In sociology and psychology, self-esteem reflects a person's overall subjective emotional evaluation of his or her own worth. It is a judgment of oneself as well as an attitude toward the self. Self-esteem encompasses beliefs (for example, "I am competent", "I am worthy") and emotions such as triumph, despair, pride, and shame. Smith and Mackie (2007) defined it by saying "The self-concept is what we think about the self; self-esteem, is the positive or negative evaluations of the self, as in how we feel about it."[2]:107 Self-esteem is attractive as a social psychological construct because researchers have conceptualized it as an influential predictor of certain outcomes, such as academic achievement, happiness, satisfaction in marriage and relationships, and criminal behavior. Self-esteem can apply specifically to a particular dimension (for example, "I believe I am a good writer and feel happy about that") or a global extent (for example, "I believe I am a bad person, and feel bad about myself in general").

Psychologists usually regard self-esteem as an enduring personality characteristic ("trait" self-esteem), though normal, short-term variations ("state" self-esteem) also exist. Synonyms or near-synonyms of self-esteem include: self-worth, self-regard, self-respect, and self-integrity.

The identification of self-esteem as a distinct psychological construct is thought to have its origins in the work of William James (1892). James identified multiple dimensions of the self, with two levels of hierarchy: processes of knowing (called the 'I-self') and the resulting knowledge about the self (the `Me-self'). Observation and storage by the I-self create three types of knowledge, which collectively account for the Me-self, according to James. These are the material self, social self, and spiritual self. The social self comes closest to self-esteem, comprising all characteristics recognized by others. The material self consists of representations of the body and possessions, and the spiritual self of descriptive representations and evaluative dispositions regarding the self. This view of self-esteem as the collection of an individual's attitudes toward oneself remains today.


In the mid-1960s, sociologist Morris Rosenberg defined self-esteem as a feeling of self-worth and developed the Rosenberg self-esteem scale (RSES), which became the most-widely used scale to measure self-esteem in the social sciences.

In the early 20th century, the behaviorist movement minimized introspective study of mental processes, emotions and feelings, which was replaced by objective study through experiments on behaviors observed in relation with environment. Behaviorism placed the human being as an animal subject to reinforcements, and suggested placing psychology as an experimental science, similar to chemistry or biology.

“The path of development is a journey of discovery that is clear only in retrospect, and it’s rarely a straight line.” Eileen Kennedy-Moore

As a consequence, clinical trials on self-esteem were overlooked, since behaviorists considered the idea less liable to rigorous measurement hypothesis. In the mid-20th century, the rise of phenomenology and humanistic psychotherapy led to renewed interest in self-esteem. Self-esteem took a central role in personal self-actualization and in the treatment of psychic disorders. Psychologists started to consider the relationship between psychotherapy and the personal satisfaction of a person with high self-esteem as useful to the field. This was able to lead to new elements being introduced to the concept of self-esteem. This included things such as helping to understand the reasons why people tend to feel less worthy. Other elements added to the concept of self-esteem were understanding why people become discouraged or unable to understand challenges by themselves.

Currently, the core self-evaluations approach includes self-esteem as one of four dimensions that comprise one's fundamental appraisal of oneself, along with locus of control, neuroticism, and self-efficacy. The concept of core self-evaluations as first examined by Judge, Locke, and Durham (1997), has since proven to have the ability to predict several work outcomes, specifically, job satisfaction and job performance. Self-esteem may, in fact, be one of the most essential core self-evaluation dimensions because it is the overall value one feels about oneself as a person.


Many early theories suggested that self-esteem is a basic human need or motivation. American psychologist Abraham Maslow included self-esteem in his hierarchy of human needs. He described two different forms of "esteem": the need for respect from others in the form of recognition, success, and admiration, and the need for self-respect in the form of self-love, self-confidence, skill, or aptitude. Respect from others was believed to be more fragile and easily lost than inner self-esteem. According to Maslow, without the fulfillment of the self-esteem need, individuals will be driven to seek it and unable to grow and obtain self-actualization. Maslow also states that the healthiest expression of self-esteem is the one we take deserve from others. It is more than just renown or flattery. Modern theories of self-esteem explore the reasons humans are motivated to maintain a high regard for themselves. Sociometer theory maintains that self-esteem evolved to check one's level of status and acceptance in ones' social group. According to Terror Management Theory, self-esteem serves a protective function and reduces anxiety about life and death.


Self-esteem is typically assessed using self-report inventories.

One of the most widely used instruments, the RSES (Rosenberg, 1965) is a 10-item self-esteem scale scores that requires participants to indicate their level of agreement with a series of statements about themselves. An alternative measure, The Coopersmith Inventory uses a 50-question battery over a variety of topics and asks subjects whether they rate someone as similar or dissimilar to themselves. If a subject's answers demonstrate solid self-regard, the scale regards them as well adjusted. If those answers reveal some inner shame, it considers them to be prone to social deviance.

Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands. Anne Frank

Implicit measures of self-esteem began to be used in the 1980s. These rely on indirect measures of cognitive processing thought to be linked to implicit self-esteem, including the Name Letter Task. Such indirect measures are designed to reduce awareness of the process of assessment. When used to assess implicit self-esteem, psychologists feature self-relevant stimuli to the participant and then measure how quickly a person identifies positive or negative stimuli. For example if a woman was given the self-relevant stimuli of female and mother, psychologists would measure how quickly she identified the negative word, evil, or the positive word, kind.

Experiences in a person's life are a major source of how self-esteem develops. In the early years of a child's life, parents have a significant influence on self-esteem and can be considered a main source of positive and negative experiences a child will have. Unconditional love from parents helps a child develop a stable sense of being cared for and respected. These feelings translate into later effects of self-esteem as the child grows older. Students in elementary school who have high self-esteem tend to have authoritative parents who are caring, supportive adults who set clear standards for their child and allow them to voice their opinion in decision making. [ Source ]