November 5, 2023

Inside-out vs. outside-in self-esteem

Self-esteem is how much you value and appreciate yourself. It's how you see yourself when you look in the mirror, both physically and emotionally.

It encompasses your beliefs about your abilities and competence, and it influences how you feel about your strengths and weaknesses, your successes and your failures, and your overall worth as a person.

Self-esteem can be shaped by a variety of factors, including your upbringing, life experiences, and relationships (including your relationship with yourself).

What’s the difference between inside-out and outside-in self-esteem?

Inside-out self-esteem is based on your internal sense of self-worth. It's about knowing who you are, feeling good in your skin and accepting yourself regardless of what others think or say. Inside-out self-esteem is characterised by higher resilience. People with healthy inside-out self-esteem are less sensitive to external factors, such as criticism, rejection, or failure. Inside-out self-esteem does not entail narcissistic trait. It’s not about believing you are perfect. There may be behaviours and traits that you may want to work on to improve your life or relationships, but ultimately you know that those things do not make you any less worthy as a person.

Examples of beliefs related to inside-out self-esteem:

  • I am a good person, even if sometimes  I make bad choices.
  • I am worthy of love, regardless of what  I look like.
  • I am able to achieve my goals, even if it takes me a while to get there.


Outside-in self-esteem is based on external validation. It's about feeling good about yourself based on what you have or what others think of you. The sense of self-worth is derived from attributes, performance or people’s approval. Outside-in self-esteem is more fragile because it depends on external factors such as money, jobs, or ‘trophy’ partners. Those factors can change suddenly and when you don’t meet your own or other people’s expectations, you tend to feel bad about yourself.

Examples of beliefs related to outside-in self-esteem:

  • I am a good person when I do nice things for others and they recognise this.
  • I feel good in my skin when others give me compliments about my look.
  • I feel good about myself when I excel at my job.


Why is inside-out self-esteem important?

Chasing external validation necessary to keep outside-in self-esteem going is exhausting and relentless, as those external factors are not within control of an individual and they can change at any time.

Inside-out self-esteem is more stable regardless of external circumstances, and it can lead to a more relaxed and more fulfilling life. Strong inside-out self-esteem can make it easier to:

·       Set and achieve your personal goals

·       Take risks and try new things (without over-worrying about failure)

·       Cope with setbacks and challenges (and to seek support when needed)

·       Build healthy and nurturing relationships

·       Feel more content and be more light-hearted


How to develop inside-out self-esteem?

Developing healthy inside-out self-esteem is a process and working with a qualified therapist is probably the best way to get started. However, there are a few simple things you can try for yourself:

  • Develop self-awareness

Who are you? What are your values and beliefs? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Try to be curious and non-judgemental as you slowly uncover your uniqueness.

  • Practice self-compassion

Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would offer to a friend. Learn from your mistake, but also understand that your mistakes are only your behaviour, they are not equivalent to the whole of you.

  • Celebrate your achievements

Often our attention goes to the next challenge or problem, but celebrating accomplishment is just as important. Learn to recognise your success and feel proud of meeting your personal goal.

  • Build supportive relationships 

What’s your environment like? Do you feel that what you do, what you have or what you look like is crucial for people around you? Make sure your surround yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself, and do the same for them.

Developing inside-out self-esteem takes time and effort, but it's worth it. You can learn more about how psychotherapy can help with building a healthy self-esteem.

If you would like to talk to Alicja to see if therapy is right for you, feel free to schedule an initial call.


*The information provided in this blog post is for general educational and informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical or mental health professional advice. If you are struggling with any of the issues described in this post, please seek appropriate professional help from a qualified professional.


The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem by N. Branden

Daring Greatly by B. Brown

Authentic Happiness by M. Seligman

Relational Life Therapy at

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