Personal Development

Why Does Good Self-Esteem Matter?

At the simplest level, good self-esteem (self-worth or self-acceptance) is important for forming good relationships with others because accepting yourself enables you to interact with other people more effectively. A lack of healthy self-esteem is often the source of many relationship-centred problems such as a lack of self-confidence, being critical of others, excessive competitiveness, jealousy or envy, taking things personally, and subtle forms of exaggerated ego.

For example, self-criticism is an automatic thought pattern for many people. Self-critical thoughts tend to repeat themselves over and over again. In that case, an individual may need to learn how to consciously manage his or her thought processes. In this article we will look at a few ways in which we might do this.

 What can we do to lift or improve Self-esteem?

The first step to resolving a problem of low self-esteem is to understand that it is an automatic psychological pattern. Although we are not going to suggest that building self-esteem is either a fast or easy journey for any individual, there are five key steps that can help in many situations.

1. Take time to think, ask questions and re-frame

A feeling of self-acceptance/esteem arises from perceptions/feelings that are both conscious and unconscious. Most of us can readily identify the conscious part of the self-esteem equation because we can identify the explicit messages that we have been given over our life. Most individuals either accept or reject the messages given to them from parents, relatives, close friends, teachers and others but, in so doing start to form an idea about who they are – especially in comparison to others. This may be broadly positive or negative but at least the sources of the feelings are known.

Few people are explicitly aware of the more subliminal messages that we progressively take on board as a result of interpreting what we experience in life. This often manifests itself as a general non-specific feeling that we are “basically good”, “open and honest”, “mostly upbeat”, and “a fun loving person” for example, on the more positive side, or “prone to not follow through”, “forgetful”, “take life too seriously” or “a bit of a loser” on the more negative side. We may not hear these messages explicitly but we “derive” that this is what “the world” thinks about us.  Individuals with higher levels of self-esteem tend to demonstrate behaviour which is more flexible, more open in expressing wants and needs and more able to learn from feedback from others. Individuals with lower levels of self-esteem tend to demonstrate behaviour which is more rigid, more closed or quiet about expressing wants and needs and less able to learn from feedback from others. They therefore assume a much less personally attractive self-image and often feel trapped by it.

By simply reflecting on how we view ourselves we can start to become more aware of what is real and what is simply past “baggage”. We may not be able to jettison all of this but we can often make a start.

2. Carefully assess all of your forward options

When evaluating what we can do about low levels of self-esteem, our evaluation should ideally be other-centred rather than self-centred. If we think about different ways in which we might stop criticising others and accept them for who they are, we are likely to reduce the amount of self-critical behaviour we engage in. Hence, the more we will think about our future possibilities for action in a positive rather than a negative way.

 3. Select the plan(s) with the best chance of succeeding

Although there are some dangers in generalising, and there are differences in approach for people who have more extraverted or more introverted preferences, the following are likely to increase levels of self-esteem for most people as they select particular plans or courses of action on a day-to-day basis:

  • Letting others know (within reason of course) what you are feeling about any given situation, especially where it really matters to you.
  • Accepting responsibility for everything that occurs in your life without seeking to blame others.
  • Reading more widely, discussing deeper issues with people around you, and finding more regular time to ponder or reflect.
  • Seeking to postpone judgment, listen and understand before defending or attacking or determining that what you see or hear is “wrong” or to assign fault in any way.
  • Regularly checking whether you might be deceiving yourself or even telling yourself lies about what is happening around you.
  • Questioning any limiting beliefs that you may hold and challenging your personal paradigms.
  • Treating everyone with respect and patience, rather than irritation and judgment, and maintaining the larger perspective as much as possible.
  • Being as humble as possible in all dealings with other people.

4. Appreciate that outside resources may be needed to succeed

Building self-esteem requires individuals to make a conscious choice about the messages that they receive and pay attention to. They can be a “victim” of the feedback or the “owner” of it. And the consequences of this are that we all choose to have high or low levels of self-acceptance. However, if you start out having lower self-acceptance you are likely to feel more “fragile” and need third-party resources to help you to move forward.

5. Implement plans and follow-though persistently

Developing a stronger level of self-esteem is often a long journey and needs consistent effort to build it up on a “brick by brick” basis. The more people invest in non-critical behaviour of others, the less critical they will be of themselves, but it is easy to back-slide unless we are aware of the potential for this to happen. As we therefore complete tasks and work with other people, we should constantly review whether we have acted in fair and consistent ways and met the promises we have made. The more we do this, the better we will feel about ourselves.


We choose our personal sense of self-acceptance or self-esteem, or how much self-respect we have, much more than most of us believe. We can therefore elect to change it for the better with a little focus and sustained effort. Rather than to be defensive and protective of whatever small amount of self-esteem we think we have left, if we give more of ourselves and show a greater amount of respect and humility to everyone around us, our own levels of self-acceptance will rise slowly but surely.

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