Your Most Important Relationship: The Significance of Self-Esteem

The Dimensions of “Real” Self-Esteem

In order to have mental health, healthy families, and healthy societies, every man, woman, and child needs to have positive self-esteem-a real sense of personal worth.

Unfortunately there has been a great deal of confusion over its definition. Many people mistakenly equate self-esteem with egotism, arrogance, conceit, narcissism, and a sense of entitlement or superiority. These definitions are incorrect.

Real self-esteem is “the experience of being capable of meeting life’s challenges and being worthy of happiness.” It involves three dimensions:

  1. Cognitive refers to one’s thoughts, beliefs, and knowledge.
  2. Affective refers to one’s feelings and emotions.
  3. Behavioral dimension refers to one’s actions, e.g., being respectful, assertive and resilient.

Sadly, there is a long, established tradition in our society convincing us that we are not okay. The most devastating aspect of the problem is that mostly the shame is connected with who we are-which we cannot change. We cannot change our nationality, color, or height, for example. We have bought a bill of goods that has made us very sick. We have been convinced that we are supposed to be caterpillars forever, and never transform into butterflies.

Every person wants and needs to feel important, capable, lovable, and worthwhile. In order to recover self-esteem, we must be willing to move from shame and self-rejection to acceptance and self-love. We are not profane beings, but sacred.

Yet now we have the opportunity to look at ourselves with new eyes, to reclaim and “re-member” the missing pieces of who we are. We are lovable. We are valuable. We are precious. We are and have always been okay just the way we are; we have done our best given the information we had at the time.

Where we have done wrong, we can learn to do right. Where we have made mistakes, we can clean them up. Where we have caused harm, we can acknowledge it and learn to heal. And where we are innocent, we should treasure it, not hide it.


“For adults, self -esteem is determined not by what others think of you

but by what you think about yourself.”

-from On the Wings of Self-Esteem