Why Love Can Be Important For Healthy Self-Esteem

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Updated April 30, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

It’s often challenging to maintain a healthy level of self-esteem. You might be living with low self-esteem if you apologize for everything, cling to your phone in social situations, judge others, blame other people for your problems, and frequently give in to fear. Often, self-love is linked to self-esteem, and when you experience challenges with one, you may also encounter difficulties with the other. It can be possible to improve your self-esteem and cultivate self-love by practicing positive self-talk, seeing mistakes and failures for what they are, accepting your imperfections, surrounding yourself with supportive people, and stepping out of your comfort zone. It can also be helpful to work with a licensed therapist in person or online, as a mental health professional can help you get to the root of low self-esteem and address it effectively.

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Experiencing challenges with self-esteem?

What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem is generally defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as "a confidence and satisfaction in oneself". Your self-esteem can be thought of as your opinion of yourself. You may look at it as the way you think about yourself when no one else's opinion is considered. 

Some people may have great self-confidence. They may be comfortable and confident in who they are. However, others may have low self-esteem. These people may struggle with feeling like they aren't "good enough" or that they don't measure up. They can sometimes become “people-pleasers” who may look to meet the love and belonging needs of others so they can receive approval in return.

Signs of low self-esteem

  • Self-esteem can play a part in every area of your life. It can affect your relationships, your confidence, and your ability to go after the things that you want to do. This may be why it can be so important to be able to recognize what the symptoms of low self-esteem are so you can learn to address them. Many people may have difficulties recognizing low self-esteem in their own lives.
  • You may apologize for everything, even if it's not your fault. Sometimes, people with low self-esteem take responsibility for things that are not their fault. Then, they might end up apologizing constantly for things that they had nothing to do with. Taking responsibility for things that they aren't responsible for may continue to lower their self-esteem.
  • You may cling to your phone in social settings. Low self-esteem can turn your phone into a safety blanket when you are in social situations. Staring at your screen may make it look like you're busy, so people may not be as likely to talk to you. This way, you might not have to push yourself outside of your comfort zone as much.
  • You frequently judge others. When you have low self-esteem, you may feel that everyone else has their eyes on you and is judging you. This can make you feel very insecure and potentially cause you to judge others. You might be constantly comparing yourself to others to see how you stack up against them.
  • You tend to act like the people you’re surrounded by. When you have low self-esteem, you might work to blend in with the crowd that you're with. That can mean you might not have your own thoughts or opinions because you generally go along with the crowd. This can lead you to do things you don't necessarily want to do just to be able to fit in.
  • You may blame others for your own problems. Sometimes, when people live with low self-esteem, they may play the role of the victim. They may look at the things that aren't the way they want them to be in life and then blame those problems on other people. This can prevent them from taking personal responsibility for their actions.
  • You may give in to fear. If you struggle with low self-esteem, fear and anxiety are likely a large part of your life. You might allow your fear to control you. This can keep you from moving forward with things you want to do and accomplish.
  • You may avoid social gatherings. You may experience social fear and awkwardness, potentially causing you to avoid social gatherings. You may even want to attend the event or gathering, but you may have so much anxiety about it that you keep yourself from going.

Why self-esteem can be important for relationships

Your self-esteem can impact the types of relationships you have with people, which can also impact your self-esteem in turn. When you have low self-esteem, you might have a tendency to end up in unhealthy relationships.


It can be common for people with low self-esteem to fall into habits of people-pleasing. You might want the other person to like you, and you might think that if you do things for them, they will appreciate you. However, this type of behavior can often lead to being hurt or taken advantage of. When people know that you are willing to do whatever they want, they may use that to get what they want, not to give you what you're looking for.

Your self-esteem generally shouldn’t be based on external sources. In most cases, you may first need to have healthy self-esteem and self-love, and then you may form healthy relationships with other people.

Tips to improve your self-esteem

If you have low self-esteem, it doesn't necessarily have to stay that way. There may be many different strategies you can use to improve your self-esteem and self-love.

