What is Self-Esteem?

Self-esteem is an individual’s sense of self-worth, a feeling of security and competence. In other words, it is how much someone approves of and likes themselves regardless of what people say, their failures, etc. It also means believing to be worthy of being loved.

For a long time, people could only find the word self-esteem in self-help books for individuals searching for greater well-being. But self-esteem (and its lack) has definitely been around for as long as humans exist, and it is only in recent years that society has finally acknowledged its importance. It has become a hot topic, and now it is a phenomenon that is widely discussed in the media.

Ranges of Self-Esteem

Healthy self-esteem is a balanced self-view that influences a person’s relationships, career motivation, and overall satisfaction with life very positively. Individuals with healthy self-esteem are aware of and accept their weaknesses and their strengths. Expectations they set for themselves and others are realistic. On the contrary, someone with low self-esteem is likely to tolerate abusive relationships, often feel unmotivated, afraid of failure, and depressed. Such an individual constantly doubts themselves and values others’ opinions and interests more than their own. They even have a hard time accepting compliments because they never feel good enough.

What about people with overly high self-esteem? Just like the lack of self-confidence, it is far from healthy. People who love themselves too much are often arrogant, manipulative, and unable to learn from their failures. They overlook their flaws while always criticizing others. Their sense of entitlement is off-putting. In many cases, overly high self-esteem borders on narcissism.

Signs of Overly High Self-Esteem

Here are some signs that reveal that an individual’s self-esteem is too high:

  • They think they are more skilled than they truly are;
  • They believe they have more control than they actually do;
  • They often make decisions that negatively affect themselves and others;
  • They often disrespect other people;
  • They think they are always right and above human error;
  • They often speak forcefully and loudly to attract attention and/or prove their point.

Can Too Much Self-Confidence Be Harmful?

Parents who want to boost their children’s self-esteem may excessively praise them. The same goes for adults - our family members, friends, or coworkers may sometimes shower us with compliments and admiration to lift us up when we feel down.

However, in some cases this may backfire, leading to too much self-confidence.

And while high self-esteem is what most people strive for, being overconfident is just about as bad as if your self-esteem was low. Multiple studies on self-esteem have shown that too much self-confidence may lead to negative consequences in an individual's professional, personal and social life. Overly self-confident people tend to overestimate their abilities, attributes, and skills; alienate friends by coming across as arrogant and believing to be better than others; be unable to accept criticism, even if it’s constructive. Some overconfident individuals engage in risky behaviors which may harm their health.

What Causes Low Self-Esteem?

People who, in their early years, experienced disapproval from important people in their lives - family members, siblings, and teachers, might develop low self-esteem. Personality can also play a part in this. Sadly, some individuals are just more inclined than others to have negative self-view and negative thinking in general.

Note that even people with healthy self-esteem have times when they lack confidence and don't feel good about themselves. However, healthy individuals are able to ignore negative messages about themselves some people try to send them, and go back to their normal level of self-esteem pretty quickly.


Unfortunately, it is not the case for individuals whose low self-esteem is a long-term problem that comes from their past. Be aware that in the long run, low self-esteem can have a harmful effect on a person’s everyday life and even their mental health.

Signs of Low Self-Esteem

If you notice that you or someone you know displays most of the behaviors outlined below, their self-esteem, most likely, is low:

  • Constant worry and self-doubt;
  • Issues expressing one’s needs/asking for help;
  • Negative self-talk;
  • Self-blame when something goes wrong;
  • Self-deprecating humor;
  • Fear of both failure and success;
  • Trouble setting boundaries;
  • People-pleasing;
  • Perfectionism;
  • Inability to accept disapproval or criticism;
  • Feeling inferior to others.

How Can I Boost My Self-Esteem?

If you want to raise your self-esteem, the first step is to identify negative core beliefs you have about yourself. If you often engage in negative self-talk, for example, you think to yourself that you're "too dumb" to apply for a more high-paying job, or that "nobody gives a damn" about you.

The next step is becoming aware, observing, labeling these negative thoughts, and writing them down.

Ask yourself when these thoughts started coming to your mind. Also, are those really your thoughts? Or did your parents/siblings/teachers instill these negative beliefs about yourself in you?

Also, try to find answers to important questions like: is this thought helpful? Does it benefit you in any way? If it does not, it is time to challenge these unwanted negative thoughts. You should explore alternatives that are more positive, realistic, and helpful.

Do not go from one extreme to another by replacing bad thoughts with overly positive ones. Your thoughts should be realistic - only in this case, they will be helpful to you. It won't be easy to switch to positive thinking at first. However, if you practice it consistently, over time, you will naturally start thinking more balanced and rational thoughts. Writing down positive things about yourself, for example, "I'm a good cook", "I am honest", "I'm trustworthy", etc., can be very helpful for improving your self-esteem, too. Remind yourself of your strengths whenever you're feeling low.

Also, remember to not strive for perfection too much. Know that you’re already doing the best you can at building your healthy self-esteem and becoming a better version of yourself everyday. This thought itself is also a great self-confidence booster.

What Are Some Signs of a Healthy Self-Esteem?

It is easy to spot a person who has no issues with their self-esteem. You can be sure someone has just the right dose of self-confidence if they display most or all of the following traits/behaviors:

  • No fear of feedback, conflict, failure;
  • Not a people pleaser;
  • Not an attention seeker;
  • Not a perfectionist;
  • Is good at decision-making;
  • Is great at setting boundaries;
  • Is naturally charismatic;
  • Is able to express their authentic opinions, truths, and needs;
  • Talks quietly;
  • Knows that self-acceptance is the key to well-being.

If you are unsure what level of self-esteem you have and want to determine it, we suggest you take the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale. This test was developed in 1965 by the American social psychologist and sociologist Dr. Morris Rosenberg. It is a widely used measure of self-esteem in psychology research. This reliable test will help you assess your self-confidence and start working on improving it, if necessary.