Close Friendships Can Boost Your Self-Esteem

People with strong self-esteem are more likely to develop deep, supportive friendships, and new research suggests that the connection works the other way around as well.

two friends smiling

“For the first time, we have a systematic answer to a key question in the field of self-esteem research: Whether and to what extent a person’s social relationships influence his or her self-esteem development, and vice versa,” study author Michelle Harris said in an American Psychological Association news release. She’s a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Texas at Austin.

According to Harris, self-esteem and friendship are mutually reinforcing.

That conclusion comes from a review of 52 studies which examined the impact of self-esteem and friendships among more than 47,000 men and women. The studies were conducted between 1992 and 2016 and spanned across a wide range of countries which included the United States. Six out of 10 participants in the study were Caucasian, and ages ranged from early childhood to seniors.

four friends talking

For both men and women of all ages, having strong social support and acceptance would translate into having stronger self-esteem. And vice versa. The research study also found the reverse appeared to hold: Poor self-esteem undermined one’s ability to develop strong social connections. A toxic friendship also appeared to undermine one’s sense of self-esteem.

The cycle might have deep roots in the ways kids are raised, study authors said. Parents who instill a strong self-esteem in their kids may be helping them to develop healthier friendships later on. In turn, such friendships end up further boosting self-esteem.

two friends sitting

“The reciprocal link between self-esteem and social relationships implies that the effects of a positive feedback loop accumulate over time and could be substantial as people go through life,” Harris said in the news release. Researchers said much remains unknown, and more studies still need to be done.