Change yourself through positive self-talk

It can be hard to think positively about yourself if you're constantly criticizing yourself and knocking yourself down internally. Love can be an important part of this process. You may have to decide to think about and talk about yourself like you would to someone that you love. You likely wouldn't knock that person down, shame them, or criticize them in front of others. Instead, you would probably look for ways to build them up and encourage them.

Try making a list of positive things about yourself. Anytime a negative thought about yourself enters your mind, you might choose to think about that list of positive things instead.

Learn to see mistakes and failures for what they are

Making a mistake or failing at something does not necessarily mean that you are a failure. It can be important to learn that failures may simply be experiences you can learn from. Try not to let them hold you back from making progress in your life. If there's something you've done wrong, you might look to see if there's something you can do to correct it. If not, it can be healthy to acknowledge your error, apologize, forgive yourself, and move on. Failing in one part of life doesn’t always make you a failure, and neither does making mistakes. In general, everyone is human and tends to require patience with themselves sometimes. Try not to let mistakes and failures hold you back.

Accept your imperfections

Nobody may be completely perfect. You may think that other people look like they have perfect lives, perfect bodies, and perfect relationships, but this likely isn’t true.

You are likely to be constantly disappointed in yourself and your situation if you are expecting it to be perfect. Instead, you might choose to focus on the good things and simply accept the things that you may wish could be different.

Until you learn how to accept yourself as you are, you are not likely to learn how to love yourself or have healthy self-esteem. Your self-esteem should generally kick off from your mind and not from what you see in the mirror. It can be helpful to stop asking, "Why don't I love my body?" and start embracing that you may be imperfect but still beautiful.

Surround yourself with supportive people

It can be important to have people in your life who you can be completely honest with. It can also be important that those people can be honest with you. This is typically what a healthy friendship looks like.

When you have these people in your life, they can let you know when you're doing something that could be hurting your self-esteem. They can help you recognize when you're falling into people-pleasing behaviors or when you're getting too caught up in comparing yourself to others.

Step out of your comfort zone

We may prefer to stay in our comfort zones because it usually feels safe there. However, growth typically cannot happen when you are staying in your comfort zone. If you want to really grow as a person and build healthy self-esteem, you're likely going to need to do things that challenge you and make you feel somewhat uncomfortable. As you try new things and see that you can have success in them, it can build your confidence and self-esteem.

Consider therapy

Therapy can be a great way to improve your self-esteem and self-love. A licensed therapist can help you recognize where your low self-esteem could be stemming from and learn strategies to improve it.

Sometimes, we might know where our struggles are coming from, and other times, they may have been there so long that we may have no idea where their root is. In many cases, low self-esteem can develop due to adverse childhood experiences, but this is not always the case.

Experiencing challenges with self-esteem?

Benefits of online therapy

Therapy can be incredibly helpful for your self-esteem, and online therapy may be a game changer since you can easily attend sessions from home or any location with an internet connection. Cognitive behavioral therapy, for example, is generally designed to identify and re-work negative thought patterns so that you can have more control over your inner narrative. Studies have shown that online cognitive behavioral therapy can be just as effective as in-person therapy, and sometimes even more so. 

Online therapy often comes with added benefits. For example, it’s usually more cost-effective, especially when you consider potential added costs like taking time off work, transportation, or childcare, which may all be required for in-person sessions. Online therapy may also allow you to open up more, as many people have expressed that when they speak to a therapist online as opposed to face-to-face, they tend to feel more comfortable discussing personal, honest details about themselves.


Self-love and self-esteem are often intertwined. If you’d like to change your levels of self-esteem and self-love to be healthier, you might start by practicing positive self-talk. It can also be helpful to surround yourself with supportive people, view mistakes and failures as opportunities for growth, accept your imperfections, and step out of your comfort zone. Therapy, whether online or in person, can also be helpful in addressing the roots of low self-esteem.
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