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Key Takeaways:

  • Self-worth evaluates internal beliefs about the self, while self-esteem is based on external qualities and characteristics.
  • High self-worth and self-esteem have several benefits, such as pursuing new opportunities and maintaining healthy relationships.
  • Various factors can affect levels of self-worth and self-esteem.

We often use the terms self-worth and self-esteem to mean the same thing in similar contexts. However, there is a difference between the two, and knowing this distinction is important. Some people may choose to increase their self-esteem, while others know they need to strengthen their self-worth. In reality, the self-worth vs. self-esteem comparison is incredibly useful as people must develop to remain grounded and healthy. Here are some key differences between self-worth and self-esteem that will help us better understand both.

What is Self-Worth?

The American Psychological Association defines self-worth as “an individual’s evaluation of themself as a valuable, capable human being deserving of respect and consideration [*].” It is actually a form of self-esteem that is more stable and covers a broader scope, less influenced by external or internal factors.

Self-worth includes the core beliefs that you hold about your value and worth as a person. These core beliefs are consistent over time, so your sense of self-worth will likely stay the same in response to changing feelings, behaviors, thoughts, or experiences.

Self-worth is related to self-esteem in such a way that “positive feelings of self-worth tend to be associated with a high degree of self-acceptance and self-esteem [*].” It protects people against stress and emotional problems and promotes health, happiness, and success in life.

What is Self-Esteem?

On the other hand, self-esteem describes your thoughts and feelings regarding yourself. People with lower self-esteem levels may have more negative thoughts and are less confident. It can be chronic or situational, with chronic low self-esteem more highly associated with emotional and behavioral issues.

Self-esteem is not as stable or consistent as self-worth. It greatly depends on external factors, such as people’s opinions and societal norms, that are used to compare, judge, and evaluate the self.

Benefits of High Self-Worth and Self-Esteem

Having high self-worth and self-esteem can be very beneficial. With high levels of self-esteem and self-worth, you are more likely to:

  • Have better physical and mental health
  • Better navigate and handle life’s challenges
  • Pursue new opportunities
  • Recognize and maintain healthy and fulfilling relationships
  • Speak up for yourself
  • Experience greater success at work or school

While both self-esteem and self-worth are important, the latter may play a more essential role. This is because a high sense of self-worth allows an individual to maintain mental and emotional stability that is not easily influenced by external factors.

You can improve your self-esteem by using tools such as self-esteem worksheets for teens.

Common Traits of Self-Worth and Self-Esteem

There are some common traits that help us identify self-worth and self-esteem.

Here are several characteristics of self-worth:

  • Comes from self-acceptance and compassion
  • Value comes from internal factors
  • Associated with emotional stability and self-control
  • Thoughts and feelings to do with the “whole” person
  • Provides lasting feeling of security
  • Reflects an individual’s view of the “true self”
  • Existing worth is reinforced by feedback and stress
  • More resilient to external threats
  • Inner beliefs reinforce stability
  • Self-renewing resource

These are the characteristics of self-esteem:

  • Thoughts and feelings regarding certain skills or traits
  • Comes from self-judgment and evaluation
  • Provides temporary boosts in confidence
  • Value comes from external factors
  • Associated with confidence and motivation
  • Stress and negative feedback can undermine it
  • Needs competition and comparison to increase
  • Fragile and less certain when faced with threats
  • Reflects an individual’s ego or the “false self”
  • Resource that needs constant renewal

What’s the Difference Between Self-Worth and Self-Esteem?

When looking at the definitions of self-worth and self-esteem, the difference between the two isn’t immediately clear. But they are, indeed, different. Self-worth is self-evaluation that focuses on stable factors and internal beliefs, while self-esteem is self-evaluation based on qualities and characteristics that are more fluid (e.g., physical appearance, accomplishments, capabilities, perceived success) and subject to external factors.

Factors That Affect Self-Worth and Self-Esteem

Many factors can affect self-worth and self-esteem, and they are typically a combination of internal and external factors.

One of the most substantial influences on self-esteem is genetics [*], with researchers estimating that genes and biology account for about half of someone’s self-esteem. This includes factors such as personality traits, predispositions, and psychological makeup.

Other factors include a person’s experiences, especially early childhood experiences. Parenting styles are a significant determining factor, with individuals with highly critical, abusive, or neglectful parents experiencing the most negative impact.

Experiences later on in life also play a role in increasing or reducing self-worth or self-esteem, such as trauma or abusive relationships.

Tips to Improve Self-Worth and Self-Esteem

There are several ways to improve your self-worth and self-esteem. One such way is through the development of self-esteem coping skills. Other methods include these tips:

1. Practice positive affirmations

Positive affirmations that are specific, genuine, and rooted in the present can help you focus on your strengths, increasing your self-esteem. Some examples of positive affirmations include the following:

  • “I am worthy of all the good things that happen in my life.”
  • “I know that I have good qualities, and I recognize them in myself.”
  • “I have the power to create change in my life. I will make small changes today.”

Practicing these kinds of affirmations can activate specific pathways in the brain [*] that are involved in processing information about yourself and your worth.

2. Celebrate small wins

When confronted with challenges, it can be easy to forget everything you’ve already accomplished. It helps to make an ongoing list of all your achievements, even seemingly small wins, such as getting enough sleep for a full week or remembering to exercise in the morning. You can use an accomplishments worksheet to list your successes and ensure they are visible every day to remind you that you are capable.

3. Acknowledge negative thoughts

Becoming aware of your inner dialogue is especially important when building up self-worth and self-esteem. By recognizing how you speak to yourself, whether with criticism or reproach, you can develop an awareness to change that inner voice with more kindness and compassion.

Another perspective you can take is to consider whether you would talk to a friend that way in a similar situation. You can use a self-esteem review worksheet to reframe your mindset and learn how your flaws or weaknesses can also be strengths.

4. Rethink your comparisons

Rather than comparing yourself to others, it may be more productive to compare your present self with your younger self. By doing so, you eliminate the risk of making unfair comparisons with people with different circumstances, needs, challenges, and resources from your own.

Use a self-esteem journal and answer a few key questions, such as:

  • What challenges have I overcome?
  • What are the goals I am working toward?
  • What are the things I am most proud of?

5. Nurture your relationships

Staying connected with family and friends can contribute greatly to how you feel about yourself. Positive social relationships and social support can boost self-esteem, which can also help you maintain said relationships. Surrounding yourself with supportive and loving individuals can help reinforce your worth.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, it is essential to have a well-developed sense of self-worth and self-esteem. It can take some time to get there, but you can develop high self-worth and self-esteem by understanding the similarities and differences and following the tips outlined above. You can use tools such as self-esteem coping statements, but a mental health professional would be a great partner if you are struggling.

References:

  1. American Psychological Association. Self-worth.
  2. American Psychological Association. Self-worth.
  3. Neiss M, Sedikides C, Stevenson J. Self-Esteem: A Behavioural Genetic Perspective. September 2002.
  4. Cascio C, O’Donnell M, Tinney F, et al. Self-affirmation activates brain systems associated with self-related processing and reward and is reinforced by future orientation. 5 November 2015.

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