psychology, self-esteem reflects a person's overall evaluation or appraisal of her or his own worth.
Self-esteem encompasses beliefs (for example, "I am
competent/ incompetent") and emotions (for example, triumph/, pride/ shame). Behavior may reflect self-esteem (for example, assertiveness/timorousness, confidence/ caution).
Psychologists usually regard self-esteem as an enduring personality characteristic (trait self-esteem), though normal, short-term variations (state self-esteem) occur.
Self-esteem can apply specifically to a particular dimension (for example, "I believe I am a good writer, and feel proud of that in particular") or have global extent (for example, "I believe I am a good person, and feel proud of myself in general").
Synonyms or near-synonyms of self-esteem include: self-worth [Defined as "self-esteem; self-respect" in "
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language": Fourth Edition, 2000. Online at http://www.bartleby.com/61/58/S0245800.html, retrieved 2007-11-15] , self-regard [ Defined as "consideration of oneself or one's interests; self-respect" in " The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language": Fourth Edition, 2000. Online at http://www.bartleby.com/61/18/S0241800.html, retrieved 2007-11-15] , self-respect [ Defined as "due respect for oneself, one's character, and one's conduct" in " The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language": Fourth Edition, 2000. Online at http://www.bartleby.com/61/23/S0242300.html, retrieved 2007-11-15] , [ The Macquarie Dictionary. Compare "The Dictionary of Psychology" by Raymond Joseph Corsini. Psychology Press, 1999. ISBN 158391028X. Online via Google Book Search.] , self-love (which can express overtones of self-promotion) [ Defined as "the instinct or desire to promote one's own well-being; regard for or love of one's self" in " The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language": Fourth Edition, 2000. Online at http://www.bartleby.com/61/89/S0238900.html, retrieved 2007-11-15] , self-integrity. Self-esteem is distinct from self-confidence and self-efficacy, which involve beliefs about ability and future performance.
History of the concept
Oxford English Dictionary" (OED) ["self-esteem" in " Oxford English Dictionary". Oxford: Oxford University Press, second edition, 1989.] traces the use of the word "self-esteem" in English back as far as 1657.
[John Milton is argued to have first coined this term. [http://nq.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/short/gjn100v1?rss=1] , Edward Pickering. (2008 July 1). Unidentified First Use of Self-Esteem: Milton's an Apology for Sanctimonious (1642). "Oxford University Press" [online] . Available: http://nq.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/short/gjn100v1 [2008 July 1] ] ]
After a career in the proto-psychological lore of
phrenologyin the 19th century ["self-esteem" in " Oxford English Dictionary". Oxford: Oxford University Press, second edition, 1989.] the term entered more mainstream psychological use in the work of the American psychologists and philosophers Lorne ParkFact|date=January 2008 and William Jamesin 1890.
Self-esteem has become the third most frequently occurring theme in psychological literature: as of 2003 over 25,000 articles, chapters, and books referred to the topic. [Rodewalt & Tragakis, 2003]
Given a long and varied history, the term has, unsurprisingly, no less than three major types of definitions in the field, each of which has generated its own tradition of research, findings, and practical applications:
# The original definition presents self-esteem as a ratio found by dividing one’s successes in areas of life of importance to a given
individualby the failures in them or one’s “success / pretensions”. [James, 1890] Problems with this approach come from making self-esteem contingent upon success: this implies inherent instability because failure can occur at any moment. [Crocker and Park, 2004]
# In the mid 1960s
Morris Rosenbergand social-learning theorists defined self-esteem in terms of a stable sense of personal worth or worthiness, (see Rosenberg self esteem scale). This became the most frequently used definition for research, but involves problems of boundary-definition, making self-esteem indistinguishable from such things as narcissismor simple bragging. [Baumeister, Smart, & Boden, 1996]
Nathaniel Brandenin 1969 briefly defined self-esteem as "…the experience of being competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and being worthy of happiness". This two-factor approach, as some have also called it, provides a balanced definition that seems to be capable of dealing with limits of defining self-esteem primarily in terms of competence or worth alone. [Mruk, 2006]
Branden’s (1969) description of self-esteem includes the following primary properties:
# self-esteem as a basic human need, i.e., "…it makes an essential contribution to the life process", "…is indispensable to normal and healthy self-development, and has a value for survival."
