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What Is Self-Esteem?

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Question: What Is Self-Esteem?

In psychology, the term self-esteem is used to describe a person's overall sense of self-worth or personal value. Self-esteem is often seen as a personality trait, which means that it tends to be stable and enduring. Self-esteem can involve a variety of beliefs about the self, such as the appraisal of one's own appearance, beliefs, emotions and behaviors.

Components of Self-Esteem

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

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

Self-Esteem Theories

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.

It is important to note that self-esteem is a concept distinct from self-efficacy, which involves the belief in future actions, performance or abilities.

Self-Esteem Synonyms:


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Branden, N. (1969). The psychology of self-esteem. New York: Bantam.

Maslow A. H. (1987). Motivation and Personality (3rd ed.). New York: Harper & Row.

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Kendra Cherry

Kendra Cherry
Psychology Guide

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