There are many definitions of Self-Esteem and what they all have in common is the concept of esteeming yourself. This translates to loving yourself, respecting yourself, putting yourself first, and meeting your own needs. Self-Esteem is the placement of yourself in very high regard. This means that you not only love yourself but that you act lovingly toward yourself at all times. The best and the simplest way to think of having Self-Esteem is to imagine that you love someone very much, that you are always pleased to see them and to talk with them, that spending time with this person is what you most want to be doing, that you think of them lovingly and try to do things to please them. Your beloved is the most important person in the world to you and you will do anything and everything so that they know this. Now put yourself in the role of the beloved and act exactly the same way to yourself. This is Self-Esteem.
Loving yourself and taking care of yourself are the exact opposites of what we have been taught to think and do. We have been trained to esteem others and/or external variables and to measure our self-worth by what we have or by how much we are loved. This is the definition of Weak Ego: our worth and esteem are dependent on something outside of ourselves and, therefore, outside our control. When we feel that our esteem is based on having someone else love us, or having the right job, or making enough money, or being "successful", we are putting ourselves at high risk for insecurity and eventual feelings of failure. All things external to self are temporary. They are not ours and we cannot keep them. Therefore, when we entrust our feelings about ourselves to these external variables, when we feel esteemed because we are loved or in the right place at the right time, what happens when things change and we lose our loved ones or our job changes? Our feelings of esteem for ourselves go with the externals that are leaving us. And we are left feeling abandoned and depressed and without worth. This is crazy even though it is the "normal" way of being. Everything changes! Why risk our esteem to something out of our control?
Remember... we can only control our feelings about ourselves and our behaviors based on our feelings. If we choose to love ourselves and to behave lovingly toward ourselves, if we choose to have Self-Esteem, then we have control over ourselves. We do not have to risk losing our own esteem.
The true test of Self-Esteem is to have everything go wrong for us, to have this crazy world turn upside down and to lose all the things we value, and to still love ourselves and to know that we are loved. To treat ourselves in the most gentle, nurturing, loving way when we are in difficulty or pain just as we would treat another person who is hurting - this is having and practicing Self-Esteem.
...taken from a nifty little book, The Portable Therapist by Susanna McMahon.