# self-esteem as an automatic and inevitable consequence of the sum of individuals' choices in using their consciousness
# something experienced as a part of, or background to, all of the individuals thoughts, feelings and actions.
Compare the usage of terms such as "self-love" or "self-confidence".
Implicit self-esteemrefers to a person's disposition to evaluate themselves positively or negatively in a spontaneous, automatic, or unconscious manner. It contrasts with "explicit self-esteem", which entails more conscious and reflective self-evaluation. Both explicit and implicit self-esteem are subtypes of self-esteem proper.
Implicit self-esteem is assessed using indirect measures of
cognitive processing. These include the Name Letter Task [Koole, S. L., & Pelham, B. W. (2003). On the nature of implicit self-esteem: The case of the name letter effect. In S. Spencer, S. Fein, & M. P. Zanna (Eds.), "Motivated social perception: The Ontario Symposium" (pp. 93-116). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.] and the Implicit Association Test[ Greenwald, A. G., & Farnham, S. D. (2000). Using the Implicit Association Test to measure self-esteem and self-concept. "Journal of Personality and Social Psychology", "79", 1022-1038. http://faculty.washington.edu/agg/pdf/Gwald_Farnham_JPSP_2000.OCR.pdf] . Such indirect measures are designed to reduce awareness of, or control of, the process of assessment. When used to assess implicit self-esteem, they feature stimuli designed to represent the self, such as personal pronouns (e.g., "I") or letters in one's name.
For the purposes of empirical research, psychologists typically assess self-esteem by a
self-report inventoryyielding a quantitative result. They establish the validity and reliability of the questionnaire prior to its use. Researchers are becoming more interested in measures of implicit self-esteem.
Popular lore recognizes just "high" self-esteem and "low" self-esteem.
The Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (1965) and the Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory (1967/1981) feature among the most widely used systems for measuring self-esteem. The Rosenberg test, often seen as a "standard" weasel inline, usually uses a ten-question battery scored on a four-point response-system that requires participants to indicate their level of agreement with a series of statements about themselves. The Coopersmith Inventory uses a 50-question battery over a variety of topics and asks subjects whether they rate positive or negative characteristics of someone as similar or dissimilar to themselves. [From the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Research Network on Socioeconomic Status and Health from the
University of California, San Francisco. Online at http://www.macses.ucsf.edu/Research/Psychosocial/notebook/selfesteem.html#Measurement, retrieved 2008-02-25]
Many early theories suggested that self-esteem is a basic human need or motivation. American psychologist
Abraham Maslow, for example, included self-esteem in his heirarchy of needs. He described two different forms of esteem: the need for respect from others and the need for self-respect, or inner self-esteem. [ Maslow A. H. (1987). "Motivation and Personality" (3rd ed.). New York: Harper & Row.] Respect from others entails recognition, acceptance, status, and appreciation, and was believed to be more fragile and easily lost than inner self-esteem. According to Maslow, without the fulfillment of the self-esteem need, individuals will be driven to seek it and unable to grow and obtain self-actualization.
Modern theories of self-esteem explore the reasons why humans are motivated to maintain a high regard for themselves.
Sociometertheory maintains that self-esteem evolved to check one's level of status and acceptance in ones' social group. According to terror management theory, self esteem serves a protective function and reduces anxiety about life and death. [Greenberg, J. (2008). Understanding the vital human quest for self-esteem. "Perspectives on Psychological Science", "3", 48-55.]
