A low self-esteem refers to the belief that one is inferior or has low self-worth. The word itself, in English, can mean arrogance, conceit or pride. According to one major organization, it is a “general feeling of inferiority and inadequacy.” Self-esteem refers to our perception of ourselves, and how we feel about ourselves.
According to the new research, self-esteem can be affected by three major factors. First, we get older. As we get older, changes occur in our body, and changes also happen in our behavior. Some of those changes may be genetic, but we can also attribute some changes to changes in our environment.
Second, bad things happen to good people. Those who have experienced tragedy in their lives may have a low self-esteem. Those who have had a history of abuse, neglect, or other traumatic events in their lives are more likely to have a low self-esteem. A common thread in the lives of those with high self-esteem is the expectation that they will succeed in life. Those with a good self-esteem are more likely to take on challenging tasks, pursue educational opportunities, and pursue other activities that can help them attain their goals.
Third, some of us learn from our parents and others in our society about our level of self-esteem. The way we were raised, the values we were taught, and the beliefs we had about ourselves can play an important role in what happens to us as we grow. In many cases, those who have been harshly disciplined as children have reported that they carry over these negative beliefs into adulthood. Those who were abused as children are more likely to have low self-esteem. Those who were exposed to positive experiences early in life are less likely to develop this habit.
Fourth, specific domains of the general self-esteem concept can be studied in isolation. For example, one could examine how working in a setting with high social expectations affects self-esteem. Or, one could examine how academic success affects self-esteem.
The fifth facet that is closely related to the fifth facet is our reaction to changes in our physical appearance. As we get older, changes in our physical appearance can have profound effects on our level of self-esteem. People who are younger and/or have not finished growing physically can be more accepting of physical differences (e.g., black hair versus white hair) than are those who are older and/or have completed growing. People who are young and/or have not completed growing may, however, be more self-conscious about changes in their physical appearance than are those who are older and/or have completed growing.
So, it would seem that the five facets of the self-esteem model are closely related to five aspects of physical appearance. But there is a seventh facet to consider here. This is the mature principle at work here: What affects self-esteem is not just the level or type of things that people consider important but the kind of feelings that people have about these things. And, here, too, the general self-esteem concept makes a lot of sense. What affects self-esteem is not just what someone else thinks about their physical appearance but what their own feelings about it are.
In short, then, self-esteem is more than just a matter of how someone looks. It is an affective state that involves more than just outward appearances. Self-esteem is directly related to how much we love ourselves and how much we love the world around us because it is an affective state that relates to our values, beliefs, and perceptions. And self-esteem affects someone’s self-image, their ability to make good choices, and their persistence in pursuing those goals.