One of the things which makes self esteem tricky to define as that it does not come directly from what we do. It comes out indirectly. It is a bit like baking a cake. To bake a cake we have to get the ingredients mix them up and then let the oven do its job. Self esteem is a bit like that: we need get the ingredients together mix them up and let life do its job. Unfortunately, life is a bit less predictable than an oven. Therefore we can influence the development of self esteem, but we cannot completely control it.
The ingredients which go up to make self esteem are; self worth, self confidence and self respect. Self worth has to do with feeling good about ourselves (which is often supported by having good relationship with others). Self Confidence has to do with feeling good about our skills and our ability to get the additional skills we need. Self Respect has to do with feeling good about what we are doing. It has to do with having a sense of purpose and direction in our lives.
When we have a good mix of these three then the chances are the we will have high self esteem. This means that self esteem is really a sense of well being which arises when we feel good about our purpose, feel good about our skills and feel good about ourselves.
Notice that self esteem arises from having self worth, self confidence and self respect. Self esteem, in this way of looking at it, is a freebie, or bonus which we get from working on the other three. Self esteem is the cake; the rest are the ingredients.
Like any attempt at baking if we miss out or lack some essential ingredients we may get a rather wobbly cake, one with a hole in the middle, or a rather dubious looking mess. To try and have self esteem while ignoring any of the three: self worth, self respect, or self confidence would give us a lop-sided development at best and it is doubtful that much self esteem would arise out of that.
We may be incredibly confident, but if we do not like ourselves (low self worth) we will have little self esteem (not much of a sense of well being). If we like ourselves but are very low in confidence then also we will have low self esteem. If we are not sure if we like ourselves, or are not sure of our skills, but have a burning sense of purpose we might get away with that and have some sense of well being – self esteem in other words – at least for a while. This is because a strong sense of purpose can tend to help us overcome deficiencies elsewhere and we can end up feeling pretty good anyway.
Generally, to improve our self esteem we need to look at whether we are lacking in self respect, self worth, or self confidence and deal with it at that level. Then our self esteem will increase naturally in the normal course of events.