The importance of social relationships in shaping how we see ourselves cannot be overstated. From the earliest bonds formed with parents to the friendships and romantic partnerships that enrich our lives, these connections play a crucial role in developing and maintaining our self-esteem. A study by Harris and Orth (2020) sheds light on the complex, two-way relationship between this link, revealing that the quality of our relationships and how we perceive ourselves are closely interconnected.

The study, which combined data from a large number of long-term studies, found strong evidence for a back-and-forth relationship between social connections and self-esteem. Not only did positive relationships predict higher levels of self-esteem over time, but individuals with higher self-esteem also tended to build more supportive and satisfying relationships (Harris & Orth, 2020). This two-way effect was seen across age groups, genders and ethnicities, highlighting how universal this phenomenon is.

The findings support several well-known theories in psychology. For example, sociometer theory suggests that self-esteem acts as a measure of our social acceptance and belonging (Leary & Baumeister, 2000). When we feel valued and supported by others, our self-esteem goes up; on the other hand, experiences of rejection or isolation can hurt our sense of self-worth. The study provides strong evidence for this idea, showing that the quality of our relationships is a key factor in determining our self-esteem over time.

Similarly, the results align with attachment theory, which emphasizes the importance of early bonding experiences with caregivers in shaping our sense of self and our expectations for future relationships (Bowlby, 1988). People who have experienced consistent love and support from their caregivers are more likely to develop a positive self-image and to form healthy, trusting relationships in adulthood. The study confirms this link, showing that the influence of parent-child relationships on self-esteem extends well beyond childhood and into later life.

However, the study also highlights the active role that individuals play in shaping their own social worlds. It seems that people with higher self-esteem are better at building and maintaining supportive relationships. This may be due, in part, to the confidence and social skills that come with a positive self-image. Those who feel good about themselves are more likely to engage with others, communicate effectively and handle social challenges with grace and resilience (Harris & Orth, 2020).

The implications of these findings are significant. They suggest that interventions aimed at boosting self-esteem, such as therapy or educational programs, may have a ripple effect on an individual’s social life. By helping people to develop a more positive self-image, we may also be giving them the tools they need to build stronger, more fulfilling relationships. On the other hand, efforts to improve the quality of social connections, such as relationship counseling or community-building initiatives, may pay off in terms of individual self-esteem and well-being.

The study by Harris and Orth offers a compelling look at the power of relationships in shaping how we see ourselves. God created us as social beings, deeply influenced by the bonds we form with others. By nurturing these connections and working to build a positive self-image, we can tap into a cycle of personal growth and social fulfillment, helping us to live life to the fullest!



Bowlby, J. (1988). A secure base: Parent-child attachment and healthy human development. Basic Books.

Harris, M. A., & Orth, U. (2020). The link between self-esteem and social relationships: A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 119(6), 1459–1477.

Leary, M. R., & Baumeister, R. F. (2000). The nature and function of self-esteem: Sociometer theory. In M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 32, pp. 1–62). Academic Press.