What Are the Signs of Healthy or Low Self-Esteem? (2023)

Self-esteem is your subjective sense of overall personal worth or value. Similar to self-respect, it describes your level of confidence in your abilities and attributes.

Having healthy self-esteem can influence your motivation, your mental well-being, and your overall quality of life. However, having self-esteem that is either too high or too low can be problematic. Better understanding what your unique level of self-esteem is can help you strike a balance that is just right for you.

Key elements of self-esteem include:

  • Self-confidence
  • Feelings of security
  • Identity
  • Sense of belonging
  • Feeling of competence

Other terms often used interchangeably with self-esteem include self-worth, self-regard, and self-respect.

Self-esteem tends to be lowest in childhood and increases during adolescence, as well as adulthood, eventually reaching a fairly stable and enduring level. This makes self-esteem similar to the stability of personality traits over time.

How to Embrace Self-Acceptance

Why Self-Esteem Is Important

Self-esteem impacts your decision-making process, your relationships, your emotional health, and your overall well-being. It also influences motivation, as people with a healthy, positive view of themselves understand their potential and may feel inspired to take on new challenges.

Four key characteristics of healthy self-esteem are:

  1. A firm understanding of one's skills
  2. The ability to maintain healthy relationships with others as a result of having a healthy relationship with oneself
  3. Realistic and appropriate personal expectations
  4. An understanding of one's needs and the ability to express those needs

People with low self-esteem tend to feel less sure of their abilities and may doubt their decision-making process. They may not feel motivated to try novel things because they don’t believe they can reach their goals. Those with low self-esteem may have issues with relationships and expressing their needs. They may also experience low levels of confidence and feel unlovable and unworthy.

People with overly high self-esteem may overestimate their skills and may feel entitled to succeed, even without the abilities to back up their belief in themselves. They may struggle with relationship issues and block themselves from self-improvement because they are so fixated on seeing themselves as perfect.


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This video has been medically reviewed by Rachel Goldman, PhD, FTOS.

Theories of Self-Esteem

Many theorists have written about the dynamics involved in the development of self-esteem. The concept of self-esteem plays an important role in psychologist Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs, which depicts esteem as one of the basic human motivations.

Maslow suggested that individuals need both appreciation from other people and inner self-respect to build esteem. Both of these needs must be fulfilled in order for an individual to grow as a person and reach 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 Affect Self-Esteem

There are many factors that can influence self-esteem. Your self-esteem may be impacted by:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Genetics
  • Illness
  • Physical abilities
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Thought patterns

Racism and discrimination have also been shown to have negative effects on self-esteem. Additionally, genetic factors that help shape a person's personality can play a role, but life experiences are thought to be the most important factor.

It is often our experiences that form the basis for overall self-esteem. For example, low self-esteem might be caused by overly critical or negative assessments from family and friends. Those who experience what Carl Rogers referred to as unconditional positive regard will be more likely to have healthy self-esteem.

Healthy Self-Esteem

There are some simple ways to tell if you have healthy self-esteem. You probably have healthy self-esteem if you:

  • Avoid dwelling on past negative experiences
  • Believe you are equal to everyone else, no better and no worse
  • Express your needs
  • Feel confident
  • Have a positive outlook on life
  • Say no when you want to
  • See your overall strengths and weaknesses and accept them

Having healthy self-esteem can help motivate you to reach your goals, because you are able to navigate life knowing that you are capable of accomplishing what you set your mind to. Additionally, when you have healthy self-esteem, you are able to set appropriate boundaries in relationships and maintain a healthy relationship with yourself and others.

Low Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem may manifest in a variety of ways. If you have low self-esteem:

  • You may believe that others are better than you.
  • You may find expressing your needs difficult.
  • You may focus on your weaknesses.
  • You may frequently experience fear, self-doubt, and worry.
  • You may have a negative outlook on life and feel a lack of control.
  • You may have an intense fear of failure.
  • You may have trouble accepting positive feedback.
  • You may have trouble saying no and setting boundaries.
  • You may put other people's needs before your own.
  • You may struggle with confidence.

Low self-esteem has the potential to lead to a variety of mental health disorders, including anxiety disorders and depressive disorders. You may also find it difficult to pursue your goals and maintain healthy relationships. Having low self-esteem can seriously impact your quality of life and increases your risk for experiencing suicidal thoughts.

