Self-esteem is a term in psychology to reflect a person’s overall evaluation or appraisal of his or her own worth. Self-esteem encompasses beliefs (for example, “I am competent”, “I am worthy”) and emotions such as triumph, despair, pride and shame.
‘The self-concept is what we think about the self; self-esteem, the positive or negative evaluation of the self, is how we feel about it’.
A person’s self-concept consists of the beliefs one has about oneself, one’s self-perception, or, as Hamlyn (1983: 241) expresses it, “the picture of oneself”. Baumeister (1997) described self-concept as totally perception which people hold about him/ herself (p. 681). It is not the “facts” about one-self but rather what one believes to be true about one-self (Sarah Mercer, p. 14). Early researchers used self-concept as a descriptive construct, such as ‘I am an athlete’ (Rosenberg 1979).
Recent theories adapted self-esteem with more evaluative statements like ‘I am good at tennis’ (Harter 1996). The latter statement not only describes the self, as the individual identifies herself or himself, but evaluates the self by putting worthiness on it. Therefore, self-esteem is defined as both descriptive and evaluative self-related statements.
As a social psychological construct, self-esteem is attractive because researchers have conceptualized it as an influential predictor of relevant outcomes, such as academic achievement (Marsh 1990) or exercise behavior (Hagger et al. 1998). In addition, self-esteem has also been treated as an important outcome due to its close relation with psychological well-being (Marsh 1989). Self-concept (i.e. self-esteem) is widely believed to be composed of more than just perceived competence, and this leads to the relative degree of evaluative and cognitive beliefs of the construct.
Self-esteem is viewed as the most evaluative and affective of the three constructs (Harter, 1999a). Overlay, self-concept is considered as the beliefs about perceived competence and self-evaluative in a specific domain. Self-esteem can apply specifically to a particular dimension (for example, “I believe I am a good writer and I feel happy about that”) or have global extent (for example, “I believe I am a bad person, and feel bad about myself in general”). Psychologists usually regard self-esteem as an enduring personality characteristic (“trait” self-esteem), though normal, short-term variations (“state” self-esteem) also exist.
Synonyms or near-synonyms of self-esteem include: self-worth, self-regard, self-respect, and self-integrity.
People with a healthy level of self-esteem:
- firmly believe in certain values and principles, and are ready to defend them even when finding opposition, feeling secure enough to modify them in light of experience.
- are able to act according to what they think to be the best choice, trusting their own judgment, and not feeling guilty when others don’t like their choice.
- do not lose time worrying excessively about what happened in the past, nor about what could happen in the future. They learn from the past and plan for the future, but live in the present intensely.
- fully trust in their capacity to solve problems, not hesitating after failures and difficulties. They ask others for help when they need it.
- consider themselves equal in dignity to others, rather than inferior or superior, while accepting differences in certain talents, personal prestige or financial standing.
- take for granted that they are an interesting and valuable person for others, at least for those with whom they have a friendship.
- resist manipulation, collaborate with others only if it seems appropriate and convenient.
- admit and accept different internal feelings and drives, either positive or negative, revealing those drives to others only when they choose.
- are able to enjoy a great variety of activities.
- are sensitive to feelings and needs of others; respect generally accepted social rules, and claim no right or desire to prosper at others’ expense.
Low self-esteem can result from various factors, including a physical appearance or weight, socioeconomic status, or peer pressure or bullying.
Low self-esteem occasionally leads to suicidal ideation and behaviour. These can include self-imposed isolation, feelings of rejection, dejection, insignificance, and detachment, and increased dissatisfaction with current social relationships. A lack of social support from peers or family tends to create or exacerbate stress on an individual, which can lead to an inability to adjust to current circumstances. Drug abuse and forms of delinquency are common side effects of low self-esteem.
A person with low self-esteem may show some of the following characteristics:
- Heavy self-criticism and dissatisfaction.
- Hypersensitivity to criticism with resentment against critics and feelings of being attacked.
- Chronic indecision and an exaggerated fear of mistakes.
- Excessive will to please and unwillingness to displease any petitioner.
- Perfectionism, which can lead to frustration when perfection is not achieved.
- Neurotic guilt, dwelling on and exaggerating the magnitude of past mistakes.
