Understanding Self Esteem

Complete the following sentances!

When you think of self-esteem or having self-esteem what enters your mind is ...

Self-esteem to me is  ...

Having Self-esteem means ...

Self-Esteem you can’t touch it, smell it, taste it, see it, hear it ...

What is it?

By far the most influential and eloquent voice in self-concept theory was that of Carl Rogers (1947) who introduced an entire system of helping built around the importance of the self. In Rogers' view, the self is the central ingredient in human personality and personal adjustment. Rogers described the self as a social product, developing out of interpersonal relationships and striving for consistency. He maintained that there is a basic human need for positive regard both from others and from oneself. He also believed that in every person there is a tendency towards self-actualization and development so long as this is permitted and encouraged by an inviting environment (Purkey & Schmidt, 1987).

Dr Nathaniel Branden the leading pioneer in Self-esteem work in 1969

Defined self-esteem as:

 “Self-esteem is the disposition to experience oneself as being competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and of being worthy of happiness. It is confidence in the efficacy of our mind, in our ability to think. By extension, it is confidence in our ability to learn, make appropriate choices and decisions, and respond effectively to change. It is also the experience that success, achievement, fulfillment – happiness – are right and natural for us. The survival-value of such confidence is obvious; so is the danger when it is missing.”

"The experience of being competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and being worthy of happiness." According to Branden, self-esteem is the sum of self-confidence (a feeling of personal capacity) and self-respect (a feeling of personal worth).  It exists as a consequence of the implicit judgment that every person has of their ability to face life's challenges, to understand and solve problems, and their right to achieve happiness, and be given respect.

Branden wrote in his book The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem:

“Apart from disturbance whose roots are biological, I cannot thing of a single psychological problem – from anxiety and depression, to underachieving at school or at work, to fear of intimacy, happiness or success, to alcohol or drug abuse to spouse battering or child molestation, to co-dependency and sexual disorders to passivity and chronic aimlessness, to suicide and crimes of violence-that is not traceable at least in part to the problems of deficient self-esteem. 

Of all the judgments we pass in life NONE is as important as the one we pass on our Self.

Brandon points out that “Self-esteem is an experience. It is a particular way of experiencing the self. It is a good deal more than a mere feeling – this must be stressed. It involves emotional evaluative and cognitive components. It also entails certain action dispositions: for example to move toward life rather than away from it; to move toward consciousness rather than away from it; to treat facts with respect rather than denial; to operate self-responsibly rather than the opposite”.   

It is also the experience that success, achievement, fulfillment – happiness – are right and natural for us. The survival-value of such confidence is obvious; so is the danger when it is missing.”  www.nathanielbranden.com

What all these psychologist have in common; they all have a belief that our organism has a natural striving for transcendence for example Rogers/Maslow’s Self-Actualization, Jung’ Individuation or Freud’s personal growth by making that which is unconscious conscious. 

A positive view of yourself with real awareness of your personal strengths and needs.  You have a true sense of personal significance and value and are there to learn from negative experiences and to be prepared to work on your weaknesses.    


Somethings which have been said about self-esteem.

A term used in psychology to reflect a person’s overall 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 and emotions.

Known as the evaluative dimension of the self that includes feelings of worthiness, pride and discouragement.

Self-esteem is a disposition that a person has which represents their judgments of their own worthiness.

Psychologists usually regard self-esteem as an enduring personality characteristic ("trait" self-esteem), though normal, short-term variations ("state" self-esteem) also exist.

Self-esteem is integral to personal happiness, Self-efficacy and Self-respect. (Wikipedia)

Some hypothesize Self-esteem has dimensions to it for example Coopersmith (1967) suggests the dimensions of “significance, competence, power and virtue” whilst Susan Harter (1983) suggests self-esteem is made up of acceptance, power and control, moral virtue and competence. 

Maslow suggests Self-esteem is a basic human need or motivation and without the fulfilment of self-esteem a person has a need to seek it and without it is unable to grow and obtain Self-actualisation. (The motivation to become all that one is capable of becoming)

Synonyms  include:

Self-worth, self-regard, self-respect, self-integrity, self-concept, self-image, confidence and congruence.

Strong Self-esteem, Self-Esteem

Weak Self-esteem, Self Esteem
I haven't got a brain... only straw.

"How can you talk if you haven't got a brain"?


"I don't know... But some people without brains do an awful lot of talking... don't they"?


"Yes, I guess you're right".

They also postulate that self-esteem is not something which is given to us as a gift; it is something we learnt as a child and as an adult if our esteem is low we can cultivate it, self-esteem is something which we can work to achieve for and gain for the Self.

Many psychologists believe our Self-concept has dimensions to it for example it is learned, it is organized, it is dynamic and it can and does change over our lifetime.

Branden suggests that self-esteem has several dimensions - six in total

The six dimensions are:

Branden wrote ….. The practice of living consciously: respect for facts; being present to what we are doing while we are doing it; seeking and being eagerly open to any information, knowledge, or feedback that bears on our interests, values, goals, and projects; seeking to understand not only the world external to self but also our inner world, so that we do not live out of self-blindness.  (Rogers internal and external locus of evaluation, Jung’ Persona (mask) and Real-Self or Freud’s conscious and unconscious).  Eric Fromm describes self-concept as “life being aware of itself”.

Cowardly Lion: [singing]
I'm afraid there's no denyin'
I'm just a dandy-lion
A fate I don't deserve.
I'm sure I could show my prowess
Be a lion, not a mouse
If I only had the nerve.

  1. The practice of living Consciously
  2. The practice of Self-Acceptance
  3. The Practice of Self-Repsonsibility
  4. The Practice of Self-Assertiveness
  5. The Practice of Living Purposely
  6. The Practice of Personal Integrity

"I shall take the heart," returned the Tin Woodman; "for brains do not make one happy, and happiness is the best thing in the world.”  

If you have low self-esttem, would like to grow and develop your self-concept and confidence or wish to learn more about working towards your personal

 Please contact me.

Together we are stronger
Susan Stubbings Doncaster