What is Self-esteem?

What is self-esteem

You are likely familiar with the word “self-esteem,” but do you really have a good working definition of what it means? Many folks don’t, and that’s completely normal. Understanding self-esteem—what it is, what it isn’t, and what drives it—can better equip us to build good self-esteem and live a happier life.

Self-esteem can best be described as the positive or negative evaluation of one’s own worth. This is subjective, meaning it’s open to wide interpretation (as opposed to objective, black and white). It can also be fluid, changing over time. This includes beliefs about oneself and how we feel about those beliefs.


“I am worthy” - positive self-esteem

“I am unloveable” - negative self-esteem

Self-esteem has a massive impact on so many areas of our lives, so it’s important to prioritize building positive self-esteem. It can impact educational outcomes, relationships, job performance, and pro-social behavior, to name a few. When we have poor self-esteem, we’re less likely to find success, happiness, and fulfillment in these areas. When we have positive self-esteem, things flow more easily for us, we have better relationships, and we’re more confident.

Specific vs. Global self-esteem

There are two different types of self-esteem: specific self-esteem, which can vary depending on task or situation (“I’m no good at social situations” or “I know I can change this tire”), and global self-esteem, which is an overarching sense of self-worth (“I am unlovable” or “I am worthy.”) Self-awareness in these different situations helps us to identify when we’ve built negative self-esteem around a situation or our overall sense of self. Once we can identify poor self-esteem, we can begin implementing tools to course correct and boost our self-image.