What is the difference between SELF-ESTEEM and ‘OTHER-ESTEEM’?

The more I worked with people who struggled with emotional and relationship problems the more I became aware of the close relationship between self-esteem and mental health.

Over the years I have gradually developed the concept of other-esteem that is intimately connected with self-esteem. In my opinion, self-esteem is that part of esteem that a person creates himself or herself. On the other hand, other-esteem is that esteem that depends on others.

Many people that I have worked with who had serious emotional problems had low self-esteem and high other-esteem. Because of low self-esteem they also had low self-confidence and poor self image. In addition, they struggled with initiating and maintaining close friendships and healthy intimate relationships because they were emotionally oversensitive to other people’s opinions and criticisms. They easily felt ignored, neglected and rejected, and were also nervous to resolve conflicts as they did not want to offend or hurt others. The more they tried to protect their relationships, the more they became victims of misunderstandings. That is why they could only maintain a few superficial relationships at one time.

In therapy, I encourage them to become involved in activities that they enjoy and are good at. Doing things that you are good at improves self-esteem.

It is my observation that people with high self-esteem and low other-esteem are generally self-assured and have a positive self image. They listen to other people’s opinions but are not negatively affected by them. If there is any misunderstanding with their dear ones they feel self assured to share their concerns and are able to resolve their interpersonal conflicts gracefully and peacefully. Because of their high self-esteem, they not only like themselves they are also able to create a circle of close friends and establish healthy intimate relationships.

I have come to the conclusion that Green Zone People have high self-esteem while Red Zone people have high other-esteem.


Dr. Sohail



7 thoughts to “What is the difference between SELF-ESTEEM and ‘OTHER-ESTEEM’?”

  1. Dear Dr. Sohail,

    Once again a very thoughtful article. You have nailed the different types of esteem very effectivel . Indeed it is the self esteem which is the most reliable compared to the one depending on others. Would you comment on the idea if different cultural backgrounds have different ratios of self vs other esteem? What are ways one can develop self esteem?

  2. I feel very happy when i am reading ur blog.through reading ur blog i have become aware of different issues relating to self-esteem.because of my low self-esteem,it seems as if i dont know who i am any more.my likes and dislikes in the past was influenced by other people.but now i want to discover my own personality,and my own likes and dislikes.i want to find out what my own ambitions are,and to improve my self.
    I dont want to focus on what other people think of me anymore,but rather just focus on doing what is right for me.
    I think by gaining more self confidence,i can overcome a lot of problems in my life.

    1. Dear Hadia, I am so glad our Blog was helpful for you. Now you are on the right track. The more you will do things you love to do and you are good at, the more you will gain self confidence. That will improve your self worth as well as self esteem. It is for people like you that we write these Blogs. Peacefully, Dr Sohail

  3. I believe that somewhere around teen to early 20’s, we realize that we carry belief’s or dogma, from our family of origin. There comes a day to make a decision to find our own beliefs and explore the world to find where we fit. Many healthy and well adjusted people arrive here naturally. I for one did not. I believe I was in my mid thirties before it even crossed my mind that I did not have to believe all my Mother did. very low self esteem, very high other esteem. I had discomfort with any one who I thought had more education or a Title. Again low self esteem and high other esteem. Through therapy and other growth in my life I seldom feel that I need to think less of myself. thank you Dr. Sohail , These blogs help me to look at my old patterns.

    1. Dear Flo, I am so glad you are on the road of self discovery. You are getting in touch with your authentic self, your genuine self, your creative self. The more you can accept your authentic self the more you discover your special gifts, share them with the world and improve your self esteem, self image and self worth. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Peacefully, Dr Sohail

  4. Dear Dr. Sohail et al

    Speaking from personal experience I have suffered terribly from low self-esteem – that is until recently thanks to your help.

    Born into a very dysfunctional family with a hard, unemotionally available Irish mother and a an alcoholic binge-drinking native father my life was very difficult at best. Abject poverty – financially, emotionally and mentally was the environment that I was raised in. Though my father was loving and kind to me he drifted in and out of my life until I was in my early teens when he was banished from my life for good. No more wife-beatings, drunken sod behaviour, abandonment and foolishness was to be tolerated any longer. And so my home was run by my angry, short-tempered, prideful mother who ruled the roost with an iron fist.

