What Affects Self-Esteem?

What affects self-esteem refers to the manner by which a person perceives his self worth. Low self-esteem refers to feeling that you are not good enough, worthy of being loved or being useful around the house, and that your abilities and talents are not up to the task at hand. It is this feeling that can be fostered by having positive childhood experiences and positive relationships.

New research indicates that there are many common components of high self-esteem. It is mostly composed of three domains of self-talk–the truth about yourself (which is what Oprah talk about); the reality of others (including your contributions to a team or to society); and the belief that you are worthy of success or any of the other important things that you want for yourself. The most important domain, truth about yourself, is largely where your self-esteem comes from. In addition, the truth about yourself has a strong correlation with overall self-esteem and confidence.

Another component that strongly correlates with self-esteem is the way in which you talk to yourself in everyday life. Research indicates that the manner that you talk to yourself about yourself–both your thoughts and your speech–correlates strongly with your level of self-confidence and self-esteem. This is because, the more you tell yourself that you are worthless, inadequate, stupid, or otherwise inferior, the more your own self-talk will reinforce those thoughts. In other words, the more you tell yourself that you aren’t good enough, the more your self-talk will reinforce those feelings. This also goes for your physical appearance self-talk.

As it turns out, the answer to the question of what affects self-esteem is determined in large part by the way that you talk to yourself. Those who have a very good self-esteem refer to their own self-talk as ‘good self-talk,’ and those with a low self-esteem refer to their self-talk as ‘bad self-talk.’ Self-esteem refers to how much you value and appreciate yourself.

The following psychological study conducted at the Academy of General Psychology’s International Personality Development Program explored the connection between physical appearance self-esteem and adult sexual functioning. After conducting questionnaires and interviews with a sample of men and women both in their thirties and forties, the researchers found that there was a significant link between physical appearance self-esteem and sexual functioning. Specifically, there was a significant impact between a low level of physical appearance self-esteem and experiencing low sexual function in both men and women.

People get older, and the physical components of their personality do not change very much over the years. What, then, happens is that their general self-esteem does tend to change. This is because as we age we begin to notice that other people start to notice us differently as we age. They start to put us in new categories, such as ‘loud and obnoxious’ or ‘not very attractive.’ The thing about the maturity principle is that it is really about understanding and accepting reality; it does not say you have to be perfect to be happy.

In the new study, participants were asked to rate their overall physical appearance on a 5-point scale ranging from never to extremely happy. Then they were asked to rate their perceived competence in several specific domains, including their job performance, their romantic relations, and their social interactions with others. Those who were higher in the general self-esteem had higher perceived competence in these domains. Those who were lower in self-esteem had higher perceived competence only in the domain of their job.

This study provides evidence that shows how people’s general personality, especially their self-esteem, can change when circumstances change. People tend to perceive themselves in different ways depending upon what is happening around them. It is therefore not surprising that as situations change, their perspectives towards themselves also change. What affects self-esteem in one situation is likely to affect it in another, and this can be a process that goes throughout all of our lives, from childhood on.