411 Relationships & Self-Esteem

Research by Harris, Michelle A. and Orth, Ulrich. (2019)

Written by Shannon Cantalupo, M.S.

Does having high self-esteem produce good social relationships? Or does having good social relationships increase our self-esteem?Which way is it?

Psychologists explored the interaction between self-esteem and relationships through ameta-analysis of 80 previous studies. They used longitudinal data to analyze the effect of self-esteem on social relationships and the impact of relationships on self-esteem. Thirty samples were from the U.S. and 18 came from Canada, Australia, Europe, China, Korea, and Russia.

Results? Self-esteem does lead to good social relationships, probably because people with high self-esteem are more likely to initiate social contact. At the same time, social relationships impact self-esteem. However, self-esteem increases only when the relationship is positive, giving both social support and acceptance.

Our self-esteem likely plays a role in our initiating behaviors that lead to closer relationships like eye contact, a warm smile, speaking with confidence, listening attentively, and sharing feelings and fond memories. So even if we have low self-esteem, engage in these friendly behaviors to build social relationships. Encourage others who may have low self-esteem, to initiate or engage in these friendly actions, thus enhancing their self-esteem, and yours as well!


Harris, M. A., & Orth, U. (2019). The link between self-esteem and social relationships: A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Personality Processes and Individual Differences, 1-19. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pspp0000265

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