Excessive Self-Esteem

Overly high self-esteem is often mislabeled as narcissism, however there are some distinct traits that differentiate these terms. Individuals with narcissistic traits may appear to have high self-esteem, but their self-esteem may be high or low and is unstable, constantly shifting depending on the given situation. Those with excessive self-esteem:

  • May be preoccupied with being perfect
  • May focus on always being right
  • May believe they cannot fail
  • May believe they are more skilled or better than others
  • May express grandiose ideas
  • May grossly overestimate their skills and abilities

When self-esteem is too high, it can result in relationship problems, difficulty with social situations, and an inability to accept criticism.

How to Improve Self-Esteem

Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to address problems with your perceptions of yourself and faith in your abilities. How do you build self-esteem? Some actions that you can take to help improve your self-esteem include:

  • Become more aware of negative thoughts. Learn to identify the distorted thoughts that are impacting your self-worth.
  • Challenge negative thinking patterns. When you find yourself engaging in negative thinking, try countering those thoughts with more realistic and/or positive ones.
  • Use positive self-talk. Practice reciting positive affirmations to yourself.
  • Practice self-compassion. Practice forgiving yourself for past mistakes and move forward by accepting all parts of yourself.

Low self-esteem can contribute to or be a symptom of mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression. Consider speaking with a doctor or therapist about available treatment options, which may include psychotherapy (in-person or online), medications, or a combination of both.

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A Word From Verywell

Though some of the causes of low self-esteem can’t be changed, such as genetic factors, early childhood experiences, and personality traits, there are steps you can take to feel more secure and valued. Remember that no one person is less worthy than the next. Keeping this in mind may help you maintain a healthy sense of self-esteem.

Get Advice From The Verywell Mind Podcast

Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares strategies that can help youlearn to truly believe in yourself, featuring IT Cosmetics founder Jamie Kern Lima.

What Are the Signs of Healthy or Low Self-Esteem? (1)

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7 Sources

Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Trzesniewski KH, Donnellan MB, Robins RW. Stability of self-esteem across the life span.J Pers Soc Psychol. 2003;84(1):205-220.

  2. von Soest T, Wagner J, Hansen T, Gerstorf D. Self-esteem across the second half of life: The role of socioeconomic status, physical health, social relationships, and personality factors.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2018;114(6):945-958. doi:10.1037/pspp0000123

  3. Johnson AJ. Examining associations between racism, internalized shame, and self-esteem among African Americans. Cogent Psychology. 2020;7(1):1757857. doi:10.1080/23311908.2020.1757857

  4. Gabriel AS, Erickson RJ, Diefendorff JM, Krantz D. When does feeling in control benefit well-being? The boundary conditions of identity commitment and self-esteem.Journal of Vocational Behavior. 2020;119:103415. doi:10.1016/j.jvb.2020.103415

  5. Nguyen DT, Wright EP, Dedding C, Pham TT, Bunders J. Low self-esteem and its association with anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation in Vietnamese secondary school students: A cross-sectional study.Front Psychiatry. 2019;10:698. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00698

  6. Brummelman E, Thomaes S, Sedikides C. Separating narcissism from self-esteem.Curr Dir Psychol Sci. 2016;25(1):8-13. doi:10.1177/0963721415619737

  7. Cascio CN, O’Donnell MB, Tinney FJ, Lieberman MD, Taylor SE, Stretcher VJ, et. al. Self-affirmation activates brain systems associated with self-related processing and reward and is reinforced by future orientation. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. 2016;11(4):621-629. doi:10.1093/scan/nsv136

Additional Reading

  • Maslow AH. Motivation and Personality. 3rd ed. New York: Harper & Row; 1987.

What Are the Signs of Healthy or Low Self-Esteem? (2)

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd
Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

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What Are the Signs of Healthy or Low Self-Esteem? ›

When we have healthy self-esteem, we tend to feel positive about ourselves and about life in general. It makes us better able to deal with life's ups and downs. When our self-esteem is low, we tend to see ourselves and our life in a more negative and critical light.

What are the five 5 signs of low self-esteem? ›

Signs of low self-esteem include:
  • saying negative things and being critical about yourself.
  • joking about yourself in a negative way.
  • focusing on your negatives and ignoring your achievements.
  • blaming yourself when things go wrong.
  • thinking other people are better than you.
  • thinking you don't deserve to have fun.