- Floating hostility and general defensiveness and irritability without any proximate cause.
- Pessimism and a general negative outlook.
- Envy, invidiousness, or general resentment.
Watch out …
Comfort is not self-esteem
For a person with low self-esteem—or “wrong” self-esteem, according to Branden’s terminology— any positive stimulus or incentive will make him feel comfortable, or, at most, better with respect to himself/herself for just some time. Therefore, properties, sex, success, or physical appearance, by themselves, will produce comfort, or a false and ephemeral development of self-esteem, but they won’t really strengthen confidence and respect to oneself.
Ten Steps to Self-Respect
Excerpt from Power of Intention
Dr. Wayne W. Dyer
Step 1: Look into a mirror, make eye connection with yourself, and say “I love me” as many times as possible during your day.
I love me: These three magic words help you maintain your self‑respect. Now, be aware that saying these words may be difficult at first because of the conditions you’ve been exposed to over a lifetime, and because the words may bring to the surface remnants of disrespect that your ego wants you to hold on to.
Your immediate impulse might be to see this as an expression of your ego’s desire to be superior to everyone else. But this is not an ego statement at all‑it’s an affirmation of self‑respect. Transcend that ego mind and affirm your love for yourself and your connection to the Spirit of God. This doesn’t make you superior to anyone; it makes you equal to all and celebrates that you’re a piece of God. Affirm it for your own self‑respect. Affirm it in order to be respectful of that which intended you here. Affirm it because it’s the way you’ll stay connected to pour Source and regain the power of intention. I love me. Say it without embarrassment. Say it proudly, and be that image of love and self‑respect.
Step 2: Write the following affirmation and repeat it over and over again to yourself: I am whole and perfect as I was created!
Carry this thought with you wherever you go. Have it laminated, and place it in your pocket, on your dashboard, on your refrigerator, or next to your bed‑allow the words to become a source of high energy and self‑respect. By simply carrying these words with you and being in the same space with them, their energy will flow directly to you.
Self respect emerges from the fact that you respect the Source from which you came and you’ve made a decision to reconnect to that Source, regardless of what anyone else might think. It’s very important to keep reminding yourself at the beginning that you’re worthy of infinite respect from the one Source you can always count on, the piece of God energy that defines you. This reminder will do wonders for your self‑respect, and consequently your ability to use the power of intention in your life. Over and over, remind yourself: I’m not my body. I’m not my accumulations. I’m not my achievements. I’m not my reputation. I am whole and perfect as I was created.
Step 3: Extend more respect to others and to all of life.
Perhaps the greatest secret of self‑esteem is to appreciate other people more. The easiest way to do this is to see the unfolding of God in them. Look past the judgments of others’ appearance, failures, and successes, their status in society, their wealth or lack of it … and extend appreciation and love to the Source from which they came. Everyone is a child of God –everyone! Try to see this even in those who behave in what appears to be a godless fashion. Know that by extending love and respect, you can turn that energy around so that it’s heading back to its Source rather than away from it. In short, send out respect because that is what you have to give away. Send out judgment and low energy and that is what you’ll attract back. Remember, when you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself as someone who needs to judge. The same applies to judgments directed at you.
Step 4: Affirm to yourself and all others that you meet, I belong!
A sense of belonging is one of the highest attributes on Abraham Maslow’s pyramid of self‑actualization (which I discuss at the beginning of the next chapter). Feeling that you don’t belong or you’re in the wrong place can be due to a lack of self-respect. Respect yourself and your divinity by knowing that everyone belongs. This should never come into question. Your presence here in the universe is proof alone that you belong here. No person decides if you belong here. No government determines if some belong and some don’t. This is an intelligent system that you’re a part of. The wisdom of Creation intended you to be here, in this place, in this family with these siblings and parents, occupying this precious space. Say it to yourself and affirm it whenever necessary: I belong! And so does everyone else. No one is here by accident!
Step 5: Remind yourself that you’re never alone.