Quality and level of self-esteem
Level and quality of self-esteem, though correlated, remain distinct. Level-wise, one can exhibit high but fragile self-esteem (as in
narcissism) or low but stable self-esteem (as in humility). However, investigators can indirectly assess the quality of self-esteem in several ways:
# in terms of its constancy over time (stability)
# in terms of its independence of meeting particular conditions (non-contingency)
# in terms of its ingrained nature at a basic psychological level (implicitness or automatized).
Humans have portrayed the dangers of excessive self-esteem and the advantages of more
humilitysince at least the development of Greek tragedy, which typically showed the results of hubris.
Self-esteem, grades and relationships
From the late 1970s to the early 1990s many Americans assumed as a matter of course that students' self-esteem acted as a critical factor in the grades that they earn in school, in their relationships with their peers, and in their later success in life. Given this assumption, some American groups created programs which aimed to increase the self-esteem of students. Until the 1990s little peer-reviewed and controlled research took place on this topic.
Peer-reviewed research undertaken since then has not validated previous assumptions. Recent research indicates that inflating students' self-esteem in and of itself has no positive effect on grades. One study has shown that inflating self-esteem by itself can actually decrease grades. [Baumeister 2005]
High self-esteem correlates highly with self-reported happiness. However, it is not clear which, if either, necessarily leads to the other. [ Baumeister, 2003. ] Additionally, self-esteem has been found to be related to forgiveness in close relationships, in that people with high self-esteem will be more forgiving than people with low self-esteem. [ Eaton, Struthers, & Santelli, 2006. ]
The relationship involving self-esteem and
academicresults does not signify that high self-esteem contributes to high academic results. It simply means that high self- esteem may be accomplished due to high academic performance. [Baumeister, Roy F., Campbell, Jennifer D., Krueger, Joachim I., D. Vohs Kathleen (2003.) Does High Self-Esteem Cause Better Performance, Interpersonal Success, Happiness, or Healthier Lifestyles? Wiley InterScience Journal. Online at http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/118855650/abstract? Retrieved 2008-9-15.]
Bullying, violence and murder
Some of the most interesting results of recent studies center on the relationships between
bullying, violence, and self-esteem. People used to assume that bullies acted violently towards others because they suffered from low self-esteem (although supporters of this position offered no controlled studies to back up this belief).
In contrast to old beliefs, recent research indicates that bullies act the way that they do because they suffer from unearned "high" self-esteem.
The presence of superiority-complexes can be seen both in individual cases, such as the criminals
Roy Baumeisterstudied, and in whole societies, such as Germany under the Naziregime.
The findings of this research do not take into account that the concept of self-esteem lacks a clear definition and that differing views exist of the precise definition of self-esteem. In his own work, Baumeister often uses a "common use" definition: self-esteem is how you regard yourself (or how you appear to regard yourself) regardless of how this view was cultivated. Other psychologists believe that a "self esteem" that depends on external validation of the self (or other people's approval), such as what seems relevant in the discussion of violent people, does not, in fact, equate to "true" self-esteem.
Nathaniel Brandenlabeled external validation as "pseudo self-esteem", arguing that "true self-esteem" comes from internal sources, such as self-responsibility, self-sufficiency and the knowledge of one's own competence and capability to deal with obstacles and adversity, regardless of what other people think.
Psychologists who agree with Branden's view dismiss Baumeister's findings. Such psychologistswho? say that Baumeister mistakes
narcissismas "high self-esteem" in criminals. They see such narcissism as an inflated opinion of self, built on shaky grounds, and opine that violence comes when that opinion comes under threat. Those with "true" self-esteem who valued themselves and believed wholly in their own competence and worth would have no need to resort to violence or indeed have any need to believe in their superiority or to prove their superiority.
