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What Is Self-Esteem? Definitions And Issues

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Look at the mirror and describe the person you see. The outcome of that description is what we call self-esteem. The choice of words you use, the respect you give to yourself, and the value you see in your worth are the elements that shape your self-esteem. So in fact, what is self-esteem? According to many experts and psychologists, and throughout decades of studies, self –esteem has been referred to as one’s attitude toward oneself1. (Morris Rosenberg-1965).

Iyanla Vanzant favorite’s quote about self-esteem: “Everything that happens to you is a reflection of what you believe about yourself. We cannot outperform our level of self-esteem. We cannot draw to ourselves more than we think we are worth.”2 Whether you like it or not, self-esteem is the very essential of your well-being; it is the basic element of a healthy personality. What you see in that mirror controls your life. Loving and respecting yourself is what brings you closer to happiness while constantly criticizing yourself will stand in the way of your success. Every time you love yourself a bit more, you boost your self-confidence, you believe more in your abilities and consequently you become more efficient in every area of your life. You become able to make right decisions, aiming higher and dreaming big, exploring further potential in yourself, and feeling unstoppable by unpleasant life’s experiences.

How Self-Esteem is built?

Though self-esteem is not fixed or stable, and it can be greatly improved through self-awareness. Similar to the belief system, childhood has the utmost effect on self-esteem. The very first years of childhood are responsible of building a healthy self-system. If a child is lucky enough to be raised by a family who believes in them, who constantly encourages them to be the best version of themselves, who always praises every tiny effort and recognizes every little achievement, and who always uses positive language while communicating, then he is more likely to build a proper and a healthy self-esteem. Parent/child relationship has a significant influence on what level of self-esteem a child develops.

It is at this very early age and based on the failures and successes that we encounter while we are growing up, and on the reactions of those around us that we learn how to feel about ourselves and the world around us.

What are the factors that influence self-esteem?

Different factors influence self-esteem which we hereunder name few:

  1. Childhood which is the main contributor; the way one is raised is the way one sees and validates themselves.
  2. Society and the pressure it has on us behaving in a certain way, usually different from who we are, erasing at all-time our true self to meet certain expectations; eventually resulting in developing very low self-esteem.
  3. Schools and their educational and grading system; grades are to measure one’s knowledge and not one’s self-worth.
  4. Media in its different forms which is the main reason why we compare ourselves to others. We end up being confused between who we are and whom we are expected to look like, especially youth.
  5. Old beliefs which we grow up blindly believing, and unless we are aware of, they become our resistance to change and consequently, tremendously affecting our self-esteem.
  6. Self-concept; the ideas we hold about ourselves like too old, too young, too fat, too tall, too strong, too weak, too smart, etc… directly diminish our will to learn and develop.
  7. Family and friends; people we spend more time with affect the most our self-esteem. They can either help us have a better image of ourselves or bring us down.
  8. Work environment; feeling appreciated at work and being in a place where you can effortlessly poll your views can contribute to healthy self-esteem. Whereas, when you are most of the time stressed and feeling unworthy, your self-esteem will drop to its lowest.
  9. Health; being healthy (mind, body, and soul) can strengthen self-esteem.

Along with many other factors, which have both a direct and an indirect impact on self-esteem. The way one leads their life has the major power over their level of self-esteem.

How does Self-Esteem impact us and how it can be improved?

The most important thing about having healthy self-esteem is that it has an essential role in your motivation and success. It helps you conquer life with positivity, it helps you accept and learn from failure and it makes you brave and fearless. Having a healthy dose of self-esteem means we are open to change and criticism. It is the key to top performance and great achievements.

Low self-esteem holds you back from moving forward, it creates fear and prevents you from making proper decisions which sometimes can be life-changing. It affects capabilities and makes you doubt about your potential. It can as well affect the self-confidence, the quality of life (less meaningful and worthwhile life) while making you less happy, with self-destructive tendencies, leaving you more stressed and anxious.

But guess what? There are hundreds of ways and exercises to overcome low self-esteem. Louise Hay wrote: “The past has no power over me”3. Letting go of what was to make space for what will be is the key.

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So, how can we improve our self-esteem?

Since self-esteem is not genetic or disease, nor a permanent part of who we are, our role as coaches is to help clients increase their level of self-esteem by working on their mental health.

Here are a few ways:

  • Be willing to change; admit that something needs to be changed and decide to.
  • Change the attitude toward the past; the past is gone and cannot be changed yet our thoughts can be changed. The most important part here to release the past is to forgive everyone including ourselves.
  • Self-approval and self-talk; if we believe we can, then we will. Just improve your thinking about yourself, and you will see that this inner voice will start telling you beautiful truths about yourself.
  • Self-love; believe that you are a unique and resourceful creature. Stop self-sabotage and increase your self-worth. This will indirectly increase self-confidence and self-respect.
  • Know your values; once you are aware of what’s important to you and you align it with your life, it will become impossible for you to compromise those values at any price.
  • Set clear goals and objectives; knowing what you want in life and make them congruent with your values makes you achieve better results and makes you feel better about yourself.
  • Strive to learn something new every day; knowledge increases self-esteem and will boost your willingness to improve and better yourself every day a little bit more.

We can go writing hundreds of pages about how to increase self-esteem but, the most important thing to mention is that self-esteem can be altered and improved by controlling the mind and the thoughts, and by accepting that perfectionism lives only in the head of those who are afraid of change.

How does self-esteem affect productivity?

How often we have seen at the workplace, people performing less than what they are capable of? Why? Because they don’t believe in their potential, and they don’t believe they deserve success. While having high self-esteem makes you see yourself as a competent and confident person to achieve career goals, low self-esteem affects your performance, sets you back and hinders your progress and may be the cause of several problems between colleagues.

Robin Sharma wrote: “the grade of work you offer to the world reflects the strength of the respect you have for yourself”. People with a healthy dose of self-esteem are never immobilized or discouraged by failures. They always feel motivated to try new challenges and undertake new tasks. Consequently, they end up in better leadership positions with better pay.

The most important quality of a great leader is the high level of self-esteem; which without, a leader won’t be able to lead by example, embrace adversity and defend their subordinates before defending himself. They believe in their competencies and their worth and consequently believe in their teams. Success becomes a given. People with low self-esteem perform their job way below expectations and most of the time not in line with their skills and knowledge. Feeling unworthy of success makes them indirectly work less than they could so they don’t stand out and be remarked.


Now it’s time to admit that writing this essay was a very challenging task. Studying the self-esteem module made me discover that I have a self-esteem issue. Knowing that strong self-confidence is one of my personality traits, only through working on my self-esteem was I able to write about it.

We as coaches are invited first and foremost to work out our weaknesses and overcome our fear before helping others. Only then can we be genuine to ourselves and consequently to our clients.

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What Is Self-Esteem? Definitions And Issues. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 29, 2023, from
“What Is Self-Esteem? Definitions And Issues.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022,
What Is Self-Esteem? Definitions And Issues. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 May 2023].
What Is Self-Esteem? Definitions And Issues [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 17 [cited 2023 May 29]. Available from:
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