What Self Esteem Is And Why It Is So Important

Everything you need to know about self esteem

Written by Maryam Saleh

Maryam Saleh is a final year nursing student in Ahmadu Bello University, who is based in Zaria. She believes in helping others and putting a smile on their faces. She has a passion in writing to make awareness, spread the word and clear misconceptions and doubts especially about health. Her goals are to prevent illness, promote health and spreading knowledge. She likes spending most of her time readind, volunteering, sleeping and watching TV.

September 24, 2020

Self esteem is a basic human need that Abraham Maslow included in his hierarchy of human needs. He described two different forms of esteem; the need for respect from others in the form of recognition, success, and admiration, and the need for self-respect in the form of self-love, self-confidence, skill, or aptitude. According to Maslow, without the fulfillment of self-esteem needs, individuals will be driven to seek it and unable to grow.

People with healthy self-esteem like themselves and value their achievements, while everyone lacks confidence occasionally, people with low self-esteem feel unhappy or unsatisfied with themselves most of the time. This can be remedied but it takes attention and daily practice to boost self-esteem.

What is Self Esteem?

It encompasses beliefs about oneself (for example, “I am loved”, “I am worthy”) as well as emotional stats, such as despair, pride, and shame. It is also the positive or negative evaluations(perception) of the self, as in how we feel about it.

In psychology, the term self esteem is used to describe a person’s overall sense of self worth or personal value. In other words, how much you appreciate and like yourself. It involves a variety of beliefs about you, such as an appraisal of your appearance, beliefs, emotions, and behaviors.

Development of Self Esteem across Lifespans

Experiences in a person’s life are a major source of how self esteem develops. In the early years of a child’s life, parents have a significant influence on self worth and can be considered the main source of positive and negative experiences a child will have. Although, unconditional love from parents helps a child develop a stable sense of being cared for and respected. However, these feelings translate effects on self esteem as the child grows older.

Read: What Every Parent Needs To Know About Child Psychology

Childhood experiences that contribute to healthy self worth include being listened to, being spoken to respectfully, receiving appropriate attention and affection, and having accomplishments recognized and mistakes or failures acknowledged and accepted. Experiences that contribute to low self worth include being harshly criticized, being physically, sexually, or emotionally abused, being ignored, ridiculed or teased, or being expected to be “perfect” all the time.

Social experiences are another important contributor to self esteem. As children go through school, they begin to understand and recognize differences between themselves and their classmates. Using social comparisons, children assess whether they did better or worse than classmates in different activities. However, these comparisons play an important role in shaping the child’s self esteem and influence the positive or negative feelings they have about themselves.

As children go through adolescence, peer influence becomes much more important, they make appraisals of themselves based on their relationships with close friends. Successful relationships among friends are very important to the development of high self worth for children. However, social acceptance brings about confidence and produces high self worth, whereas rejection from peers and loneliness brings about self doubts and produces low self worth.

Adolescence shows an increase in self worth that continues to increase in young adulthood and middle age, whereas a decrease is seen from middle age to old age with varying findings on whether it is a small or large decrease. Reasons could be because of differences in health, cognitive ability, and socioeconomic status in old age. Thus, no differences have been found between males and females in their development of self esteem.

However, there are various factors that influence self worth like inner thinking, age, any potential illness, disabilities, or physical limitations and job. Although genetic factors that help shape a person’s personality can play a role, it is often our experiences that form the basis for overall self esteem.

Types of Self Esteem

There are three types of self esteem. However, this does not mean that we can label ourselves with one single type of self esteem. Rather, we know that sometimes we feel more exuberant and other times more depressive. It all depends on what is happening in our lives. But you can know which type predominates in you. They are:

1. Inflated Self Esteem

People in this category think they are better than others and have no doubts about underestimating everyone else. This is very negative self esteem, as it holds them back from establishing affectionate and healthy relationships.

Their competitiveness is always present and they always want to come out on top. For these people, happiness is found in achieving success, but the reality of the matter is that they do not attain happiness with this attitude.

Furthermore, people with inflated self worth are characterized by their inability to listen to others and to critique themselves. They are not capable of correcting their own errors and, as such, they are constantly blaming others.

Also, it is very difficult for them to establish healthy relationships with others because they always see everyone as competition hence, adopting hostile behaviors towards them.

2. High Self Esteem

People in this category accept and value themselves. It is self worth that is known to be positive, as it manages to make the person satisfied with their life. This does not imply that there will not be barriers or walls to be scaled, but the confidence in oneself and the courage to face any problems that may arise make everything much easier.

Persons of high self worth are not driven to make themselves superior to others; they do not seek to prove their value by measuring themselves against a comparative standard. Their joy is being who they are, not in being better than someone else. Believing in yourself and trusting in who you are is what characterizes people this type of self esteem.