Contingencies of self-worth
Contingencies of self-worth comprise those qualities a person believes he or she must have in order to class as a person of
value; proponents claim the contingencies as the core of self-esteem.Fact|date=December 2007
In the field of social psychology, Jennifer Crocker has carried out major research on the topic of contingencies of self-worth. She says that her research "explores what it is that people believe they need to be or do to have value and worth as a person, and the consequences of those beliefs". She claims that people pursue self-esteem by trying to prove that they have worth and value, and this pursuit affects "the satisfaction of the fundamental human needs for learning, relationships, autonomy, self-regulation, and mental and physical health" (Crocker, 2007). Crocker argues that this pursuit of self-worth affects not only the individual, but everyone around the person as well.
According to the "Contingencies of Self-Worth model" (Crocker & Wolfe, 2001) people differ in their bases of self-esteem. Their beliefs — beliefs about what they think they need to do or who they need to "be" in order to class as a person of worth — form these bases. Crocker and her colleagues (2001) identified seven "domains" in which people frequently derive their self-worth:
# Support of
# Gaining others'
# Outdoing others in
Individuals who base their self-worth in a specific domain (such as, for example, academic success) leave themselves much more vulnerable to having their self-esteem threatened when negative events happen to them within that domain (such as when they fail a test at school). A 2003 study by Crocker found that students who based their contingency of self-worth on academic criteria had a greater likelihood of experiencing lower-state self-esteem, greater negative affect, and negative self-evaluative thoughts when they did not perform well on academic tasks, when they received poor grades, or when graduate schools rejected them (Crocker, Karpinski, Quinn, & Chase, 2003; Crocker, Sommers, & Luhtanen, 2002).
Crocker and her colleagues (2003) have constructed the "Contingencies of Self-Worth Scale", which measures the seven domains mentioned above that previous researchFact|date=December 2007 had hypothesized as providing important internal and external sources of self-esteem. Crocker argues that the domains on which people base self-worth play a greater role than whether self-worth is actually contingent or not. Contingencies of self-worth can function internally, externally, or somewhere in between. Some research has shown that external contingencies of self-worth, such as physical appearance and academic success, correlate negatively to well-being, even promoting depression and eating-disorders (Jambekar, Quinn, & Crocker, 2001). Other work has found internal contingencies, on the other hand, unrelated or even positively related to well-being (Sargent, Crocker, & Luhtanen, 2006).
Research by Crocker and her colleagues also suggests that contingencies of self-worth have self-regulatory properties (Crocker, Luhtanen, Cooper, & Bouvrette, 2003). Crocker "et al." define successful self-regulation as “the willingness to exert effort toward one’s most important
goals, while taking setbacks and failures as opportunities to learn, identify weaknesses and address them, and develop new strategies toward achieving those goals” (Crocker, Brook, & Niiya, 2006). Since many individuals strive for a feeling of value, it makes sense that those people would experience special motivation to succeed and actively to avoid failure in the domains on which they base their own self-worth. Accordingly, successful self-regulation can prove difficult for people aiming to maintain and enhance their self-esteem, because they would have to actually embrace failure or criticism as a learning opportunity, rather than avoid it. Instead, when a task which individuals see as fundamental to their self-worth proves difficult and failure seems probable, contingencies of self-worth lead to stress, feelings of pressure, and a loss of intrinsic motivation.Fact|date=December 2007 In these cases, highly contingent people may withdraw from the situation.Fact|date=December 2007 On the other hand, the positive emotional affect following success in a domain of contingency may become addictive for the highly contingent individual (Baumeister & Vohs, 2001). Over time, these people may require even greater successes to achieve the same satisfaction or emotional “high”. Therefore, the goal to succeed can become a relentless quest for these individuals (Crocker & Nuer, 2004).
Researchers such as Crocker believe that people confuse the boosts to self-esteem resulting from successes with true human needs, such as learning, mutually supportive relationships,
autonomy, and safety (Crocker & Nuer, 2004; Crocker & Park, 2004; Deci & Ryan, 2000). Crocker claims that people do not seek "self-esteem", but basic human needs, and that the contingencies on which they base their self-esteem has more importance than the level of self-esteem itself.
