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Home arrow Health arrow Mental Health arrow The Fine Line Between Self-Worth vs. Self-Esteem: Understanding the Differences

The Fine Line Between Self-Worth vs. Self-Esteem: Understanding the Differences

Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Last update: October 8, 2023
8 min read 1042 Views 0 Comments
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Self-esteem and self-worth are sometimes used interchangeably, but the two have a few important differences. We take a look at both in this article and offer guidance on how to improve them too.

self worth vs self esteem

Self-esteem and self-worth are terms that many people use interchangeably, and while they are related, they actually have many important differences. While self-esteem can fluctuate with your mood and circumstances, self-worth comes from within.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at what the differences are between self-worth and self-esteem, how they are defined, and what causes low self-esteem and self-worth. Take a look now to find out more about the meaning of the two terms.

4 Differences Between Self-Worth and Self-Esteem

  1. Self-esteem tends to fluctuate
  2. Self-esteem might be more fragile
  3. Self-worth is way deeper
  4. Self-worth is found within

Self-Worth vs. Self-Esteem: What Are the Differences?

Self-worth and self-esteem are both related to a person’s feelings about themselves, but there are key differences between them. Below, we have taken a close look at some of the key differences between the two to help you better understand the terms.

#1 Self-esteem tends to fluctuate

Self-esteem is a more changeable feeling than self-worth. While self-worth comes from deep within, self-esteem can be affected by many external factors. Factors that can affect self-esteem include

  • Your achievements – This includes how much you get done, how your achievements benefit you, and how well you do.
  • External feedback – Whether from a boss, colleague, or friend, feedback could be positive or negative and can affect how you feel about yourself.
  • Your career – Everything from your educational background to your career success and your income may affect your self-esteem.
  • Beliefs and values – The things you believe in, like your morals, religion, and opinions, can affect how you see yourself.
  • The comparisons you make – Looking at others’ lives, holidays, income, status, and social media can all affect self-esteem.
  • Your relationships – Including both romantic and familial.
  • Physical appearance – Body image and perception of attractiveness are enormous factors in self-esteem too.

#2 Self-esteem might be more fragile

As self-esteem is affected by external factors, it is much more fragile than self-worth, so low self-esteem is more common. What affects your self-esteem is also not usually in your control and is caused by other people, societal conventions, and other factors that you have no power over.

In instances where your self-esteem takes a hit, your self-worth usually takes over to remind you that you are worthy, but if you don’t have a strong sense of self-worth, then this won’t happen. You may then feel moody, anxious, as though people hate you, and less motivated because of low self-esteem and self-worth.

#3 Self-worth is way deeper

Self-worth runs much deeper than self-esteem, and a lack of self-worth is actually comparable to shame. Low self-worth is driven by feelings of being unworthy and not being good enough. While self-esteem is affected by things happening at the moment, say by the criticism your boss has just given you, self-worth is decided by feelings you hold about yourself.

These beliefs are referred to as core beliefs and are often very deep beliefs that are difficult to change. Core beliefs tend to be formulated in childhood, which is why self-worth is much more difficult to improve than self-esteem. Self-worth is not affected by things you do, how well you do them, or the praise you receive from others.

#4 Self-worth is found within

While self-esteem comes from the world around you, self-worth comes from within. It is developed throughout your life and is informed by core beliefs you hold about yourself. It is something inherent and is not earned by the way others praise or criticize you.

Self-worth is also not affected by your success – you could be the most successful person in the world but still have low self-worth because of what you believe about yourself. Self-worth can be cultivated through practicing self-love, self-compassion, and possibly seeking therapy to change the way you think about yourself.

What Is Self-Worth?

Self-worth refers to the overall appraisal of one’s worth, which essentially means how worthy you think you are as a person. It is related to and is considered a more stable version of self-esteem, as it is less influenced by things in the outside world.

Self-worth isn’t about your success or how well you perceive yourself to be doing. It also isn’t linked to any one trait or skill. Instead, self-worth is about the core beliefs you have about yourself and refers to how much worth and value you think you have as a person.

High self-worth tends to spawn high self-esteem, as better self-worth lays the foundation for it. It also aids in your reactions to criticism and other factors that could cause a blow to your self-esteem, like stress.

Self-worth allows you to feel worthy and deserving of love and respect from others and helps you to practice self-compassion and self-love. It also allows you to identify and accept flaws in yourself and mistakes you have made without it affecting your sense of self-worth.

Traits of self-worth

The traits of self-worth include:

  • Being able to find value in oneself
  • Feeling secure in oneself
  • Not feeling the need to meet societal standards or conditions
  • Resilience to external threats
  • Offering a source of self-renewing
  • Reflecting the “true self”

What improves self-worth?

Improving self-worth includes lots of introspection. You need to learn to stop looking to the outside world for validation, as it keeps you trapped in a cycle of relying on external validation for your feelings of self-worth.

Another way to improve your self-worth is to stop comparing yourself to others. Social media makes it incredibly difficult to not compare our lives to those around us, but it is important to remember that social media is a highlight reel. Instead of comparing, think about your own goals and what you have achieved for yourself.