What is healthy vs low self-esteem? ›

When we have healthy self-esteem, we tend to feel positive about ourselves and about life in general. It makes us better able to deal with life's ups and downs. When our self-esteem is low, we tend to see ourselves and our life in a more negative and critical light.

What is unhealthy self-esteem? ›

What is Low Self-Esteem? Low self-esteem is when someone lacks confidence about who they are and what they can do. They often feel incompetent, unloved, or inadequate. People who struggle with low self-esteem are consistently afraid about making mistakes or letting other people down.

What are 3 dangers of low self-esteem? ›

Consequences of Low Self-Esteem

create anxiety, stress, loneliness, and increased likelihood of depression. cause problems with friendships and romantic relationships. seriously impair academic and job performance. lead to increased vulnerability to drug and alcohol abuse.

What are 3 signs of healthy self-esteem? ›

Signs of healthy self-esteem:
  • Assertive in expressing needs and opinions.
  • Confident in ability to make decisions.
  • Able to form secure and honest relationships, and discontinue unhealthy ones.
  • Realistic in expectations; not overcritical of self or others.
  • More resilient; better able to endure stress and setbacks.

What triggers low self-esteem? ›

Some of the many causes of low self-esteem may include: Unhappy childhood where parents (or other significant people such as teachers) were extremely critical. Poor academic performance in school resulting in a lack of confidence. Ongoing stressful life event such as relationship breakdown or financial trouble.

What is low self-esteem of looks? ›

If you have experienced a change in appearance later in life, you may have developed low self-esteem because of the visible difference or disfigurement. It may have affected your sense of identity – perhaps you feel like you don't recognise yourself or that you don't know who you are anymore.

Can low self-esteem be a good thing? ›

Humility: Your low self-confidence inclines you to avoid being perceived as arrogant. As a result, people are more likely to be nice to you and you have a keen ability to feel compassion and empathy for others.

What is the healthiest level of self-esteem one can have? ›

In conclusion, a balanced, accurate level of self-esteem is seen as the healthiest for the self.

What does low confidence look like? ›

When someone has low self-esteem, they're often pessimistic and critical of everything. They take these negative feelings out on people who are close to them and have a hard time being positive about anything. This pessimism stems from a feeling of not having control over one's future and life success.

What are the 10 things to boost your self-esteem? ›

Only try what you feel comfortable with.
  • Be kind to yourself.
  • Try to recognise positives.
  • Build a support network.
  • Try talking therapy.
  • Set yourself a challenge.
  • Look after yourself.

What are signs of high self-esteem? ›

Possible Signs of High Self-Esteem
  • Inviting intimacy. I'm not talking about sex. ...
  • Actively seeking work you enjoy. ...
  • Valuing honesty in self and others. ...
  • Accepting responsibility for the quality of your life. ...
  • Caring about your physical health. ...
  • Liking children. ...
  • Avoiding self-destructive behaviors. ...
  • Taking calculated risks.
May 5, 2016

Does low self-esteem make you toxic? ›

It can even turn you into a toxic person. If you're suffering from low self-esteem, it's important to recognize the situation you're in and all the ramifications associated with it.

What are 2 consequences of low self-esteem? ›

What effect can low self-esteem have on your health? Having bad feelings about yourself can lead to an increase in anxiety and depression. This can cause self-isolation and poor quality of life. It may also increase the risk of self-harming behaviors such as cutting, substance misuse, and suicide.

Is low self-esteem a mental illness? ›

Low self-esteem isn't a mental health problem in itself. But mental health and self-esteem can be closely linked. Some of the signs of low self-esteem can be signs of a mental health problem. This is especially if they last for a long time or affect your daily life.

How do you check self-esteem? ›

Psycom: Low Self-Esteem Test
  1. Do you place little value on your work or your own thoughts? ...
  2. Do you focus heavily on your weaknesses or shortcomings? ...
  3. Are you quick to dismiss your skills or accomplishments? ...
  4. Do you frequently compare yourself with others? ...
  5. Do you reject or struggle to accept positive feedback from others?
Nov 27, 2017

What is the best therapy for low self-esteem? ›

Research studies have shown that Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective treatments for low self-esteem.