However, this does not make them arrogant, they just have the security necessary to avoid letting negative circumstances and events throe them off balance.

3. Low Self Esteem

People with low self esteem are the opposite of those with high self worth. They do not value themselves, they do not trust in their possibilities, and the insecurity that they may be feeling is carried over into almost every situation. Fear of failure is something that torments them and holds people with low self esteem back; they are the model of unhappy people, depressive and frequently have a feeling of shame.

Related: The Feeling of Insecurity and How To Avoid it

People with low self worth have moments of euphoria when everything is going right for them, but when things start to go bad, their self esteem drops rapidly. They are sensitive people who are easily influenced and who tend to show their opinion, but without defending it.

However, there are some people who have low self worth that is not unstable; rather their problem is indecision. They have little trust in themselves, they undervalue themselves, and they have such a great fear of messing up that they constantly believe that they do not measure up to the circumstances.

Importance of Self Esteem

Self worth plays a significant role in motivation, success, and achievement throughout life. By contrast, a healthy (high) self esteem helps you achieve because you navigate life with a positive, assertive attitude and believe you can accomplish your goals. While low self esteem holds you back from succeeding in life because you don’t believe yourself to be capable of success.

Self worth heavily influences people’s choices and decisions by making people explore their full potential. It allows people to face life with more confidence, benevolence, and optimism and thus easily reach their goals.

It makes people convinced they deserve happiness. However understanding this is the development of positive self esteem increases the capacity to treat other people with respect, benevolence and goodwill, thus favoring rich interpersonal relationships and avoiding destructive ones. Therefore, people with high self esteem are more forgiving than people with low self esteem.

Other than increased happiness, higher self esteem is also known to correlate with a better ability to cope with stress and a higher likeliness of taking on difficult tasks relative to those with low self esteem.

How to Improve your Self Esteem

Now that you know all about it and how important it is, here are 10 tips to help improve your self esteem.

1. Be Nice to Yourself

That little voice that tells you “you’re killing it (or not)” is way more powerful than you might think. Make an effort to be kind to yourself and if you do slip up, try to challenge any negative thoughts.

A good rule is to speak to yourself as you speak to your mates. This can be hard at first, but practice makes perfect.

2. You Be You

Comparing yourself to other people is a sure way to start feeling crappy. Try to focus on your own goals and achievements, rather than measuring them against someone else’s. Nobody needs that kind of pressure.

3. Get Moving

Exercise is a great way to increase motivation. Also, practice setting goals, and build confidence. Breaking a sweat also cues the body to release endorphins; the feel-good hormones.

4. Nobody’s Perfect

Always strive to be the best version of you but it’s also important to accept that perfection is an unrealistic goal. Remember that everyone makes mistakes. You’ve got to make mistakes in order to learn and grow, so try not to blame yourself for every single thing. Everyone’s been there.

5. Focus on What You Can Change

It’s easy to get hung up on all the things that are out of control, but it won’t achieve much. Instead, try to focus your energy on identifying the things that are within your control and seeing what you can do about them. Don’t dwell in the past, face the present you can change that.

6. Do What Makes You Happy

If you spend time doing the things you enjoy, you’re likely to think positively. Try to schedule in a little you-time every day. Have fun. Whether it is cooking, reading or whatever. If it makes you happy, have time for it.

Read Also: How To Live a Happy Life

7. Celebrate the Small Wins

You got up on time this morning, tick. Appreciate the small wins, it is still winning. Celebrating small victories is a great way to build confidence and start feeling better about yourself. Don’t stress yourself about the loss.

8. Be a Pal

Being helpful and considerate to other people will certainly boost their mood, but it’ll also make you feel pretty good about yourself.

9. Surround Yourself With a Supportive Squad

Be with people who support you, make you feel good, keep you being positive. Avoid those who tend to trigger your negative thinking.

10. Read Books on Self Esteem

You can also read books help you improve your self esteem. I recommend Six Pillars of Self Esteem by Nathaniel Branden. It is a life changer. It made me regain my self esteem and worth in one of my most difficult times.

Read: Why You Should Read Books


In summary, self worth is your opinion of yourself and your abilities. It can be high, low, or inflated. While everyone occasionally has doubts about themselves. Low self esteem leaves you feeling worthless, depressive, unmotivated, and insecure. High self esteem on the other leaves you feeling loved, accomplished, confident, and successful while inflated leaves you feeling superior, competitive, and hostile.

Experiences are the major developers of self esteem; although, there are other factors that influence it. Either way, there are ways to boost your self worth to positive type if it is negative. Having positive self worth makes you live a healthy, confident, happy, and successful life.

Lastly, be positive.

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