Self-Esteem Defined

Despite the abundance of books, studies, workshops and committees devoted to the subject of self-esteem, there is little agreement about what it means. Self-esteem has two essential components:

Self-efficacy: Confidence in the ability to cope with life’s challenges. Self-efficacy leads to a sense of control over one’s life.

Self-respect: Experience oneself as deserving of happiness, achievement and love. Self-respect makes possible a sense of community with others. Self-esteem is a self-reinforcing characteristic. When we have confidence in our ability to think and act effectively, we can persevere when faced with difficult challenges. Result: We succeed more often than we fail. We form more nourishing relationships. We expect more of life and of ourselves.

If we lack confidence, we give up easily, fail more often and aspire to less. Result: We get less of what we want.

What Self-Esteem is Not

Self-esteem is a necessary condition of well being. But it’s not the only one. Its presence doesn’t make life problem-free. Even people with high self-esteem may experience anxiety, depression or fear when overwhelmed by issues they don’t know how to cope with.

I think of self-esteem as the immune system of consciousness. A healthy immune system doesn’t guarantee you’ll never become ill, but, it does reduce your susceptibility to illness and can improve your odds for a speedy recovery if you do get sick.

The same is true psychologically. Those with strong self-esteem are resilient in the face of life’s difficulties.

It’s impossible to have too much self-esteem. People who