Criticism and controversy
The concept of self-esteem has been criticized by different camps but notably by figures like
Dalai Lama, Carl Rogers, Paul Tillichand Alfred Korzybski.
Perhaps one of the strongest theoretical and operational critiques of the
conceptof self-esteem has come from American psychologist Albert Elliswho on numerous occasions criticized the philosophyas essentially self-defeating and ultimately destructive [Ellis, A. (2001). Feeling better, getting better, staying better. Impact Publishers] . Although acknowledging the human propensity and tendency to ego rating as innate, he has claimed that the philosophyof self-esteem in the last analysis is both unrealistic, illogical and self- and socially destructive – often doing more harm than good. Questioning the foundations and usefulness of generalized ego strength, he has claimed that self-esteem is based on arbitrary definitional premises, over-generalized, perfectionistic and grandiose thinking [Ellis, A. (2001). Feeling better, getting better, staying better. Impact Publishers ] . Acknowledging that rating and valuing behaviours and characteristics is functional and even necessary, he sees rating and valuing human beings totality and total selves as irrational, unethical and absolutistic. The more healthy alternative to self-esteem according to him is unconditional self-acceptance and unconditional other-acceptance and these concepts are incorporated in his therapeutic system Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. In 2005 he released a book with a detailed analysis of the concept of self-esteem titled "The Myth of Self-esteem".
Human Potential Movement
Notes and References
* Baumeister, R., Smart, L. & Boden, J. (1996). "Relation of threatened egotism to violence and aggression: The dark side of self-esteem". "Psychological Review", 103, 5–33.
* Baumeister, Roy F. (2001). "Violent Pride", in "Scientific American", "284", No. 4, pages 96–101; April 2001.
* Baumeister, Roy F., et al. (2003). "Does High Self-Esteem Cause Better Performance, Interpersonal Success, Happiness, or Healthier Lifestyles?", "Psychological Science in the Public Interest", "4" (1), pages 1–44; May 2003. ("ed": other researchers: Jennifer D. Campbell, Joachim I. Krueger and Kathleen D. Vohs)
* Baumeister, Roy F., et al. (2005). "Exploding the Self-Esteem Myth" "Scientific American", January 2005. ("ed". This study also involved Jennifer D. Campbell, Joachim I. Krueger and Kathleen D. Vohs)
* Branden, N. (1969). "The psychology of self-esteem". New York: Bantam.
* Branden, N. (2001). "The psychology of self-esteem : a revolutionary approach to self-understanding that launched a new era in modern psychology". San Francisco : Jossey-Bass, 2001. ISBN 0787945269
* Burke, C. (2008)"Self-esteem: Why?; Why not?", ["Homiletic and Pastoral Review", New York, February 2008] ; http://cormacburke.or.ke
* Crocker, J., & Park, L. E. (2004). "The costly pursuit of self-esteem". "Psychological Bulletin", 130(3), 392–414.
* Hill, S.E. & Buss, D.M. (2006). "The Evolution of Self-Esteem". In Michael Kernis, (Ed.), "Self Esteem: Issues and Answers: A Sourcebook of Current Perspectives.". Psychology Press:New York. 328-333. [http://homepage.psy.utexas.edu/homepage/Group/BussLAB/pdffiles/SEMSAugust4.pdf Full text]
* James, W. (1983). "The principles of psychology". Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. (Original work published 1890)
* Lerner, Barbara (1985). "Self-Esteem and Excellence: The Choice and the Paradox", "American Educator", Winter 1985.
* Maslow A. H. (1987). "Motivation and Personality" (3rd ed.). New York: Harper & Row.
* Mecca, Andrew M., et al., (1989). "The Social Importance of Self-esteem" University of California Press, 1989. ("ed"; other editors included
Neil J. Smelserand John Vasconcellos)
* Mruk, C. (2006). "Self-Esteem research, theory, and practice: Toward a positive psychology of self-esteem" (3rd ed.). New York: Springer.
