Self esteem doesn't come from achieving great things and having awards strung up on the wall. Self esteem comes from being comfortable with oneself. My YW's president has said that it doesn't matter what people are thinking about you. What matters is what they're thinking about themselves when they're with you. When a person has good self esteem, they're less selfish, and therefore able to bring other people up.
I didn't realize I was smart until 2nd grade, when I was on a 7th grade reading level, ahead in every subject, and bullied by the other kids. This continued through elementary school and hit its peak in 5th and 6th grade, despite being in an accelerated educational program among other "smart" kids.
In Jr. High, I learned that awards and good grades can't make me happy. I never had a steady group of friends. One group of girls bullied me, and the next ditched me. A stupid trophy on a shelf couldn't make me happy.
What makes me happy today is waking up in the morning and feeling like I'm a good person. Now, my self esteem comes from the inside. More than a 4.0 or silly certificate, a smile will draw people to me. I have friends who actually care about me and make me feel worthwhile. Yes, I had to go through hell to get to where I am now. But I wouldn't change anything in my past that made me who I am today: a girl who is comfortable with herself and thus able to reach out to others.