Self-esteem (high, low): see the importance and how to improve

Everyone is surrounded by charges. It is necessary to always fit within aesthetic, behavioral, professional, academic, maternal, paternal standards… Phew!

Daily it is possible to come across various representations of an alleged “perfection”, such as the unreal bodies printed in magazines or the stories of successful people at the age of 18 that appear on social networks.

That’s the way we have lived for a long time, so we pretty much got used to it. It is something rooted in society and, therefore, it is not difficult to find people trying to conform to these standards or pursuing surreal goals.

Little by little, this scenario is destroying trust and causing the sense of self-worth to become increasingly distorted for many people.

The effects of this social demand were stamped in numbers. According to a survey conducted by Dove, called Truths about Beauty , in the world, 4 out of 100 women think they are beautiful. This represents that only 4% of women around the globe see beauty in themselves.

Hard to believe? Well, raise your hand if you have never looked in the mirror and felt dissatisfied with your appearance, questioned your skills or paralyzed in different situations for fear of judgment, right?

If this is your case, know: you are not alone. But how to love yourself in the face of it? How to stop the bad habit of looking at yourself and criticizing your ability or your own image? This is a question that the answer is sought by, well … practically everyone!

To understand how to change this reality, one of the important factors is to make a deep analysis of yourself. This personal perception, both negative and positive, can show how your self-esteem is going. Shall we learn more about this concept?


Meaning of self-esteem

The understanding of the term self-esteem is not new. In fact, it is one of the oldest definitions of psychology, having been cited for the first time in 1892 by Willian James, an American functional philosopher and psychologist (area of ​​psychology that seeks to study the functionalities of consciousness ) .

First of all, it is necessary to understand that self-esteem is a changing condition that defines how your self-image is . As the word itself says in its prefix, it is a subjective assessment of how you see yourself.

Yes, self-esteem does not always remain the same! It changes a lot depending on our experiences or the transitions to other phases of life. It is not a fixed concept, but something that can be improved and perfected. Better this way, right?

Several factors influence the understanding of self-image: your momentary opinion of yourself, the value you place on yourself and your actions, which express how you feel about it. It is this set of ideas and actions that define your level of self-esteem.

According to the approach of psychotherapists Potreck-Rose and Jacob (2006), there are 4 essential pillars to define self-esteem, responsible for maintaining our self-image. Check out:

  • Self-acceptance : how is your attitude towards yourself? Is it positive or negative? The way you see yourself represents your self-image and self-acceptance;
  • Self-confidence : it concerns whether you think you can do things with quality. Represents a positive feeling about your skills and abilities;
  • Social competence : can you keep in touch? This pillar refers to how you can deal with people;
  • Social network : how do you build your relationships and how do you relate to those close to you? This is how you present yourself to your friends, families, partners, etc.

What is low self-esteem?

Self-esteem is defined by the value you give yourself. When your self-esteem is low, it means that this valuation is undermined. That is, a person with low self-esteem has difficulties seeing himself positively. This, of course, affects several areas of life.

Feeling down is part of human existence. Unfortunately, we can’t always be happy, can we? However, the problem is established and deserves extra attention when you remain in the same context for a long time. If a person has constant feelings of helplessness, sadness and self-depreciation, there is something wrong!

What is high self-esteem?

Unlike low self-esteem, it occurs when you see yourself positively. In a nutshell, whoever has high self-esteem has an optimistic self-image, is confident and self-assured. Reaching this level is certainly the goal of many people, isn’t it?

It is not for nothing that many exercises for people with low self-esteem boil down to encouraging them to see themselves in a more positive way. However, you need to be careful and always focus on balance. Everything that is too much is bad, and this is no different with self-esteem.

What is the importance of self-esteem?

This self-perception is classified into levels, which can be low, medium or high.

Low self-esteem is much discussed and deserves attention, because the lower levels can often be related to disorders that are harmful to our psychological state. Self-esteem is even one of the meters used to assess our mental health .

This is what psychiatrist Emerson Rodrigues Barbosa says: “ Self-esteem is not a construction, but a state. People have increased or decreased self-esteem at any given time. This is influenced by several factors, such as the presence or absence of a mood disorder, a depressive or manic episode ”.

According to the doctor, it is very common to see low self-esteem linked to depressive episodes, social anxiety disorder, personality disorders, body dysmorphic disorder and eating disorders ( anorexia , for example).

And these are just a few pictures associated with low self-esteem. Therefore, the importance of paying attention to low self-esteem is great!

People in this condition can suffer a lot to maintain emotional relationships, make friends or perform professional activities, for example.

Therefore, assessing how our self-perception is doing is extremely relevant, especially with the help of a specialist. ” If there is a significant degree of suffering, it is recommended that you look for a good mental health professional (psychiatrist or psychologist) to make a diagnosis and formulate a treatment, ” says Dr. Emerson.

