are OK.
  • Remember that there are things about yourself you can't change - such as skin color and shoe size - and you should accept and love these things because they are part of you.
  • Remind yourself of things about your body that are cool, like, "My legs are strong and I can skate really well."
  • When you hear negative comments in your head, mentally tell yourself to stop. The critical voice inside you will soon lose its power.
  • Give yourself three compliments every day. Don't just say, "I'm so great." Be specific about something good about yourself, like, "I was a good friend to Jill today" or "I did better on that test than I thought I would." While you're at it, before you go to bed every night, list three things in your day that really made you happy.
  • By focusing on the good things you do and all your great qualities, you learn to love and accept yourself, and that's the main ingredient for strong self-esteem. Even if you've got room for improvement (and who doesn't?), realizing that you're valuable and important helps your self-esteem to shine.

Too high self-esteem - the "I don't care"

It is a common problem we come across that most people relate self-esteem to unrelenting attitudes. They have a tendency to look down upon others, disregard others, speak in a manner that hurts the listener's self-esteem. It is more difficult to handle these people mainly because they tend to strongly justify their mistakes, tend to be aggressive when told about what is going wrong with them. They not only cause harm to others but also to themselves as it makes them over confident, build ego problems, loose opportunities as others tend to avoid them. They have little or no respect for other's needs and feelings. They are often found making unreasonable requests, one-sided agreements in favor of themselves and even demand, force or threaten others. People of too high self-esteem tend to loose their good will with others, get isolated, face humiliation, punishments, disciplinary actions and sometimes even counter actions like abuses and violence. They are usually understood as arrogant, don't-know-how-tos or even mad depending on the degree of their unwarranted sense of authority and quest for domination. Unless one realizes with-in oneself and resolves to change it remains a problem.


Things do not improve automatically and running way from the problem wasn't going to fix that. Recovering a sense of self worth takes more than a change of scene, it requires a change of perspective. It requires a resolution to gain self-esteem, and usually calls for some one's help. A parent, a spouse, a friend or any one close enough, or sometimes even a counselor. Their self-esteem will improve someone can encourage them, be patient, and help them get back on track with learning. When they start to do well, their self-esteem will skyrocket!


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