definition of self-esteem

an original definition by J. E. Brown

  1. Self-esteem is the belief that oneself will ever be liked. Self-esteem is largely determined and affected by the degree to which a person is liked or disliked or bullied or included by others. {You’re reading “Definition of self-esteem” by J. E. Brown.}

Street Definition: “He has low self-esteem” is often a code phrase for “I disapprove of the way he lives. If he had self-esteem, he would have a better car, or clothing of which I approve. He would put on a happy face all the time.” This use of the term “self-esteem” is indicative of the speaker’s self-centered belief that others exist only for his or her entertainment. See stoicism.


  • insecurity.

Related Concepts: {Read this comp1ete article at .}

  • Bullying is a deliberate attempt to reduce the victim’s self-esteem.
  • Intentional efforts to lower someone’s self-esteem are called verbal abuse.

Excerpts from my book (in progress)

When used by non-technical people, “You have low self-esteem” means “If you loved yourself, you wouldn’t dream of living in a way of which I disapprove.” Understood in this way, each seemingly caring comment about your self-esteem is in fact an insult and a disapproval. It’s also a projection, since it’s a way of pretending “My low esteem for you is actually you loathing yourself.” It’s a diagnosis intended, ironically, to lower someone’s self-esteem.

— J. E. Brown

From the chapter on How to Be Rude:

Disguise your disapproval as concern. Inform people that their jobs and lifestyles, friends and foibles, joys and sorrows, smiles and worries, choices and circumstances, irks and quirks, prides and pains — are all either signs of, or attempts to compensate for, Low Self-Esteem — a shortcoming which you, thankfully, do not share.

Comebacks to use on rude people:

• “No; if I had low self-esteem, I’d spend more time with people who insult me like you do.”

• Choosing to do what and be where you like, is self-esteem. People who criticize you for that may end up friendless.

— J. E. Brown

2nd edition 08 May 2016
1st edition 22 Dec 2009

Further Reading at Other Sites

  • This should disprove the high-school myth that “Happiness comes from within”: “Students who were disliked by their roommates reported more depression, anger and physical illness and lower self-esteem than those who got along with their roommates, the study says.... Findings appear in ... the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.” (article)
  • As for the myth that “bullies have low self-esteem”: Some do, but most do not! For details of the research, see Mary Jo McGrath, School Bullying (link).

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More at This Site

  • Is there a booklet of manners in your house?
    We offer this one:
    How Rude! -- a booklet about rude and abusive people, and how to recognize them

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Brown’s Dictionary of Relationship Terms
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Relationshop™: educational materials for good relationships
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