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Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD

What Is Self-Esteem?

Self-esteem is a way of thinking and feeling about yourself.

Kids with self-esteem:

  • feel good about themselves
  • feel proud of what they can do
  • believe in themselves, even when they don't succeed at first
  • see their own good qualities, such as being kind or capable
  • feel liked, loved, and respected
  • accept themselves, even when they make mistakes

Low self-esteem is another way of thinking and feeling about yourself.

Kids with low self-esteem:

  • don't feel good about themselves
  • don't think they are as good as others
  • think mostly bad things about themselves
  • think of the times they fail, rather than the times they do well
  • are hard on themselves and give up easily
  • don't feel liked, accepted, or respected

Which one best describes you most of the time?

Self-Esteem Affects Almost Everything You Do

Here are three things to remember about self-esteem:

  1. Having self-esteem helps you. Self-esteem helps you have the courage to try new things, like making new friends. With self-esteem, you believe in yourself. You know that good things can happen when you try your best.
  2. Having low self-esteem can hurt you. Low self-esteem makes kids feel unsure of themselves. They doubt they can do things as well as others. They lack the confidence to go after their goals.
  3. You can grow your self-esteem. Self-esteem can begin with things parents say when a kid is very young. For example, a parent might tell a baby, "Look what you can do — you're walking all by yourself!" Hearing and thinking good things makes the baby feel proud and feel good. As you get older, you can keep self-esteem going by noticing when you've learned to do something or achieve something new. Riding a bike, learning to play a song, or doing a math problem are all things to notice in a happy way. You don't have to brag out loud, but you can give yourself a quiet little high-five. Yay, you!

You also can take note when things don't go your way. Everybody makes mistakes. If you miss the soccer goal or lose a library book, try not to get too mad at yourself. Instead, try again. That's self-esteem in action.

How to Boost Your Self-Esteem:

Try these steps:

  • Make a list of the stuff you're good at. It can be anything from drawing, singing, or reading to playing a sport or telling a good joke. If you're having trouble with your list, ask your mom or dad to help you with it.
  • Practice the things you do well. Think of ways you can practice some of the things you're good at every day. Your mom or dad can help you plan a way to keep practicing your skills and talents.
  • Turn "I can't" into "I can!" Does the little voice in your head often tell you "I'm no good at this" or "I can't do it — it's too hard for me"? That's you thinking negative things about yourself. Decide to change your mind. Decide to think "I can give it a try," "I can handle this," "I'll give it my best," or "I'll ask someone to help me do this."
  • Try your best. You can feel good about yourself when you give something a good try. Do your best at whatever you do, and your self-esteem will grow.
  • Spend time with people who love you. Find time to do enjoyable or relaxing things with your parent or family. It helps you know you belong.
  • Pitch in. Do nice things for parents, such as helping with meals, cleaning up, or feeding the pet. Pitching in by doing kind, helpful things helps you feel great about yourself. It helps you realize that what you do makes a difference.

Kids with good self-esteem are more likely to try again. They expect to do better next time — and usually they do!

Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: August 2015