While self-esteem develops in childhood, it rises and falls throughout our life based on a multitude of factors ranging from the messages we receive from others, the relationship we have with ourselves, the relationships we have with others, our performance at work, and our perception of our actions—especially failure, to name a few.
Here are the three types of self-esteem...
1. Low self-esteem
A person with low self-esteem justifies mistreatment from others. As a result, they may feel taken for granted, fear they are overly emotional for having a problem with how they are treated, and struggle to hold onto their self-worth. When others mistreat them, they believe they are to blame and work hard to change their own behavior so that the relationship will work. However, all this hard work seems only to yield crumbs of niceness, honesty, or loyalty from others—if that. Deep down they don't feel lovable, and because of this, they cling to any relationship no matter how unfulfilling or abusive because they think this is as good as things can get for them. They use “niceness” when handling conflict, and don’t realize that their niceness is equivalent to being “boundary-less.” They don't understand why they are continually taken for granted when they are so loving, forgiving, and considerate. They frequently have crazy-makers and abusers in their life—which only reinforces their low self-esteem, and their feelings of worthlessness and helplessness.
2. High Self-Esteem
(I prefer the term “healthy” instead of “high” as high self-esteem is often confused for inflated self-esteem.) A person with high/healthy self-esteem expects to be treated with dignity and respect and believes there is no justification for others to treat them poorly. If another person lashes out at them or treats them poorly in any way, they don't accept justifications for being mistreated. It doesn't matter if the other person had a bad day, a bad childhood, or was frustrated or angry with them. If someone mistreats them, they assert themselves and make their boundaries known. They also expect the other person to be accountable for mistreating them. If the mistreatment continues, they adjust their expectations of the other and get the appropriate distance. They value themselves and don't spend time trying to justify their value to abusers or anyone else who doesn't see it.
3. Inflated Self-Esteem
A person with inflated self-esteem rarely sees their own flaws or mistakes, and, instead, blames others, denies their part, or, offers up justifications as to their harmful actions. They tend to come across with an arrogant, self-righteous, or haughty attitude. They do not value the opinions of others and lack the ability to critique themselves. The success of others often evokes a level of unhealthy competition and a hostile attitude.
The good news is that self-esteem can be improved and raised to healthy levels. The first step is in knowing which type of self-esteem you have, and identifying which symptoms of low or inflated self-esteem have been negatively affecting your life.