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Self-Esteem: Definition, Types, Categories, Causes and Overcoming Low Self-Esteem

Anifar is an experienced writer. She loves writing articles about mental health and she would like to share about self-esteem.

What is Self-Esteem?

According to Rosenberg (1965a), self-esteem is one's positive or negative attitude toward oneself and one’s evaluation of one’s own thoughts and feelings overall in relation to oneself.

Your thoughts are what define who you are and how people see you. Those that think highly about themselves, their thoughts are well aligned with what they feel and how other people view them while this is opposite to those who see themselves as unworthy. Self-esteem is something that can vary from one time to another. We cannot say that it’s something permanent but it's something that is influenced by many factors for example your performance in school work.

How do you feel when you perform excellently in your examinations? That sweet feeling that comes and makes you jump in the air automatically rises your self-esteem. You feel proud and honored by others who thought you were not that smart. But here comes the opposite, when you fail in your examinations, the feeling is different. You feel like crying, hiding from your classmates and teachers. Here is the thing, failing has lowered your self-confidence and you don’t feel worthy again.

We are not done my good friends, but the factors are many and we are going to discuss them in this article later in detail.

Take Care of Your Mental Health.

Take Care of Your Mental Health.

Types of Self-Esteem

The major types of self-esteem are:

  • Inflated self-esteem
  • High self-esteem
  • Low self-esteem


— Antony Robbins

1. Inflated Self-Esteem

This is a negative type of self-esteem. Those people with this type of self-esteem feel very proud of themselves, rude, and express behaviors that are not good. This type of self-esteem can be caused by being in situations such as being rich or coming from a wealthy family, having a high position in an organization, or maybe let's say performing well in class. These people are too proud in that they want everyone to honor and respect them. They probably don’t care what others feel. Boasting is part of their life. They find it difficult in creating a long-lasting relationships with the people around them.

Watch out your self-esteem.

Watch out your self-esteem.


— Unknown

2. High Self-Esteem

This is a good type of self-esteem however it also has its negative part that you should be aware of. Having high self-esteem can make you achieve your goals well since you believe and celebrate in yourself in whatever situation. But here comes the problem, high self-esteem can be destructive if not controlled. What happens when it becomes too much in you? You will find yourself commanding people anyhow because you think you are superior to them. You may decide to take risks in your business or at work or set unachievable goals because you feel you have the ability to accomplish them. In short, it is high self-esteem that has developed into inflated self-esteem. Research shows that those people with high self-esteem fail more than those with low self-esteem.

Your thoughts define you.

Your thoughts define you.

3. Secure High Self-Esteem

This is positive self-esteem that makes you feel happy with yourself whether you have weaknesses or not. It is based on a solid foundation and is a healthy type of self-esteem. People with this type of self-esteem are fairly steady in their self-view and self-evaluations. They don’t value external validation; their choices and ideas are based on what they believe they can do.

4. Fragile High Self-Esteem

This is an unstable or insecure type of self-esteem. People with this type of self-esteem don’t know where they belong. Their choices and ideas are based on external validations. Without assurance from people around them, makes them feel unworthy. They are always vulnerable to the challenge of failure.

The exact mechanisms by which self-esteem becomes fragile are unknown, but individuals who place a large amount of importance on the approval of others or display highly dependent behaviors are often at the highest risk of experiencing fragility(Kernis,2005).

5. Low Self-Esteem

In this type of self-esteem, one completely loses their self-worth. They can never believe in themselves again. Those people with low self-esteem lack confidence, feeling of anxiety is too much and they can also become depressed.

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People with low self-esteem seem to be less sure about who they are, what describes them, and what does not describe them than are people with high self-esteem (Baumgardner, 1990, Campbell, 1990).

