Self-esteem refers to your attitude towards yourself and your abilities. It can also be defined as a disposition towards other people, their capabilities and their attitudes. The people who have high self-esteem are positive thinkers with high level of confidence. In contrast, the people with low self-esteem are negative thinkers with low level of self-confidence. The study on the self-esteem shows that childhood experiences have a strong impact on a person’s level of self-confidence.
Self-esteem is a complex phenomenon that encompasses a wide range of different psychological attributes including but not limited to emotional stability, competence, social relevance, somatic appearance, perceived control and specific domains of personal worth such as occupational functioning, physical appearance and ability, and level of achievement. Each of these domain of self-worth is associated with a set of cognitive and emotional competencies. These competencies can be measured with specific domains of assessment such as the Academic Competence scale (ACE), the Personal Competence scale (PCS) and the Big Five personality dimensions. The association between childhood experiences and self-esteem is quite strong and there are several specific domains of self-esteem that are influenced by childhood experiences.
Children who are exposed to negative messages in their early childhood experiences have a higher chance of developing low self-esteem and poor academic performance, whereas children who have positive experiences in early life have a high self-esteem and better academic performance. However, the link between childhood experiences and self-esteem is not entirely direct and there are some controllable factors that can enhance or reduce the influence of specific domains of self-esteem. A person’s genetic makeup has an important role to play here. For example, somebody with parents who had low self-esteem would have a tough time adjusting to his/her new environment and would therefore more likely to develop low self-esteem.
Similarly, if your parents had a good self-image, it is likely that you too will have a good self-esteem; conversely, a person with a bad self-image is likely to have a very low self-esteem and consequently, a high risk of developing low self-esteem and being drawn towards negativity. A key indicator of a person’s level of self-esteem is how comfortable he is in accepting that which is deemed to be false about him/her. This is why ‘shaming’ can sometimes have the desired effect on reducing levels of self-esteem, for example by making a person feel that he/she is stupid, undesirable or worthless. Conversely, a person with a high self-esteem is naturally more likely to reject criticisms directed at him/her than someone with a low self-esteem.
Furthermore, the area of adolescence and its impact on self-esteem is a relatively new research topic that deserves more attention. While we tend to think of self-esteem as related to age and experience, newer research indicates that the way in which we interact with peers and adults impacts self-esteem significantly in ways that are similar to those seen during adolescence. In this regard, one of the most promising areas of research has been the study of how the self-esteem of a child develops as a result of their interactions with their parents and other adults.
One of the most interesting aspects of this new research relates to how children’s self-esteem relates to measures of general self-esteem. While there is generally a common trend for parents to have a greater influence on children’s self-esteem than on their overall self-esteem, when self-esteem is influenced by these same domains of influence the results are different. For example, it has been found that mothers who expressed greater parental care, as reflected by verbal intimacy and nurturance from their spouses, also had higher levels of self-esteem in comparison with those who had lesser relations with their spouses.
Another area of interest explored in this paper relates to the relationship between changes in a child’s physical appearance and self-esteem. Children were found to be more satisfied with their physical appearance when they were younger than they were when they were in their late teens. However, the link between physical appearance and self-esteem was lost once the child reached his or her late teen years. The authors argue that the lack of a significant positive association between physical appearance and self-esteem might be due to the fact that physical appearance changes rapidly, from being mostly acne-free to being completely acne-free, and that such rapid changes do not lend themselves well to rating scales.
The fourth area of interest in what affects self-esteem is related to children’s self-control. well-developed self-control skills set the foundation for healthy self-esteem development. Self-control can be defined as the ability to resist negative stimuli and learn to control the emotions that arise in response to those stimuli. A well-developed skill set in this area can also prepare a child to deal with situations where sudden emotional change is a factor, such as a divorce, separation from a parent or other major loss. Research has shown that children’s self-control can lead to better achievement in school, higher achievement tests, and a better ability to handle responsibility.