Signs of Healthy and Low Self-Esteem

We all know that self-esteem sometimes referred to as self-worth or self-respect, can be an important part of success. Too little self-esteem can leave people feeling defeated or depressed. It can also lead people to make bad choices, fall into destructive relationships, or fail to live up to their full potential. A grandiose sense of self-esteem, as exhibited in narcissistic personality disorder, can certainly be off-putting to others and can even damage personal relationships.

Self-esteem levels at the extreme high and low ends of the spectrum can be harmful, so ideally, it's best to strike a balance somewhere in the middle. A realistic yet positive view of yourself is generally considered the ideal. But what exactly is self-esteem? Where does it come from and what influence does it really have on our lives?

signs of health and low self-esteem
Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin

What Is Self-Esteem?

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.

  • Self-esteem is often seen as a personality trait, which means that it tends to be stable and enduring.
  • Self-esteem can involve a variety of beliefs about yourself, such as the appraisal of your own appearance, beliefs, emotions, and behaviors.

Why Self-Esteem Is Important

Self-esteem can play a significant role in your motivation and success throughout your life. Low self-esteem may hold you back from succeeding at school or work because you don't believe yourself to be capable of success.

By contrast, having a healthy self-esteem can help you achieve because you navigate life with a positive, assertive attitude and believe you can accomplish your goals.

Self-Esteem Theories

Many theorists have written on the dynamics involved in self-esteem. The need for self-esteem plays an important role in psychologist Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs, which depicts self-esteem as one of the basic human motivations. Maslow suggested that people need both esteem from other people as well as inner self-respect. Both of these needs must be fulfilled in order for an individual to grow as a person and achieve self-actualization.

It is important to note that self-esteem is a concept distinct from self-efficacy, which involves how well you believe you'll handle future actions, performance, or abilities.

Factors That Influence Self-Esteem

As you might imagine, there are different factors that can influence self-esteem. Genetic factors that help shape overall personality can play a role, but it is often our experiences that form the basis for overall self-esteem. Those who consistently receive overly critical or negative assessments from caregivers, family members, and friends, for example, will likely experience problems with low self-esteem.

Additionally, your inner thinking, age, any potential illnesses, disabilities, or physical limitations, and your job can affect your self-esteem. 

Signs of Healthy Self-Esteem

You probably have a good sense of who you are if you exhibit the following signs: 

  • Confidence
  • Ability to say no
  • Positive outlook
  • Ability to see overall strengths and weaknesses and accept them
  • Negative experiences don't impact overall perspective
  • Ability to express your needs

Signs of Low Self-Esteem

You may need to work on how you perceive yourself if you exhibit any of these signs of poor self-esteem: 

  • Negative outlook
  • Lack of confidence
  • Inability to express your needs
  • Focus on your weaknesses
  • Excessive feelings of shame, depression, or anxiety
  • Belief that others are better than you
  • Trouble accepting positive feedback
  • Intense fear of failure
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Article Sources

  1. Kunc, N. (1992). The need to belong: Rediscovering Maslow's hierarchy of needs. In R. A. Villa, J. S. Thousand, W. Stainback, & S. Stainback (Eds.), Restructuring for caring and effective education: An administrative guide to creating heterogeneous schools (pp. 25-39). Baltimore, MD, England: Paul H. Brookes Publishing.

    https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1992-97650-001

  2. Crocker, Jennifer & Major, Brenda (1989). Social stigma and self-esteem: The self-protective properties of stigma. _Psychological Review_ 96 (4):608-630. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-295X.96.4.608

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