    No explanations nor comfort were ever offered or available by my mother as to why the police were in our home in response to the domestic abuse that was a regular and ongoing occurrence. Constant chastising, disapproval, verbal dismissal were the norm. An older sister who would put me down, tell me I was ugly, useless, stupid, etc. etc. Is it any wonder that I would have low self-esteem. I would challenge anyone to survive these circumstances unscathed.

    And so, forward ahead 46 years to the year 2000 when I bought my own home which included a beautiful apartment for my now 82 year old mother to live in – hopefully in peace and contentment. Her health was about as perfect as any 82 year old could hope for. Other than a low dose blood pressure pill and a water pill she was as right as rain … physically that is. Her cranky cantankerous nature had tempered itself into more of a passive-aggressive nature … depending on who was present to witness her behaviour.

    It’s fair to say that all five of her children suffered from low self-esteem to varying degrees and of course each of us suffered in silence while futilely trying to please our mother in our ‘other-esteem’. My siblings were constantly trying to please her only to be met usually with complaints and ridicule. She was notorious for speaking behind our backs to our other siblings in judgement and often condemnation. It was brutal.

    Speed ahead 12 years – age 94 – my mother had begun to have mini-strokes due to her heart failing. She was experiencing these mini-strokes with various frequencies yet with no apparent ill effect. She did not suffer any physical signs or symptoms really that either her doctor or the family could see. At this point my involvement in her care required me to step up to the plate. I did all of her grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning, meal preparation and as time progressed her medication administration. Delivering her to and from doctors and heart specialist appointments, medical tests, etc. were wrought with sarcasm and ridicule of the medical system and all who were participants. Under her breath of course. Passive-aggressive.

    As her health declined my siblings visits with her dribbled away to nothing. One sister would call her daily but would not come to visit. Another sister called infrequently but would not stop by. My brother neither called nor came by. My eldest sister lived in the city and was unable to visit while the cost of long distance calls were limiting. These siblings that had put her on a pedestal all of our lives – citing her as brave, strong, an altruistic saint – had remained absent despite my emailing them with her declining condition and quite frankly letting them know that she was indeed dying. All to no avail.

    To say that I was perplexed is an understatement. I was sick with anxiety about why they would not come to see our mother in her final stage of life. Our mother was well aware of her impending demise and she had established a “Do Not Resuscitate” order with her family doctor. Personal Support Workers had been dispatched to her apartment and she would have none of it. She refused to allow any of these women assist her in any way and it took all the self control that she had not to tell them to get out. Many had tried. Finally the supervisor of the PSW organization came to visit her. She wanted to confirm that my mother wanted no help. No assistance. That she understood the DNR agreement, etc. And so it went – no visitors. No PSW’s. No breakthrough in her constitution.

    I think it’s safe to say that we oozed “Other-esteem” in our household. From family members to the wonderful PSW ladies, their supervisor, family doctor, etc.

    One day I was consulting Dr. Sohail and I was very distraught about the fact that my siblings, who had always been in denial of our mothers cruel, hard nature and behaviour refused to come and see her in her dying days. I couldn’t believe, accept or come to terms with this. Then Dr. Sohail said two magical words to me: “They can’t”. It took most of my drive home from that appointment for those words to sink in and when they did …… Pow!

    I believe that was the turning point for me with my mother and with my siblings. With regards to my mother I was no longer in “Other-esteem”. I was no longer her victim. I knew in my heart of hearts that I had been more compassionate, nurturing and caring for her than she had ever been with me in my lifetime. For many months I had been acting on her behalf, putting my all into her care and well-being. I was her sole source of care in every way.

    No longer was I in “Other-esteem” with my siblings either. Our mother was in my capable hands and they knew it. None of them had been willing to provide a home for her within their own homes nor be responsible for her care. They simply couldn’t. With that realization I forgave them, my heart went out to them, I sympathized with them.

    In short I had gone from Red to Yellow to Green with both my mother and my siblings. And so at the age of 96 years our mother had one final stroke which left her in a coma for several days. All of her children and grandchildren rushed to the emergency room where she lay to pay their respects and share in her impending loss. She passed away without ever regaining consciousness. Without ever saying a kind word to any of her offspring or expressing any love – thus perpetuating a broad sense of “Other-esteem” in most … but not all ….
    R.I.P Margaret


    1. Dear Georgina, It takes a lot of courage to share what you shared. You gave words to ‘silent suffering’. I am sure many of our readers will relate to your story and it will inspire them to share their own story with others on our Blogs. Sharing helps us heal and grow. You are a gifted writer. I hope you stay in touch.
      Dr Sohail

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *