The ranges of self-esteem

Self-esteem tends to fluctuate over time, depending on your circumstances. It's normal to go through times when you feel down — or especially good — about yourself. Generally, however, self-esteem stays in a range that reflects how you feel about yourself overall. Consider how to recognize the extremes, as well as a healthy balance somewhere in between:

  • Overly high self-esteem. If you regard yourself more highly than others do, you might have an unrealistically positive view of yourself. When you have an inflated sense of self-esteem, you often feel superior to those around you. Such feelings can lead you to become arrogant or self-indulgent and believe that you deserve special privileges.
  • Low self-esteem. When you have low or negative self-esteem, you put little value on your opinions and ideas. You focus on your perceived weaknesses and faults and give scant credit to your skills and assets. You believe that others are more capable or successful. You might be unable to accept compliments or positive feedback. You might fear failure, which can hold you back from succeeding at work or school.
  • Healthy self-esteem. Healthy self-esteem lies between these two extremes. It means you have a balanced, accurate view of yourself. For instance, you have a good opinion of your abilities but recognize your flaws. When you understand your own worth, you invite the respect of others.

Benefits of healthy self-esteem

When you value yourself and have good self-esteem, you feel secure and worthwhile and have generally positive relationships with others. You feel confident about your abilities and tend to do well at school or work. You're also open to learning and feedback, which can help you acquire and master new skills.

With healthy self-esteem you're:

  • Assertive in expressing your needs and opinions
  • Confident in your ability to make decisions
  • Able to form secure and honest relationships — and less likely to stay in unhealthy ones
  • Realistic in your expectations and less likely to be overcritical of yourself and others
  • More resilient and better able to weather stress and setbacks
  • Less likely to experience feelings such as hopelessness, worthlessness, guilt and shame
  • Less likely to develop mental health conditions, such as eating disorders, addictions, depression and anxiety

Self-esteem affects virtually every facet of your life. Maintaining a healthy, realistic view of yourself isn't about blowing your own horn. It's about learning to like and respect yourself — faults and all.

Jul. 23, 2011 See more In-depth