How do you build self-esteem and confidence? ›

How can I build my confidence and self-esteem?
  1. Be kind to yourself add. Recognise and challenge your unkind thoughts. ...
  2. Look after yourself add. ...
  3. Focus on the positives add. ...
  4. Spend time with people add. ...
  5. Learn to assert yourself add. ...
  6. Do things you enjoy add. ...
  7. Act confident when you don't feel it add. ...
  8. Try something new add.

How do I love myself? ›

13 Steps to Achieving Total Self-Love
  1. Stop comparing yourself to others. ...
  2. Don't worry about others' opinions. ...
  3. Allow yourself to make mistakes. ...
  4. Remember your value doesn't lie in how your body looks. ...
  5. Don't be afraid to let go of toxic people. ...
  6. Process your fears. ...
  7. Trust yourself to make good decisions for yourself.

Does low self-esteem mean insecure? ›

Low or Superficial Self-Esteem

One sign of insecurity is low self-esteem or negative self-image, particularly when that image seems to be inconsistent with external observation. Low self-esteem means you think badly about yourself or your abilities. It can lead to other problems, especially concerning mental health.

What is low self-esteem weakness? ›

Low self esteem means that you don't believe in yourself. Often you compare yourself to other people, and find that you 'don't measure up', which is discouraging. You tend to focus on your weaknesses, and don't focus on your strengths. Your glass is always “half empty”.

Why is there beauty in low self-esteem? ›

People with low self-esteem may try to improve their appearance because they believe that physical beauty will equate to popularity, success, and happiness.

What are the 5 ways to boost your confidence? ›

Here are our top five tips to build confidence:
  • Practise self-care. Self-confidence and self-care are often closely linked. ...
  • Build positive relationships. Those who are negative and try to bring you down can often drain your confidence. ...
  • Work on a growth mindset. ...
  • Challenge yourself. ...
  • Practise self-affirmations.
May 18, 2022

What are 7 ways to improve your self-esteem? ›

By: Judy Zellner, LPCC
  • Stop comparing yourself to others. ...
  • Stop belittling yourself. ...
  • Use positive self-affirmations to build our self-esteem. ...
  • Surround yourself with positive, supportive people. ...
  • Dwell on your positive qualities. ...
  • Give back. ...
  • Pay attention to self-care.
May 27, 2022

Why do people with low self-esteem hurt others? ›

Low self-esteem ignites envy. When those with these issues enter your presence, they can feel awkward and out of kilter. Envy of others is a complex issue. People who don't feel so great about themselves don't necessarily know they are jealous of you.

What age has the lowest self-esteem? ›

Studies have shown that self-esteem reaches a peak in one's 50s or 60s, and then sharply drops in old age (4–7). This is a characteristic change, so it is important to reveal about when self-esteem peaks across the life span.

What are the characteristics of a person with a healthy self-esteem? ›

Four key characteristics of healthy self-esteem are: A firm understanding of one's skills. The ability to maintain healthy relationships with others as a result of having a healthy relationship with oneself. Realistic and appropriate personal expectations.

Is low self-esteem a red flag? ›

Low self-esteem.

If your friend has low self esteem – especially when their partner is the one often at the root of their insecurity, that's a huge red flag. Abusers will often try to put down their victims. This can be through mocking the victim, calling the victim names, or twisting the truth.

What is quiet confidence personality? ›

Quietly confident people have accepted their strengths and weaknesses and know they're okay. So they don't feel the need for comparisons to boost their self-esteem. An acceptance of mistakes. Taking responsibility for mistakes and admitting them to others is a sign of someone who is comfortable with their self-worth.

What are 3 ways to develop high self-esteem? ›

8 tactics to improve your self-esteem
  • Write out a list of things you admire about yourself. ...
  • Stop being a people pleaser. ...
  • Step outside your comfort zone. ...
  • Stop comparing yourself to others. ...
  • Forgive yourself for your past thoughts. ...
  • Set boundaries in your relationships. ...
  • Celebrate your wins. ...
  • Let go of negative people.
Mar 30, 2022

What activities boost self-esteem? ›

Schiraldi (2016), author of The Self-Esteem Workbook, there are some simple steps you can take to help build your self-esteem:
  • Practice mindfulness.
  • Change your story.
  • Don't compare yourself to others.
  • Channel that inner rock star.
  • Move your body more.
  • Volunteer.
  • Practice forgiveness.
Jan 30, 2020

What age do you have the highest self-esteem? ›

Studies have shown that self-esteem reaches a peak in one's 50s or 60s, and then sharply drops in old age (4–7). This is a characteristic change, so it is important to reveal about when self-esteem peaks across the life span.

