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  • Susan J. Leviton

That All-Important Self-esteem

Updated: Jul 5, 2021

What is self-esteem, and how to we acquire it? In brief, self-esteem is the value we assign to ourselves. Someone with high self-esteem perceives their personal qualities--intelligence, appearance, accomplishments, talents, skills, and so forth--as mostly positive. People with high self-esteem see themselves as worthy of love, friendship, and respect. Those with low self-esteem are prone to depression. They often end up in relationships where they are treated poorly and can have difficulty setting healthy boundaries, asking for what they need, and expressing their thoughts and feelings.

Good self-esteem begins to form right from birth When a caregiver meets a baby's needs, cuddles them, soothes them, and mirrors them, the infant gets a sense of being valuable and worthy of love. As the child grows, these feelings solidify as they receive positive feedback for each new milestone reached and they are attuned to and cared for. Good self-esteem helps a child develop healthy relationships, confidence, empathy for others, and more.

The inverse is also true--children who are neglected, overly criticized, and abused have very low self-esteem. This makes it harder for them to make friends, try new things, do well in school, and practice good self-care. People with low self-esteem have trouble believing compliments they receive.

Fortunately, people who did not have nurturing childhoods can still develop healthy self-esteem as adults. Therapy is often helpful with this, combined with positive experiences and supportive relationships. It is never too late to feel better about yourself!

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Eleanor Roosevelt

"You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection."


If you are insecure, guess what? The rest of the world is too. Do not overestimate the competition and underestimate yourself. You are better than you think.” T. Harv Eker

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