Categories of Self- Esteem

  • Global Self-Esteem

Global self-esteem is based on how we think about ourselves. What do you exactly feel about yourself? Are you worthy, capable, strong, or weak? This is what actually defines your performance and behavior. If you believe you can perform well in class or fight a battle and win, then that’s what you are capable of doing and you will definitely do it amazingly. But if you think otherwise about yourself, then you will be a failure all through.

  • Specific Self-Esteem

This self-esteem is based on a particular area in our lives. Someone may say that he or she is good at cooking delicious food and they really believe that.

They believe if they are taken for a programming contest they will automatically win according to their area of expertise but as much as they like programming, there is a certain area they don’t like or some programming language that they hate. This may scare them from participating in the contest because they are not well equipped. However, global self-esteem can probability help them to achieve something good even if they don’t become the winner, they will be happy to have participated in what they love.

Causes of Low Self-Esteem

Have you ever asked yourself what caused low self-esteem in you or in others? This may be something that is difficult to figure out, especially when you know nothing about others. But what about you? Do you have something that makes you feel your self-esteem is low? Without wasting much time let’s look at the following causes of low self-esteem and this will include factors such as:

  • Having a poor background or coming from a poor home
  • Performing poorly in school work
  • The urge to fit in a certain group of peers but you have no opportunity
  • Negative comments from your peers e.g., you are fat, big head, long nose etc.
  • Being raised in a family where there is no love and care
  • Being bullied or abused sexually or emotionally
  • Being compared to others or comparing yourself with others because you see them better than you
  • Experiencing physical or mental issues
  • Social media especially when people comment negatively about you
  • Being a perfectionist
  • Being discriminated against or isolated by people
  • Being separated from your loved ones or people you are used to
  • Having pressure to meet your achievements

Related: 11 Signs of Low Self-Esteem

How Can I Overcome Low Self-Esteem?

Prolonged low self-esteem can be very dangerous. We earlier said that self-esteem is something that varies from one time to another. It’s not something that is permanent since it can fluctuate depending on the situations you find yourself in. What if it becomes too extreme for you? Don’t you think it can lead you into making dangerous decisions such as committing suicide which is not good? well just know that is how it may end up affecting your life and many other implications.

You may be wondering how you can curb this low self-esteem in you or help others come out of it. It’s not something complicated but it’s a process because it's not like it happens overnight. It needs your commitment and hard work.

The following are ways how to overcome low self-esteem.

  • Avoid comparing yourself with others because maybe they are more beautiful or more handsome than you. Keep in mind that you are also special in your own way. There is a reason why someone will choose you over someone else who may be you thought was better than you.
  • Avoid negative self-talk. Feed your brain with positive thoughts alone. When you feel you may be having negative thoughts try to replace them with good thoughts.
  • Take care of yourself well for example eat well, have enough sleep, do regular healthy exercises, dress well and always figure yourself out positively.
  • Celebrate your achievements even if not much. That automatically tells you you can be better than you are.
  • Hang around with friends who feed you with positive thoughts and comments. Those that appreciate who you are and care about you.
  • Take part in your favorite hobbies
  • Learn new skills, learn from others who are superior to you, and challenge your capabilities.
  • Be assertive. Know when to say yes or no whenever encountered a situation that needs your decisions


Knowing how to work on your self-esteem can be the most amazing part of your life. Having low self-esteem does not mean that you can not take it to a better level where you feel worthy of yourself. Specialists are also there to help you come out of that situation. You only need to be open and talk to them about everything you have been going through for them to help you solve your issues.


  • Rosenberg, M. (1965a). Rosenberg self-esteem scale (RSE): acceptance and commitment therapy. Measure. Pack 61:52.
  • Kernis, M.H (2005). The Importance of Stability of Self-Esteem in Psychological Functioning. Journal of Personality. 73(6) doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.2005.00359.x.
  • Campbell, J. (1990). Self-esteem and clarity of the self-concept. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59, 538–549.
  • Baumgardner, A. H. (1990). To know oneself is to like oneself: Self-certainty and self-affect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58, 1062–1072.

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