* Rodewalt, F. & Tragakis, M. W. (2003). "Self-esteem and self-regulation: Toward optimal studies of self-esteem". "Psychological Inquiry", 14(1), 66–70.
* Ruggiero, Vincent R. (2000). "Bad Attitude: Confronting the Views That Hinder Student's Learning" "American Educator".
* Sedikides, C., & Gregg. A. P. (2003). "Portraits of the self." In M. A. Hogg & J. Cooper (Eds.), "Sage handbook of social psychology" (pp.110-138). London: Sage Publications.
* Twenge, Jean M. (2007). "Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled — and More Miserable Than Ever Before". Free Press. ISBN 978-0743276986
Contingencies of self-worth references
* Baumeister, R. F., Campbell, J. D., Krueger, J. I., & Vohs, K. D. (2003). "Does high self-esteem cause better performance, interpersonal success, happiness, or healthier lifestyles?" "Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 4"(1), 1-44.
* Crocker, J. (2007). "Professional Profile: Jennifer Crocker." Retrieved September 27, 2007 from http://crocker.socialpsychology.org/
* Crocker, J., Brook, A. T., & Niiya, Y. (2006). The pursuit of self-esteem: Contingencies of self-worth and self-regulation. "Journal of Personality, 74"(6), 1749-1771.
* Crocker, J., Karpinski, A., Quinn, D. M., & Chase, S. (2003). When grades determine self-worth: Consequences of contingent self-worth for male and female engineering and psychology majors. "Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85", 507-516.
*Crocker, J., & Luhtanen, R. K. (2003). Level of self-esteem and contingencies of self-worth: Unique effects on academic, social, and financial problems in college freshmen. "Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 29", 701-712.
*Crocker, J., Luhtanen, R. K., Cooper, M. L., & Bouvrette, S. (2003). Contingencies of self-worth in college students: Theory and measurement. "Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85", 894-908.
* Crocker, J. & Nuer, N. (2004). Do people need self-esteem? "Comment on Pyszczynski et al. Psychological Bulletin, 130", 469-472.
* Crocker, J., & Park, L. E. (2004). The costly pursuit of self-esteem. "Psychological Bulletin, 130", 392-414.
* Crocker, J., Sommers, S., & Luhtanen, R. (2002). Hopes dashed and dreams fulfilled: Contingencies of self-worth in the graduate school admissions process. "Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28", 1275-1286.
* Crocker, J., & Wolfe, C. T. (2001). Contingencies of self-worth. "Psychological Review, 108", 593-623.
* Jambekar, S., & Quinn, D. M., & Crocker, J. (2001). Effects of weight and achievement primes on the self-esteem of college women. "Psychology of Women Quarterly, 25", 48-56.
* Sargent, J. T., Crocker, J., & Luhtanen, R. K. (2006). Contingencies of self-worth and depressive symptoms in college students. "Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology, 25"(6), 628-646.
* [http://www.ericdigests.org/1993/esteem.htm "Self-Esteem and Narcissism: Implications for Practice"] , digest of a study on early-childhood education. Retrieved
* [http://buddhism.kalachakranet.org/self-confidence.html "Lack of self-confidence"] , a Buddhist view. Retrieved
* [http://www.jrf.org.uk/knowledge/findings/socialpolicy/n71.asp The costs and causes of low self-esteem]
* [http://www.nathanielbranden.com/ess/ess12.html "Our Urgent Need For Self-Esteem"] by
* [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F00E5DA123AF930A35751C0A9649C8B63&sec=health&spon=&pagewanted=print "The Trouble With Self-Esteem"] by Lauren Slater, "
New York Times", February 3, 2002
* [http://www.kidshealth.org/teen/your_mind/body_image/body_image.html "Body image and self-esteem"]
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