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Navigating Self Worth and Internal Validation In College | Cecilia Suarez | TEDxUIUC Video Preview

"... Embracing this notion of 'sometimes, it's rough'". - Cecilia Suarez, Navigating Self-Worth and Internal Validation in College, TED2016

What is Self-Esteem?

Self-Esteem is how we perceive our own value. It affects how we take care of ourselves physically and emotionally. Factors that define our self-esteem are:

  • Self-confidence - a feeling of trust in one's abilities, qualities, and judgment.
  • Feeling of security - feeling safe, stable, and free from fear or anxiety.
  • Identity - the characteristics that make up who you are.
  • Sense of belonging - an emotional need for interpersonal relationships.
  • Feeling of competence - the ability to do something successfully or efficiently.


Your level of self-esteem can determine how much influence you have over the following:

  • If you enjoy and value yourself
  • How much time you take for self-care
  • Decision-making skills (being passive or assertive)
  • If you acknowledge your strengths
  • Believing you matter and are good enough
  • Believing you deserve happiness
  • Your desire to try new or challenging things
  • If you are being kind to yourself
  • If you can move on from past mistakes
  • If you place unnecessary blame on yourself

There are three types of self-esteem:


  • Sense of self is accurate and balanced
  • Grounded in reality about who you are
  • Feeling practical and confident in your abilities
  • Recognizing and trying to improve upon your flaws


  • Feeling superior to others
  • Preoccupied with being perfect or always being right
  • Overestimating your skills and abilities (believing you cannot fail)
  • Underestimating other's skills and abilities
  • Boasting and expressing grandiose ideas


  • Believing that others are better than you
  • Difficult to express your needs
  • Preoccupied with your weaknesses and flaws
  • Believe others are more capable and successful
  • Putting little to no value on your opinions, ideas, and abilities

Here are some signs for negative (inflated or low) self-esteem:


  • Arrogance
  • Desire to be recognized as special
  • Exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • Sense of entitlement to special treatment
  • Tendency to exaggerate accomplishments or talents
  • Needing external validation to feel good about one self


  • Withdrawal from socializing
  • Trouble accepting or refusing to accept compliments
  • Being harsh or critical toward yourself
  • Making self-depreciating jokes
  • Downplaying your achievements
  • Constantly comparing yourself to others
  • Avoiding challenges for fear of failing
  • Thinking you don’t deserve to have fun
  • Always blaming yourself when things go wrong
  • Sensitivity to disapproval or criticism
  • Thinking other people are better than you
  • Feeling sad, depressed, anxious, ashamed, angry or worthless

Having a healthy level of self-esteem can help you be...

  • Assertive in expressing your needs and opinions
  • Confident in your ability to make decisions
  • Able to form secure and honest relationships
  • Less likely to stay in unhealthy relationships
  • Realistic in your expectations and less likely to be overcritical of yourself and others
  • More resilient and better able to weather stress and setbacks

Unchecked issues with self-esteem can have social, psychological, and even physical consequences.

Having too high self-esteem can lead to:

  • Substance abuse
  • Anxiety
  • Mood disorders
  • Violence
  • Suicide

Having too low self-esteem can lead to:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Substance abuse
  • Violence
  • Suicide
  • Eating disorders


Body Image and Self-Esteem

Body image is the combination of thoughts you have about your body based on your experiences and perceptions of them.

Body image and self-esteem are direct influences on each other. A healthy perception of your body will increase your self-esteem and encourage healthy behaviors. On the other hand, a negative perception of your body can lead to lower self-esteem and/or:

  • Disordered eating
  • Relationship problems
  • Body dysmorphic disorder
  • Mood disorders
  • Muscle dysmorphia
  • Self-harm tendencies

You may have a positive body image if:

  • You see and think of yourself as a whole person, not a collection of specific body parts.
  • You accept and celebrate the uniqueness of your natural body shape and size.
  • You understand that a person’s physical appearance says very little about their character and value as a person.
  • You feel comfortable and confident in your body, and avoid worrying about food, weight, and counting calories.

You may have a negative body image if:

  • You focus on your body’s weight and perceived flaws.
  • You feel uncomfortable and self-conscious about your body.
  • You’re convinced you would be happier or “better” if you were thin.
  • You believe that only other people are attractive.
  • You exercise to lose weight or to “make up” for calories that you’ve eaten.
  • Being teased about appearance in childhood
  • Growing up in a household where emphasis is placed on appearance
  • Surrounded by others experiencing body dissatisfaction and engaging in dieting or weight control behaviors
  • The cultural tendency to judge people by their appearance
  • Peer pressure to compare yourself with others
  • Media and advertising images that promote certain appearance ideals
  • Public health campaigns that urge people to lose weight (has an unexpected, adverse effect of lowering self-esteem)

These tips from Here To Help are great ways to start reshaping your perception of your body!

  • Start off small!
    • Dress in a way that makes you feel good.
    • Get rid of all the clothes in your closet that don’t fit.
      • This includes clothes that you can wear only when dieting and clothes you wear to draw attention away from your body shape.
      • Donate or put away clothing that is too small.
  • Treat your body with respect.
    • Eat balanced meals with a variety of nutritious foods.
    • Enjoy regular, moderate exercise to feel your body move and grow stronger, not just to burn calories and control body fat.
    • Get enough rest.
    • Don’t judge yourself and others based on weight, shape, or size.
  • Start changing your perception of body standards.
    • Respect people based on the qualities of their character and accomplishments, not for their appearance.
    • Surround yourself with positive friends and family who recognize your uniqueness and like you just as you are.


More Tips for Improving Self-Esteem

Mayo Clinic

Mind UK

TED Ideas

More Tips for Improving Body Image

Seeds of Hope

National Eating Disorders Collab


If you are struggling with this problem, consider meeting with a counselor from the WKU Counseling Center.









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 Last Modified 4/19/22