What Are Self-Esteem And Self-Respect And How Do I Improve Them

Last updated on : June 10 2021

Close up of an eye - window to the inner you

Self-Esteem And Self-Respect

Self-esteem and self-respect are an integral part of our internal values. They govern how we live our lives, both outwardly in our relationships with other people, and inwardly with ourselves. 

The easiest way to understand what they are is to look at self-esteem first and then self-respect.  

What Is Self-Esteem

Self-esteem relates to how you think and feel about yourself and how you value your abilities and skills. When you have high self-esteem, you feel secure within yourself and with the people around you.

Your self-esteem levels are critical for the relationships you have with people - with romantic relationships needing high levels of self-esteem for love and respect to flourish. They are also vital to the relationship you have with yourself.

If you have low-self esteem levels, you may experience unhappiness as you battle with low confidence levels and insecurity.    

What causes low self-esteem

Your self-esteem can be damaged by what other people say about you and your abilities.

Additionally, you can damage your self-esteem with your inner voice, for example, by persistently telling yourself you are not good enough or other things negative.

Lastly, your upbringing may affect your self-esteem too. 

Signs of low self-esteem

People with a lack of self-esteem tend to lack confidence and feel bad about themselves. They have a fragile sense of self, often coming across as awkward or incompetent.

They feel unloveable and extremely sensitive to rejection and might imagine these things happening to them when they are not. As a result, they look for reassurance and validation from others.

The three types of self-esteem

We generally recognize three types of self-esteem:

  • Inflated self-esteem. People with inflated self-esteem think they are better than others. 
  • High self-esteem. People with this type of self-esteem accept and value themselves appropriately.
  • Low self-esteem. People with low self-esteem often lack self-confidence and are insecure.

What Is Self-Respect

Old constitutional building - showing respect

On the other hand, self-respect defines your morals and boundaries. It defines attributes like your honesty, confidence, humility, dignity, and integrity. You can also think of self-respect as self-love. 

If you have high self-respect, then the opinion of others will not easily sway you.

High self-respect will also boost and protect your self-esteem. In other words, high self-respect provides a protective barrier to the actions of others towards you.

With high self-respect levels, you are less likely to be negatively impacted by others' criticism of you, and so are unlikely to suffer the symptoms of low self-esteem.

When you have high self-respect, you also control your inner voice better. 

Conversely, low self-respect and low-self esteem go hand in hand and can drive each other. For example, With low self-esteem, you might easily be swayed by others to do things you otherwise wouldn't want to do - damaging your self-respect. 

The three types of self-respect

Psychologists argue there are three base forms of self-respect:

  • Self-respect from human recognition. This form refers to how we gain respect from how others recognize our qualities and accomplishments. 
  • Self-respect from status recognition. Or how others recognize our status. 
  • And a third which relates to self-respect from our appraisal needs.

What Is The Difference Between Self-Respect And Self-Esteem

Self-esteem is how you feel about yourself and your abilities, while self-respect is all about your morals and boundaries. You can think of self-respect as the gatekeeper to your self-esteem levels.

If your morality is high, you're unlikely to be influenced negatively by events or people, and so your self-esteem is likely to be healthier. Conversely, if your morality is weak, say you are dishonest, you'll likely feel negative about yourself with lower self-esteem levels.  

Examples Of The importance Of Self-Respect And Self-Esteem

These examples illustrate the importance of self-respect and self-esteem.

1. Your Moral Code And The Type Of Person You Are

If honesty and integrity describe part of your moral code - then the boundaries you set for these behaviors demonstrate what type of person you are.

For example, suppose you have unhealthy self-respect. In that case, you'll likely have easy to break honesty and integrity limits. In other words, you might lie easily or misbehave when no one is watching. 

2. Self Respect And Relationships

Mutual respect, or the respect we have for each other in a relationship, is a critical component of all relationships. 

In romantic relationships, love is unlikely to develop or flourish without respect - you cannot love someone if you don't respect them. In other relationships, you can say the same but substitute love with trust. 

If you respect yourself and carry healthy self-esteem levels, others are more likely to respect and appreciate you. And so, your level of self-respect and self-esteem is integral to having successful relationships.   

