What Is Self-Esteem? Self-esteem is the collection of beliefs or feelings we have about ourselves, our “self-perceptions.” How we define ourselves influences our motivations, attitudes, and behaviors and affects our emotional adjustment. Patterns of self-esteem start very early in life. For example, a toddler who reaches a milestone experiences a sense of accomplishment that bolsters self-esteem. Learning to roll over after dozens of unsuccessful attempts teaches a baby a “can-do” attitude. The concept of success following persistence starts early. As kids try, fail, try again, fail again, and then finally succeed, they develop ideas about their own capabilities. At the same time, they’re creating a self-concept based on interactions with other people. This is why parental involvement is key to helping kids form accurate, healthy self-perceptions. Self-esteem also can be defined as feelings of capability combined with feelings of being loved. A child who is happy with an achievement but does not feel loved may eventually experience low self-esteem. Likewise, a child who feels loved but is hesitant about his or her own abilities can also end up with low self-esteem. Healthy self-esteem comes when the right balance is reached. Self-esteem fluctuates as kids grow. It’s frequently changed and fine-tuned, because it is affected by a child’s experiences and new perceptions. So it helps to be aware of the signs of both healthy and unhealthy self-esteem. Kids with low self-esteem may not want to try new things, and may frequently speak negatively about themselves: “I’m stupid,” “I’ll never learn how to do this,” or “What’s the point? Nobody cares about me anyway.” They may exhibit a low tolerance for frustration, giving up easily or waiting for somebody else to take over.