Psychologist Maria Eliane believes in the concept of healthy self-esteem and informs that she defines herself with our satisfaction in relation to ourselves.

“ Our self-esteem can be polished with positive and negative feelings towards our self-image. It is surrounded by qualities that belong to the individual satisfied with his identity, that is, a person endowed with confidence and who values ​​himself. These have a healthy self-esteem ”, he says.

Psychiatrist Emerson Barbosa disagrees. “ According to the rational emotional-behavioral theory (TREC), there are no healthy levels of self-esteem. Self-esteem is a self-assessment, which in itself is already harmful. What we seek to promote is unconditional self-acceptance, since there are no objective parameters for evaluating a person in terms of good or bad ”.

Both using the concept of self – acceptance and the concept of healthy self – esteem , it is essential for all spheres of our coexistence that we maintain a positive image about ourselves. This makes our stay in society easier and, obviously, brings more quality of life.

What causes low self-esteem?


Several factors can influence a person to have a low appreciation for himself.

It all starts during the growth process, when we start to distinguish the outside world and understand the difference between the “me” and other people.

According to Dr. Emerson, family relationships, for example, have a lot of influence on self-esteem. “ Interpersonal relationships, especially the first and most relevant ones (parents, caregivers, etc.), together with the individual’s innate temperament help to shape the way he sees himself in the world in general. This self-image that we have is the definer of self-esteem ”.

For this reason, many times, families that have derogatory attitudes or defeatist attitudes can cause the child to grow up with the same behavior.

However, at the same time, this reality can also be caused by specific events and experiences: a dismissal, an abusive relationship, an end of relationship, a fight, toxic living environments and other traumatic episodes.

The role of representativeness in building self-esteem

How many times have you recognized yourself by watching a TV show or reading a magazine? A lot of people don’t realize it, but the fact of looking around and not seeing themselves in the patterns conveyed in the media can be quite detrimental to the formation of character and the construction of self-esteem.

That is why aesthetic standards are dangerous. According to Dr. Emerson, they can affect and frustrate people who are more sensitive to criticism.

“ Aesthetic standards are culturally established and are always placed at a higher threshold than most people can achieve. People who are vulnerable to negative evaluations will naturally suffer more when they fail to reach these levels ”, he says.

To illustrate, now an example: since when did you start seeing more black women with curly or curly hair in advertisements? Recently, right?

Not long ago, only what was seen in the shampoo commercials, for example, were thin, white women, with long straight hair, skin without blemishes and very well made up.

Today, this taboo still remains, but it has been broken daily. As this reality is changing little by little, the role of representativeness in self-esteem has come to be more discussed, raising questions about brands and large companies, which have even changed the way they advertise.

The impact of the lack of people representing various groups implies the idea that they, perhaps, do not belong to that reality.

An example of this was a survey conducted by Instituto Locomotiva, which showed that of the 155 million Brazilians with purchasing power, 103 million do not feel represented in the commercial breaks.

And the lack of representativeness does not only affect purchasing power. It affects many spheres of life of various people – especially those who are far from an aesthetic standard – in a serious and real way, excluding them from everyday situations that should be normal for everyone.

This represents a more serious and structural problem, that is, that is present in various structures of society and that, in addition to self-esteem, influences the way these people live. Racism is an example: it is known that black people, due to a heavy historical burden, are less represented and accepted.

In addition to the black population, new terms and analyzes have emerged to define the lack of representation in other groups and minorities. One of them is the definition of gordophobia , that is, the phobia of fat people. Much more than an aesthetic issue, fatophobia is a social problem, a type of prejudice.

People over a certain weight range suffer daily with tasks considered simple and routine by many: going through a turnstile, getting a job, sitting in a cinema chair … These simple routine actions were not designed for fat people. Obviously, this also impacts – and a lot – on their self-acceptance.

This was proved by a study published in 2015 in the journal Social & Personality Psychology Compass . In it, it was concluded that social exclusion due to weight issues is very associated with depressive, anxious and low self-esteem conditions.

This and other similar scenarios represent serious problems, which must be discussed and, much more than that, studied. Far beyond self-image, they directly reflect on the level of inequality and exclusion in the whole of society.

What are the symptoms of low self-esteem?

Okay, but how do you make sure you have low self-esteem? Some signs may be indicative of this condition, however, in addition to a self-assessment, it is very important to have the help of a psychologist or psychiatrist.

” In this case, psychotherapeutic intervention and professional help are crucial ,” says psychologist Maria Eliane.

