What is self-esteem? Why is it important?

Self-esteem: confidence in one’s own worth or abilities; self-respect.   ~ Oxford English Dictionaries

In short, self-esteem is how we perceive and value ourselves. People with high self-esteem feel:

  • confident
  • decisive
  • self-aware (they recognize their strengths and weaknesses)
  • likable
  • responsible
  • happy
  • loved (by self and others)

We all want to be well-liked and respected among family, friends, and/or co-workers. Above all else, we want to feel the same things about ourselves. Psychologists argue that the latter is a requisite of the former – and research backs up this hypothesis.

The truth is that without some degree of self-esteem, you are far more likely to present a less-than-worthy version of yourself. When you do this, you sell yourself (and society) short!

Having low self-esteem can have a negative impact on your ability to lead a happy, satisfying life.. These adverse effects include: developing anxiety and depression; failing to reach one’s potential; tolerating abusive situations and relationships, among others.

The Self-Esteem Framework


In the future, it will benefit us to understand the foundations of self-esteem or the self-esteem framework. The four pillars are:

  1. Achieving a sense of belonging: “The affiliation and satisfaction (that) people experience within groups contribute to feelings of security and support.”
  2. Developing a sense of personal power: “(People) who have a sense of power believe they have the ability to affect their own lives and the lives of others. Armed with this power, they are able to take charge and make changes.”
  3. Having and imitating positive role models: “(People) need standards to give direction and meaning to their lives. These standards are developed through experiences within the family and peer groups and with other people who are significant in their lives.”
  4. Recognizing and accepting one’s strengths: “Each person has special abilities and traits. These strengths make an individual unique.”

Understanding this framework is half the battle. You could stop reading now and, armed with this knowledge, immediately recognize and improve upon your self-worth. But we’re going to dig a bit deeper!

Boosting Self-Esteem: 7 Simple Changes

Here are seven ways you can work on increasing your self-love.

1. Connect With Those Who Love You

Make a conscious effort to spend more time with people who love you. Firstly, the world – as we all know – is not fair, and there is no shortage of people who try to bring you down.

Trusted family and friends will challenge negative self-perception. They’ll remind you of your strengths and give you a healthy dose of confidence!

2. Challenge Negative Self-Talk

The Stoic Philosopher, Seneca, once said: We suffer more in imagination that in reality.” It’s true, and we needn’t let our imagination get away with it.

It’s essential to be aware of and challenge negative ruminations. It’s well-known that the human brain has an innate negativity bias: we will pay more attention to the bad unless we intervene.

3. Keep a “Cookie Jar”

David Goggins, a world-class ultramarathon runner and Navy SEAL, grew up in the segregated south. As a black man, such an experience could have crushed Goggin’s will – it didn’t (see: Navy SEALs, ultra-marathon running).

Goggins began keeping a “cookie jar” – pieces of paper reminding him of his accomplishments. When he started thinking negative thoughts, he’d reach inside the jar and pull out a ‘cookie.’

“Positive self-talk made the biggest difference,” Goggins says.


4. Learn to be Assertive

This one is quite simple: stand up for yourself. Forget about trying to please someone who only wants to take advantage.

To boost your assertiveness and confidence, try the following:

  • Learn to say “no”: There’s nothing wrong with assuming you do so with honesty and politeness.
  • Establish boundaries: Guard your personal space and limit how much you’re willing to do for others.
  • Take back control: If you feel that your decisions are out of your control, it’s time to nip this in the bud. Take back your control, and you take back your life!

5. Practice Self-Care

If you have low self-esteem, it can be hard to find the motivation to care for your mental and physical well-being. It’s essential to recognize that self-worth and self-care are two peas in a pod.

Exercise, stress management, proper diet, and quality sleep are the big four of self-care. While the specifics of each are beyond the scope of this article, here are some quick tips:

  • Get thirty minutes of exercise daily (taking the stairs, a brisk walk, or a yoga session all count!)
  • Eat a balanced diet of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. Eliminate or cut back on sugar and drink plenty of water!
  • Aim for six to eight hours of quality sleep per night. (Keep the phone and TV off!)
  • Consider taking up mindfulness meditation to help manage recurring stressors.

6. Set a Goal

Notice the letter “a” in that sentence. Having goals is great; the problem is that taking on too much at once quickly leads to overwhelm.

Instead, give yourself one challenge to accomplish every once in a while. Make sure the goal is SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound!


7. Get Some Support

Life, as we all know, can be downright overwhelming. The truth is that we all need help at some point. No one goes through this journey alone; nor should they.

Final Thoughts on Increasing Your Self-Esteem

So whether it’s some form of therapy, mindfulness meditation, or other means, don’t be afraid to get help. Get some good-hearted people in your corner!