When you make your self-esteem dependent on the opinions of others you put yourself in a precarious position. These opinions are always subject to change, and if they plummet your self-esteem plummets right along with them. This situation also makes you easier to manipulate, more malleable, since you become willing to say or do things to insure that people continue to hold you in high regard even if these things are unethical or against your best interests.
But of course no one lives in a vacuum. We rely on the feedback of those around us. Without it we’d be completely lost actually, especially in the formative early years of life. But this feedback is culturally conditioned, it doesn’t represent absolute truth but rather truth as a certain group of people in a certain time period see it, and with this recognition comes freedom.
As just one example of what we mean, our culture holds in high regard those who are financially successful, even though the methods many of them employ to achieve that financial success are rotten, harmful to others and the planet. These people have high self-esteem simply because our culture has a wrong view on one of the elements that should constitute high self-esteem. If they looked honestly at their lives and actions, they would become despondent and all that self-esteem would dissipate, replaced by guilt and regret.
The best way to cultivate self-esteem from an existential point of view is to recognize the potentialities inside you, those latent talents and traits that, when fully developed, will be visible manifestations of your self-actualization. When you walk a path that you know is yours, one that represents the striving towards becoming who you really are, your self-esteem stays intact regardless of how certain members of the community perceive you because your truth comes from a deeper place than the superficial cultural standards they use to measure you.