What is a weak sense of self? ›

A weak or unclear sense of self is problematic, associated with personality disorders and other psychiatric conditions, insecure attachment, difficulty with personal and professional relationships, and personal development hitches.

What is the dark side to high self-esteem? ›

Inflated, unstable, or tentative beliefs in the self's superi- ority may be most prone to encountering threats and hence to causing violence. The mediating process may involve directing anger outward as a way of avoiding a downward revision of the self- concept.

How does a person with low self-esteem behave in a relationship? ›

Low self-esteem can give rise to jealousy and insecurity in a relationship. You may question your worthiness to your partner, and believe it is a fluke they like you. As such, it is normal for people with low self-esteem to expect their partner may be attracted to someone else or fear they will leave the relationship.

What are three effects of high self-esteem? ›

Their findings show that people with high self-esteem generally have more success at school and work, better social relationships, improved mental and physical health, and less anti-social behavior. And, these benefits persist from adolescence to adulthood and into old age.

Is low self-esteem narcissistic? ›

It's long been established that there are two types of narcissists: "vulnerable" ones, who have low self-esteem and crave affirmation, and "grandiose" ones, who have a genuinely overinflated sense of self.

What are the long term effects of low self-esteem? ›

Unchecked, low self-esteem may even lead to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, sometimes with tragic results. With Bezzy for Depression, you're never alone. If you're living with Depression, join others who understand what you're going through.

Is low self-esteem a form of anxiety? ›

Low self-esteem, left alone, effectively places the person in a permanent fight, flight and freeze state - a permanent state of anxiety.

Which most likely describes a person with low self-esteem? ›

Low self-esteem is characterized by a lack of confidence and feeling badly about oneself. People with low self-esteem often feel unlovable, awkward, or incompetent. According to researchers Morris Rosenberg and Timothy J.

What are the six rules of self-esteem? ›

The six pillars of self-esteem are:
  • Living consciously.
  • Accepting oneself.
  • Taking responsibility for an individual's actions.
  • Being self-assertive.
  • Living with a purpose.
  • Having personal integrity.
Oct 31, 2021

What are the 6 areas that impact self-esteem? ›

The six pillars are: living consciously, self-acceptance, self-responsibility, self-assertiveness, living purposefully, and personal integrity.

What are the 4 levels of self-esteem? ›

Self-respect: Your belief that you have and deserve dignity and respect. Self-worth: Your understanding of your value (synonymous with “self-esteem”) Self-image: Your perception of your body, as well as your overall sense of self. Self-confidence: Your ability to act in ways that line up with your sense of self.

What can raise a person's self-esteem? ›

How can I improve my self-esteem?
  1. Be kind to yourself.
  2. Try to recognise positives.
  3. Build a support network.
  4. Try talking therapy.
  5. Set yourself a challenge.
  6. Look after yourself.

What are the 3 C's for building self-esteem? ›

if you want to be successful, focus on the three Cs: confidence, competence and connections.

What are the 7 actions to improve self-esteem? ›

By: Judy Zellner, LPCC
  • Stop comparing yourself to others. ...
  • Stop belittling yourself. ...
  • Use positive self-affirmations to build our self-esteem. ...
  • Surround yourself with positive, supportive people. ...
  • Dwell on your positive qualities. ...
  • Give back. ...
  • Pay attention to self-care.
May 27, 2022

What are three examples of self-esteem needs? ›

Esteem needs encompass confidence, strength, self-belief, personal and social acceptance, and respect from others.

What are 4 characteristics of a person who has low self-esteem? ›

neglect of own needs, particularly emotional ones. putting the needs of others before self. low expectations. difficulty in making/maintaining relationships.

What are the 5 key elements for self-esteem? ›

Five Components of the Self-Esteem
  • security: I know I am safe;
  • identity: I know who I am;
  • belonging: I know others accept me;
  • purpose: I know what I want to achieve;
  • competence: I know I am capable.

What are the five building blocks of self-esteem? ›

Michele Borba identifies five building blocks of self-esteem: security; selfhood; affiliation; mission and competence.


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