Self-esteem is a personal judgment of worthiness that is expressed in the attitudes an individual holds towards himself.

(Coopersmith, 1967)

Self-esteem is one’s perceived sense of self-worth, or whether one accepts and respects oneself.

(Schank, 2012)

High self-esteem refers to a positive view of ourselves. This tends to lead to

  • Confidence in our own abilities
  • Self acceptance
  • Not worrying about what others think
  • Optimism

Low self-esteem refers to a negative view of ourselves. This tends to lead to

  • Lack of confidence
  • Want to be/look like someone else
  • Always worrying what others might think
  • Pessimism

High self-esteem might lead one to attempt difficult tasks, and subsequent success enhances self-confidence. Self-esteem is the evaluative component of self-concept. The belief that one is capable of performing a task can raise self-esteem.

(Schank, 2012)

In short, self-esteem is a positive or negative attitude towards the self.  According to March and Craven (2006), overall self-esteem is synonymous with self-concept.

From this perspective, individuals make judgment about their abilities in different context. For instance, how successful they are in academic contexts, how competent they feel in social situations and so on. All together, these various judgments combine to create an overall judgment about self- global self-esteem.


Basic Assumptions and Principles

According to one definition (Braden, 1969), there are three key components of self-esteem:

  • Self-esteem is an essential human need that is vital for survival and normal, healthy development.
  • Self-esteem arises automatically from within based upon a person’s beliefs and consciousness.
  • Self-esteem occurs in conjunction with a person’s thoughts, behaviors, feelings and actions.

Mruk (1999) identified a wide range of factors that influence self-esteem for example, in relation to parental factors, Gender, cultural orientation, and social factors and values.

Michael Argyle argues that there are 4 major factors that influence self-esteem:


The reaction of others

  • If people admire, flatter, listen attentively and agree with us > we tend to develop a positive self-esteem
  • If they avoid, neglect, tell us things undesired > we develop a negative self-esteem

Comparison with others

  • If the people we compare ourselves with appear to be more successful, happier, richer, better looking than ourselves > we tend to develop a negative self image
  • BUT if they are less successful than us our image will be positive.

Social roles

  • Some social roles carry prestige e.g. doctor, airline pilot, premiership footballer and this promotes self-esteem.
  • Other roles carry stigma. E.g. prisoner, mental hospital patient, or unemployed person.


Roles aren’t just “out there.” They also become part of our personality i.e. we identity with the positions we occupy, the roles we play and the groups we belong to.

The need for self-esteem plays an important role in psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, depicting self-esteem as one of the basic human motivations. Maslow suggested that people need both esteem from other people as well as inner self-respect. Both of these needs must be fulfilled in order for an individual to grow as a person and achieve self-actualization.


Classroom Implication and Teaching Strategies

Effective self-esteem enhancement techniques

The Importance of Being Accepting and Caring

We saw from the findings concerning parental and social factors affecting self-esteem that how we are treated by others may affect its development


Providing Consistent, Positive (Affirming) Feedback

Humanistic psychology states that such feedback must be “authentic,” which is to say based in reality and not phony praise.

Cognitive research indicates that there might be value in providing positive feedback in a way that is slow but steady rather than fast or sudden.


Generating Positive Self-Feedback through Cognitive Restructuring

This technique involves three basic steps:

  • Learning how to identify problematic habits,
  • Labeling them as such according to some nomenclature of common errors
  • Substituting a more rational or realistic response for each mistake.

Increasing Self-Esteem through Modeling

The general idea is to help people increase their sense of self-efficacy by learning to become more successful which, in turn, increases self-esteem.


Enhancing Self-Esteem by Increasing Problem-Solving Skills

One way to help increase self-esteem, then, is to teach people how to solve problems more effectively and efficiently

(Bednar et al., 1989)

  • First, knowing how to better solve problems increases an individual’s chances of being successful and we saw that certain types of success are a source of self-esteem.
  • Second, the technique is flexible enough to allow us to target a particular area that is especially troublesome to an individual client and to then help the person develop a realistic problem-solving strategy that is based on maximizing the individual’s strengths while minimizing their weaknesses.

Enhancing Self-Esteem Requires Practice

Self-esteem is increased through hard work and practice. It takes a long time to develop: usually involve deeply ingrained habits of perception, experience, and behavior, all of which are well cemented by the time we reach adulthood.

(Miller & Moran, 2012)



  • Greenwald, A. G., Banaji, M. R., Rudman, L. A., Farnham, S. D., Nosek, B. A., & Mellott, D. S. (2002). A unified theory of implicit attitudes, stereotypes, self-esteem, and self-concept. Psychological Review109, 3–25.
  • Greenwald, A. G., & Farnham, S. D. (2000). Using the implicit association test to measure self-esteem and self-concept. Journal of personality and social psychology79(6), 1022.
  • Argyle, M. (2008). Social Encounters: Contributions to Social Interaction. Aldine Transaction
  • Miller, D., & Moran, T. (2012). Self-esteem: A Guide for Teachers. Sage.