What is self-esteem?

Mental Health   ›   Self-Esteem  ›   What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem is like owning your unique awesomeness! It's a journey of self-discovery that gets better and better with time. So, how can you level up and boost your self-esteem game? Let's dive in and find out!

Self-esteem is the value you set on yourself. Thus, if you tend to perceive yourself rather negatively, that reflects low self-esteem. On the other hand, if you see yourself positively, it reflects good self-esteem. This is the short version, but there are several factors that can affect your perception of yourself.


Good self-esteem means accepting yourself the way you are. It’s not always easy! To do it, you need to be aware of your strengths, the areas you need to work on, and your limits. We work to get to know ourselves, we develop a realistic view of ourselves, and we learn to love ourselves the way we are.


It can vary

Any given person’s self-esteem can vary from one activity to another and one time to another. For example, it might be different at school, at work, or in love. It can also change in different situations. It may depend on your age and the specific domain (social, artistic, educational, physical, etc.) and the importance you assign to each domain.


It can be developed

Self-esteem develops over time. Small everyday actions, thoughts, and positive attitudes gradually build our self-esteem. All the little actions we take to develop our self-esteem are like the bricks in a house that we’re slowly building. The more solid the foundations of the house are, the better we feel and the more confidence we have to move forward.


It’s a learning process

Self-esteem and confidence are strengths you can work on and develop. It’s a learning process. We start building them when we’re very young and they keep changing lifelong. Adults also have to keep working on and caring for their self-esteem!


4 components that define self-esteem



This is the foundation of self-esteem. If we feel secure with our family, if we feel loved and our needs are met, our self-esteem develops. That’s when we try to take our place and dare to try new things and new experiences. For example, when we learn to walk, we fall down the first few times, but with encouragement, we develop our confidence and try again!



This is the knowledge we have of ourselves. By experimenting, learning, and getting feedback from the people around us, we come to identify our characteristics, abilities, needs, and feelings. Identity can be divided into several parts: including physical (the representation that each person has of their own body) and social (how I come into contact with other people, the groups I associate with, my economic situation, my place as a student, worker, teen, how I act with my girlfriend or boyfriend, which sex attracts me, etc.).


Feeling of belonging

We all belong to several groups: family, friends, school, sports team, etc. We also define ourselves by belonging to these groups, by the relationships we have with other people and the experiences we have in these groups: feeling like part of a group, feeling solidarity, seeking out the other group members, communicating well, sharing, etc. The various groups we belong to allow us to feel understood and know that there are people who are like us.


Feeling of competence

To feel competent, we need to have different experiences, succeed and fail, and learn new things. The feeling of competence is related to motivation: a person is motivated when they face challenges that they are able to meet. Success results in a feeling of efficacy and pride that promotes self-esteem and pushes the person to accept new challenges.


Self-esteem is not carved in stone. It changes and stabilizes based on the people we meet and our life experiences. Although it can be a challenge during adolescence, one thing is certain: the more different situations we face, the more we learn about ourselves and the better we know who we are and who we want to identify with, what we don’t want to repeat, and what we want for our lives.


What does low self-esteem do?

Low self-esteem can lead you to believe that you aren’t able to meet challenges, or that you’re not good enough for people to love you or be interested in you. You may tend to be defeatist 🤷, magnify your failures, minimize your successes, or give up on projects. You might also feel more vulnerable and more hurt by outside criticism and have a tendency to devalue yourself and assign too much importance to that little negative voice in your head.


Self-esteem: a challenge during adolescence

Why? Because that’s when you’re really building your self-esteem, you’re looking for your identity, you’re distancing yourself from your parents, your friends are playing a more important role, you’re taking on new roles 👍 (lover 😍, worker, intern who has to make important choices about your future, your profession, etc.), and because you’re dealing with numerous physical changes.