Self-esteem check: Too low, too high or just right?

Self-esteem is shaped by your thoughts, relationships and experiences. Understand the ranges of self-esteem and the benefits of promoting healthy self-esteem — including mental well-being, assertiveness, resilience and more. By Mayo Clinic Staff

Self-esteem is your overall opinion of yourself — how you honestly feel about your abilities and limitations. When you have healthy self-esteem, you feel good about yourself and see yourself as deserving the respect of others. When you have low self-esteem, you put little value on your opinions and ideas. You might constantly worry that you aren't "good enough."

Discussions about self-esteem often are centered on children. However, many adults could benefit from improving their self-esteem. Here's how to tell if your self-esteem needs a boost and why it's important to develop a healthy sense of your own worth.

Factors that shape and influence self-esteem

Self-esteem begins to form in early childhood. Factors that can influence self-esteem include:

  • Your own thoughts and perceptions
  • How other people react to you
  • Experiences at school, work and in the community
  • Illness, disability or injury
  • Culture
  • Religion
  • Role and status in society

Relationships with those close to you — parents, siblings, peers, teachers and other important contacts — are especially important to your self-esteem. Many beliefs you hold about yourself today reflect messages you've received from these people over time. If your close relationships are strong and you receive generally positive feedback, you're more likely to see yourself as worthwhile and have healthier self-esteem. If you receive mostly negative feedback and are often criticized, teased or devalued by others, you're more likely to struggle with poor self-esteem.

Still, your own thoughts have perhaps the biggest impact on self-esteem — and these thoughts are within your control. If you tend to focus on your weaknesses or flaws, you can learn to reframe negative thoughts and focus instead on your positive qualities.

Jul. 23, 2011 See more In-depth