3. Your Ability To Progress In Life

Unhealthy self-esteem levels are likely to impact your ability to progress your life.

You might struggle at work or any other endeavors you choose to take up. Or you might not take up new opportunities because of a lack of self-confidence.  

4. Breakups Of Romantic Relationships

A breakup of a romantic relationship can have a significant impact on your self-esteem, often hurting it quite quickly and badly.

For most people rejected or dumped from a romantic relationship, their first instinct is to plead or bargain with their ex-partner, begging them to reconsider, and "come back" to them. This behavior is instinctual because, in our history, being rejected or cast out to the wilderness meant almost certain death - the support of the clan being critical to the individual's survival.

However, begging, pleading, or committing any common breakup mistakes, demonstrates a severe lack of self-respect in today's modern world. And suffering these breakdowns can severely damage your self-esteem and mental health, particularly if harmful contact with your ex-partner is allowed to go on indefinitely.

A sure-fire way to demonstrate high internal value is to immediately cease contact with your ex-partner and go into a no-contact period.

When you're in no-contact, you cannot beg, plead, chase, or bargain, so by default, you are not exhibiting low self-respect or self-esteem, and you are allowing yourself to heal.   

Therefore, you must demonstrate high levels of self-respect in a romantic breakup. This behavior will protect your self-esteem and allow your ex-partner to continue to respect you, and thus be open to loving you again. 

5. Peer Pressure

Low self-respect is likely to lead you to bow to negative peer pressure and lead to low self-esteem. When you do things that only other people want you to do, it can damage your self-esteem. 

6. Your Standing In The Community

If you behave in a way that demonstrates unhealthy self-respect in your community, it will affect how they perceive you. For example, if you have an affair, this might show others that you have low self-respect, damaging your reputation.

This point demonstrates the importance of having self-respect levels above or at least equal to your peers - if you value them, of course. 

Things You Can Do To Improve Your Self-Respect And Self-Esteem 

Girl holding a heart indicating slf love

The following steps can help you improve your self-worth. 

  • Practice the principles of self-love. Don't look for validation and love from others. Do the small things you need to do, from brushing your teeth to watching what you eat and getting enough exercise. Pat yourself on the back often, be positive and celebrate life. 
  • Always show respect and friendliness for others, and be quick to forgive. These behaviors are respectful and will keep you positive.   
  • Consider and refresh your boundaries and don't violate them. If you break your boundaries too often, you'll expect less of yourself, diminishing your self-respect. Set high standards for yourself, and stick to them. Don't lie and develop good habits and decisions.   
  • Tune into your needs. Don't let other people's opinions sway you. Don't compare yourself to others.
  • Turn your inner voice positive. You are your most prominent critic. Practice telling you how good you are and make it a habit. Strike a hero's pose every day and write positive affirmations. Surround yourself with positive people. 
  • Don't succumb to peer pressure. You don't want to do things to get other people's approval. 
  • Control your emotions, especially negative emotions like anger, jealousy, and resentment. When let out, these emotions can be damaging, not only to our relationships but to ourselves. If you're angry all the time, you'll accept it as a way of life. Focus instead on being happy and cheerful. 
  • Increase your knowledge and develop a passion. Expand your mind and your boundaries by learning more. Being more knowledgeable allows you to interact with a broader range of people intelligently and broaden your perspectives. If you live in a small world, you might not feel others will value your opinion. 
  • Show gratitude and volunteer to help people. These two behaviors are proven to increase your mood and sense of self-worth. 
  • Seek the help of a therapist. If you're struggling, don't fight the battle alone. Instead, seek the use of a therapist. 


Self-esteem is how you feel about yourself and your abilities, while self-respect is all about your morals and boundaries. Both are integral parts of our internal value systems and essential for our day to day functioning, in relationships, and for our inner happiness. 

If you suffer from a lack of self-respect or self-esteem, try the steps above to make improvements, or see a therapist for professional and specific advice.

Read moreRemote Work And Self-Care - How To Achieve A Healthy Work-Life Balance

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