My self-respect stays intact as long as I know that it’s impossible for me to be alone. I have a “senior partner” who’s never abandoned me and who’s stuck with me even in moments when I had seemingly deserted my Source. I feel that if the universal mind has enough respect to allow me to come here and to work through me‑and to protect me in times when I strayed onto dangerous nonspiritual turf‑then this partnership deserves my reciprocal respect. I recall my friend Pat McMahon, a talk‑show host on KTAR radio in Phoenix, Arizona, telling me about his encounter with Mother Teresa in his studio before interviewing her for his program. He pleaded with her to allow him to do something for her. “Anything at all,” he begged. “I’d just like to help you in some way.” She looked at him and said, “Tomorrow morning get up at 4:00 A.M. and go out onto the streets of Phoenix. Find someone who lives there and believes that he’s alone, and convince him that he’s not.” Great advice, because everyone who wallows in self‑doubt or appears to be lost … has lost their self‑respect because they’ve forgotten that they’re not alone.
Step 6: Respect your body!
You’ve been provided with a perfect body to house your inner invisible being for a few brief moments in eternity. Regardless of its size, shape, color, or any imagined infirmities, it’s a perfect creation for the purpose that you were intended here for. You don’t need to work at getting healthy; health is something you already have if you don’t disturb it, You may have disturbed your healthy body by overfeeding it, underexercising it, and overstimulating it with toxins or drugs that make it sick, fatigued, jumpy, anxious, depressed, bloated, ornery, or an endless list of maladies. You can begin the fulfillment of this intention to live a life of self‑respect by honoring the temple that houses you. You know what to do. You don’t need another diet, workout manual, or personal trainer. Go within, listen to your body, and treat it with all of the dignity and love that your self-respect demands.
Step 7: Meditate to stay in conscious contact with your Source, which always respects you.
I can’t say this enough: Meditation is a way to experience what the five senses can’t detect. When you’re connected to the field of intention, you’re connected to the wisdom that’s within you. That divine wisdom has great respect for you, and it cherishes you while you’re here, Meditation is a way to ensure that you stay in a state of self‑respect. Regardless of all that goes on around you, when you enter into that sacred space of meditation, all doubts about your value as an esteemed creation dissolve. You’ll emerge from the solemnity of meditation feeling connected to your Source and enjoying respect for all beings, particularly yourself.
Step 8: Make amends with adversaries.
The act of making amends sends out a signal of respect for your adversaries. By radiating this forgiving energy outward, you’ll find this same kind of respectful positive energy flowing back toward you. By being big enough to make amends and replace the energy of anger, bitterness, and tension with kindness‑even if you still insist that you’re right‑you’ll respect yourself much more than prior to your act of forgiveness. If you’re filled with rage toward anyone, there’s a huge part of you that resents the presence of this debilitating energy. Take a moment right here and now to simply face that person who stands out in your mind as someone you hurt, or directed hurt to you, and tell him or her that you’d like to make amends. You’ll notice how much better you feel. That good feeling of having cleared the air is self‑respect. It takes much more courage, strength of character, and inner conviction to make amends than it does to hang on to the low‑energy feelings.
Step 9: Always remember the self in self‑respect.
In order to do this, you must recognize that the opinions of others toward you aren’t facts, they’re opinions. When I speak to an audience of 500 people, there are 500 opinions of me in the room at the end of the evening. I’m none of those opinions. I can’t be responsible for how they view me. The only thing I can be responsible for is my own character, and this is true for every one of us. If I respect myself, then I’m relying on the self in self‑respect. If I doubt myself, or punish myself, I’ve not only lost my self‑respect, I’ll continue to attract more and more doubt and lower‑energy opinions with which to further punish myself. You can’t stay linked to the universal mind, which intends all of us here, if you fail to rely on your self for your self‑respect.
Step 10: Be in a state of gratitude.
You’ll discover that gratitude is the final step in each succeeding chapter. Be an appreciator rather than a depreciator of everything that shows up in your life. When you’re saying Thank you, God, for everything, and when you’re expressing gratitude for your life and all that you see and experience, you’re respecting Creation. This respect is within you, and you can only give away what you have inside. Being in a state of gratitude is the exact same thing as being in a state of respect for yourself, which you give away freely, and which will return to you tenfold.
RELATED: WOMAN of ACTION™ – Dr. Joyce Knudsen
Self Esteem – WOMEN in RECOVERY
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