Having a more positive mindset about things can also help you to have more self-worth. Negativity breeds negativity, so if you are constantly using negative self-talk and thinking of yourself in a negative way, you will begin to feel like it is all true. Being more positive isn’t just about putting a smile on your face. It’s about learning to challenge yourself when you’re being negative and finding reasons to be grateful.

Lastly, being kind to yourself is imperative to boosting self-worth. Self-love, self-acceptance, and self-compassion can all lead to healing and changing those core beliefs that impact your self-worth in the beginning.

What Is Self-Esteem?

Self-esteem is affected by the things that happen to you and around you. It refers to your thoughts and feelings about yourself and is based on the judgments you make at that particular time. It is not as deeply rooted as self-worth.

Low self-esteem usually leads to a lack of self-confidence and more negative thinking. While a lack of self-esteem may happen in the moment, prolonged negative feelings and a lack of self-confidence will lead to a chronic lack of self-esteem.

Self-esteem can be affected by feedback and criticism from others, your mood and stress level, the comparisons you make between yourself and others, and whether or not you achieve the goals and expectations you set for yourself.

Traits of self-esteem

Traits of self-esteem include:

  • It may provide a temporary boost in confidence
  • It is based on self-judgment
  • It is affected solely by the outside world
  • Value is based on the external world
  • It is undermined by negative feedback, criticism, and stress
  • It is in constant need of renewal
  • Reflects the “false self”

What improves self-esteem?

You can improve self-esteem in a few ways:

  • Finding things you’re good at – Enjoying yourself is a great way to boost your mood and how you feel about yourself.
  • Build healthy relationships – The relationships you have with others can affect how you see yourself. Cut toxic people from your life and spend time around people who make you feel good.
  • Practice self-love – Being kind to yourself is important. When you find yourself being self-critical, consider if you would speak to a friend in the way you are speaking to yourself. If you wouldn’t, then you know you need to be kinder to yourself.
  • Try new things – Sometimes, lacking self-esteem stops us from trying new things. Doing something outside your comfort zone can help boost your confidence.

What Causes Low Self-Esteem and Low Self-Worth?

Self-esteem and self-worth are inextricably related, and as such, when one is low, it can affect the other. There is some research that suggests that self-esteem and self-worth could be genetic and that some people are born with higher self-esteem than others. However, this is not the only factor.

The other factors that impact self-esteem and self-worth are external. A lot of our self-worth can come from experiences we had as children, which directly impact our core beliefs. If you had a negative experience in childhood or a particularly critical, negative, or abusive parent, or a parent who gaslighted you, you may have lower self-worth than someone who didn’t.

You may also find that if you were in an abusive or traumatic relationship in adulthood, you could also have lower self-esteem or self-worth.

How to Improve Self-Worth?

Improving your self-worth can help with poor self-esteem and your overall mental health. Unlike self-esteem, self-worth comes from within, so improving it will take introspection and reflection. Below, we have listed our top tips for boosting self-worth.

  • Stop seeking validation from external circumstances – Self-worth comes from the inside, and though healthy self-esteem can be affected by external circumstances, healthy self-worth cannot. Looking for approval from others will never give you the deep-rooted internal belief that self-worth is. You need to believe it yourself rather than believing what others say about you.
  • Practice self-love – A huge cause of self-esteem issues is negative thoughts about yourself. Practicing compassion and love toward yourself, and treating yourself with respect, can help to improve your mental health as well as your self-worth.
  • Recognize the positives – Seeing the positives in the world around you can help you develop a more positive mindset and see yourself in a better way.
  • Celebrate your successes – Praising yourself and reminding yourself how far you have come.
  • Stop competing with others – A huge part of having high self-esteem and self-worth comes from not looking at others. Instead of comparing your life to others, try connecting with people who have similar interests. Grow connections, not comparison.

As you try to improve your self-worth, you could consider using a mental health app to support you. Many mental health apps offer daily activities to improve your mood, a journaling section, and various mindfulness exercises. This could be a great way to build your self-worth and healthy self-esteem.

A Word From a Psychologist

Your self-esteem and self-worth can have a significant impact on your overall mental health and the way you feel about yourself. Lack of self-esteem and self-worth comes from many places, but you can improve both with a few changes.

While self-esteem describes how you feel in the moment, based on external factors, self-worth is more deeply rooted. Self-esteem fluctuates, but self-worth is harder to change. Building better self-worth can have a positive effect on self-esteem and overall mental health.

Improving self-worth takes time and self-reflection. You need to avoid comparing yourself to others, think more positively, treat yourself with kindness, and celebrate your successes. The journey to better self-worth may be difficult, but it is worth it to take control of your own life, remove self-doubt and improve your mental well-being.


Self-worth and self-esteem are linked but are affected by different things. Self-worth comes from the inside, whereas self-esteem is affected by things that happen around you. Improving your self-worth can improve your self-esteem, and both can make you more resilient and improve your mental well-being.

Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
The article was fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Last update: October 8, 2023
8 min read 1042 Views 0 Comments

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