Self-esteem is a coveted “psychological accessory” that has spawned a billion-dollar industry. There are so many programs, articles, books, and products that promise to enhance your self-esteem, one might conclude that our understanding of the trait is quite advanced.

Alas, it is not—psychologists are still arguing about what self-esteem actually is.

But after decades of squabbling over the definition of self-esteem, as well as its dimensions and functions, there are a few things psychologists tend to agree upon:

1. There are different kinds of self-esteem. Scientists generally agree that our feelings of self-worth are both global (how you feel about yourself in general) and specific (how you feel about yourself in specific roles and domains of your life, such as your self-esteem as a parent, as a professional, as a cook, etc.). Although we all have a number of domains of specific self-esteem, not all of them are equally important because…

2. The impact of specific self-esteem on global self-esteem varies. The more meaningful and important a given domain of specific self-esteem is to you, the more it impacts your general feelings of self-worth. For example, having a lousy round of golf will not do much damage if golf isn’t important to you but it will put a big dent in your self-esteem if you’re a professional golfer. Here’s why:

3. Our self-esteem fluctuates day to day and hour to hour. Much like a bad hair day, we might wake up feeling great about ourselves one day and totally insecure the next. We tend to think of our self-esteem as being either generally good or bad but it is much more fluid than that, continually shifting up and down based on the internal feedback we give ourselves and the external feedback we get from our environment. While some people do have higher basic self-esteem than others …

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