These signs can help you identify negative feelings and how to deal with them. So, if you experience any of the symptoms and behaviors below, stay tuned and look for a specialist to assist you. Just look:

  • Excessive shyness or excessive fear of making mistakes;
  • Feeling of incapacity;
  • Exaggerated self-criticism;
  • Chronic feeling of dissatisfaction;
  • Too much perfectionism;
  • Need to affirm yourself in public or demote other people;
  • Very great fear of rejection;
  • Difficulty accepting compliments;
  • Problems saying “no”;
  • Vulnerability and lack of emotional stability.
  • Willingness to please everyone and fear of judgment;
  • Guilt feeling;
  • Tendency to destructive relationships;
  • Fear of going to environments that require social interaction;
  • Repulsion of self, feeling of inferiority;
  • Lack of vanity, need to hide in wider and discreet clothes;
  • Constant need for praise and appreciation;
  • Always compare yourself with other people.

These, of course, are just some of the attitudes that indicate low self-esteem. It is not necessary to present all of them at the same time or just those that have been listed. After all, we are different and, therefore, low self-esteem can manifest itself in different ways.

How to improve self-esteem?


First of all, know that all the tips are just some of the ways that can help you in this search for self-acceptance. Still, it is necessary to reinforce the importance of professional accompaniment – take care of your mental health with affection!

Now, here are some daily actions and attitudes for you to work on your self-esteem and feel better about yourself!

Do not blame yourself!

As you have seen in this text, many people with low self-esteem demand too much of themselves and carry a constant feeling of guilt. If you fall into this situation, understand: you are not responsible for everything that is wrong in the world.

It is very important that you stop blaming yourself. Forgiving yourself is part of the process to improve self-esteem and, for that, you need to understand that everyone makes mistakes .

Assume your mistakes, but only those that really happened and that are your responsibility. Don’t assume for yourself someone else’s mistakes and, moreover, forgive yourself! To make mistakes is part. After assuming the mistake, the next step is to move on.

Investigate the source of your low self-esteem

To start changing this reality, you need to understand what makes you sick and where that feeling comes from. Therefore, it is interesting to make an internal reflection, recalling events and observing their attitudes in the midst of various situations.

Set a goal

To achieve goals, it is always interesting to define a horizon that you want to achieve. Just be careful not to overdo it, so set realistic and possible goals, okay? You can start with very simple and small things.

Remember your qualities

When our self-esteem is low, we tend to focus on the things we think are negative about ourselves. But, what if we do the opposite? Get yourself a notebook and take the time to list what you like about yourself. Then repeat what you wrote down every day and whenever negative thoughts come.

If you can’t answer that question yourself, you may be too focused on your shortcomings. So, another alternative is to talk to someone outside!

Chat with people who like you! Ask the same question and ask them about what they appreciate in their personality, appearance and tastes.

Exercise and have hobbies

We know that it is difficult to overcome laziness, but believe me: exercising does a damned good, not only for the body, but also for the mind! That’s because this habit releases endorphins, that is, the well-being hormone.

Also, look for activities that you would like to do: dance, painting, yoga, meditation, music classes … Having a hobby can help you appreciate yourself more and make friends.

Have incentive phrases nearby

How about putting reminders with motivational phrases at work or in your room? This alone may not be enough to help you, but, in conjunction with other attitudes, it can do very well.

Watch your breath

Breathing is an essential act for our survival, but we do it so automatically that sometimes we even forget that we are breathing.

The habit of watching our breath makes us stop for a while with the turmoil around us and look inside. This can help to calm anxiety and negative thoughts.

Read more: The mental (and physical) benefits of deep breathing

Stop comparing yourself!

You are unique . No one in the world is equal to the other and everyone has qualities and defects. So give yourself time and stop setting your goals based on other people’s lives.

Don’t be afraid to take chances

Fear is natural to human beings. This feeling is important to put us on alert, however, there is a limit that, when it is crossed, ends up paralyzing you and preventing you from experiencing new situations.

The result? You settle down. It avoids situations of change, even when positive, and is unable to grow.

Don’t let the fear of someone else’s judgment stop you. To evolve, you need to innovate, explore, seize opportunities.

Fear can exist, and it is even healthy that it is there. What is not normal is that it inhibits you to the point of making you give up on something.

As long as this situation poses no danger to you, take a chance! Go to the party where you don’t know anyone, after all, you can make new friends. Travel alone, go to the bookstore, the cinema, the park and enjoy your own company.

Send resume to that company that you always dreamed of working with or talk to that person you are interested in. All of these events are constructive and can help you to overcome low self-esteem.

Be careful with your posture

When we are discouraged, we can bend over and walk with our heads down. It sounds silly, but it helps a lot in maintaining a lower self-esteem.

So, straighten your spine and walk forward. You may even be able to pay more attention to the details of the path, such as the flowers.

Stay close to positive people

At that time, look for that person in high spirits and ally yourself with him. People with more positive attitudes end up leaving their daily lives more positive.

Keep an eye on abusive and destructive relationships. If you see someone like that in your cycle, talk to them or walk away!

This type of relationship is very bad for self-esteem and can arise in various areas of life: friendships, love, family or work.

Make an assessment of who hangs out with you. If you happen to notice that someone keeps putting you down, criticizing your choices and never saying anything positive, maybe it is time to rethink this relationship, as it can be toxic.

Regardless of who you are, no one has the right to diminish you. Did you notice that kind of attitude, talked to that person and their attitudes didn’t change? Unfortunately, there is nothing more to do. Your mental health is always more important!

Get therapy

Taking care of health is always very important. But don’t think that you just need to take care of the tangible things, right? Just as it is important to go to the orthopedist, gynecologist, endocrinologist and other specialists, so is visiting the psychologist or psychiatrist!

It is super important that you pay attention to your feelings, after all, the way we feel affects directly or indirectly many areas of life.

If you have low self-esteem, be sure to seek help from a qualified professional, because regardless of the area of ​​activity, the psychologist and psychiatrist studied to help you take care of your mental health.

Take care of your body

This tip is not about dieting or worrying about its aesthetic characteristics. Quite the opposite!

Care to eat healthy foods that are good for your body, drink plenty of water, take a little sun (with sunscreen, see?), Anyway …

Have beneficial attitudes for your physical and mental health, but without feeding the search for a perfect aesthetic standard . Taking care of your body is different from obsessing over an image and seeking to change your physical appearance at all costs.

Can very high self-esteem also be a problem?

You know that saying: everything that is too much is bad? The same thing applies to self-image. If you love and see yourself in a positive way it is extremely important, but it can reach a point where it disrupts social life.

Someone with too high self-esteem may have a distorted view of themselves, so other people’s views will not correspond to what they understand about themselves. Thus, arrogant attitudes may arise, in addition to difficulties in accepting criticism.

Overconfidence means that the person does not see his own defects and, thus, does not open up to grow. Self-criticism, as long as it is moderate, is very important for us to learn and live well in society.

Maria Eliane agrees: “we must seek balance and we must also link alerts with too high self-esteem. It can cause problems to the individual, such as arrogance and persistence in harmful actions ” , he says.

Test: how is your self-esteem?

There are some tools that you can use to understand and study the relationship between you and your image. One of them is the Rosenberg Scale which, according to the psychologist Maria Eliane, despite being concise, is pertinent.

“ In addition to family, social, cultural and psychotherapeutic factors, you can also count on the Rosenberg Scale. It is small, fast, reliable and very valid, being an assessment tool that supports self-concept, a set of feelings and thoughts of the individual about their own value, competence and adequacy ”, says the professional.

It is a scale composed of questions about your personal value, which you answer according to your reality.

It bears the name of its creator, who was a doctor and professor of sociology at the University of Maryland. Morris Rosenberg devoted many years of his life to studying and understanding self-esteem and, thus, published a book in 1965 with the title “The society and the self-esteem of adolescents”.

It was in this book that he presented the initial proposal of the Rosenberg Scale. First, it was designed only for teenagers, but then it ended up being disseminated, adapted and applied in the most diverse age groups.

The scale consists of 10 statements: 5 that connote a positive value about you and 5 that connote a negative value.

In each statement you can give a score from 0 (strongly disagreeing) to 3 (strongly agreeing). The sum of the values ​​you entered in all questions will determine your final answer and, thus, give you an idea of ​​how your self-esteem is doing.

Now, let’s go to the test! Take a notepad and pen and write down the value of your answers according to this proportion:

  • 0 : strongly disagree;
  • 1 : very rarely agree;
  • 2 : I agree in parts;
  • 3 : totally agree.
  1. I feel that I am a person worthy of appreciation, at least as much as others.
  2. I feel that I have positive qualities.
  3. I am usually led to think that I am a failure.
  4. I am able to do things as well as most people.
  5. I feel like I don’t have much to be proud of.
  6. I have a positive attitude towards myself.
  7. Overall, I am satisfied with myself.
  8. 8. I would like to have more respect for myself.
  9. Sometimes I feel useless.
  10. Sometimes I think I’m no use.

After giving a note to all these statements, it’s time to add them up and look at the final number:

  • Below 15: according to the scale, values ​​below 15 mean low self-esteem and need attention.
  • Between 15 and 25: this value represents that you have a good level of self-acceptance, considered ideal.
  • Above 25: your grade represents a higher self-esteem. However, be aware, because a very high score can also mean a problem of self-esteem.

Just do not forget that, regardless of the result obtained, it is essential that you carry out psychological monitoring . Taking care of mental health with qualified professionals is a very important attitude to have quality of life.

The test result does not represent an absolute truth. It is just a parameter for you to start assessing how your self-esteem is doing, which is something much more complex and very particular.