Emotional Well-Being: Why Respect Is Important For Self-Esteem

Updated March 30, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist, theorized that humans have a hierarchy of needs, with the highest-level need being self-actualization, or becoming your best self. Structured on a pyramid, the building blocks represent different motivators of human behavior, with the lowest levels being made up of basic needs and the higher levels representing more complex needs. In this theory, the needs lower down in the pyramid have to be satisfied before tending to the needs that are higher up. Starting from the bottom, the needs are physiological needs, safety needs, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. In this article, we’ll dive further into the second-highest level of the pyramid—esteem—and the importance of respect for this need. 

Learning To Respect Yourself More Can Be Challenging

Maslow's Theory

According to Maslow's theory, esteem is the second-highest level of the hierarchy of needs, immediately below self-actualization. The theory asserts that there are other needs that have to come before being able to work on the esteem needs. First come the physiological needs, and then when those first needs are met, a person is free to work on the next level of the hierarchy, the need for safety, which comes from things such as employment, a stable home/family life, property, and good health. The next tier includes the need for love and belonging, which are met through friendship, family, intimacy, and a sense of connection.

Within the esteem needs, there are two main aspects: esteem for oneself and respect from others. This need to have respect given to you by yourself and by others falls in the second to last tier of the pyramid, right under self-actualization, meaning that Maslow believed that without this step, a person cannot reach their fullest potential as a human being. When the need for respect is met, you can then move on to pursuits in the top tier, including the needs for morality, creativity, spontaneity, acceptance, and the experience of meaning and inner potential.

In the highest tier of self-actualization, there comes the idea of “peak experiences.” This term is used to describe certain experiences that are common in those that are self-actualized. They are transcendent moments of elation that stand out from everyday events, often likened to a spiritual experience.

Peak Experiences Explained

While these experiences are not restricted solely to those that have reached self-actualization, they happen in greater frequency for individuals that have. A characteristic of being self-actualized is the frequent experience of these peak experiences, feeling overcome with the conviction that something extremely important and valuable had happened and that you were to some extent strengthened and transformed through the experience in question.

This may be in the form of introduction to or immersion in a concept, wherein your pattern of thought is changed when engaged in some creative moment. These experiences are thought to generate positive emotions, leading to heightened personal awareness and understanding, while enhancing one's sense of purpose and passion. Achieving an important goal or milestone, certain times with family or friends, awe-inspiring moments in nature, or emotions stemming from religious, athletic or other creative engagements, can all be examples for when a peak experience has the potential to take place.

Why Respect Is Important

A central idea within the need for esteem is that we need to feel respected both by ourselves and by others. 

Having respect for yourself can be important in fully engaging with the world around you. Learning to love yourself can be a difficult yet worthwhile path, one that can benefit your internal life and your relationships with others. When you respect yourself, you may feel more open to seeking new opportunities that help you to fulfill your full potential, and you can feel confident in your own inherent worth and value. When you respect yourself, you may feel more able to recognize and reject harmful treatment from others, feeling more fully aware that you deserve love and care.

Humans also have a need to feel respected by others. We want to feel valued by others and by the world around us, and this can involve things like recognition, status, positive reputation, prestige, and accomplishments. This piece of esteem largely comes from external respect and recognition from others, while self-esteem is more about internal respect for oneself. 

How Online Therapy Can Help 

Cultivating healthy self-esteem and earning respect from others can be difficult to achieve sometimes. If you would like support as you try to navigate these areas of self-growth, you can reach out to an online therapist for help.  

If you are experiencing low self-esteem, the prospect of going out to an in-person appointment may feel a bit intimidating. In these situations, online therapy may feel less daunting, as you can speak with a therapist from wherever you feel most comfortable, as long as you have an internet connection. 

And research has shown that online therapy can be effective for a range of concerns, including self-esteem. One research study found that individuals who received an online intervention showed “immediate improvements” in self-esteem and empowerment. 

Learning To Respect Yourself More Can Be Challenging


According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the second-highest tier in the pyramid involves esteem needs. Esteem can include both a sense of respect for oneself and a sense of respect from others. If you would like support in cultivating greater self-esteem or figuring out how to earn greater respect from others, you can reach out to an online therapist for help.

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