Self-esteem is an individual’s subjective evaluation of their own worth. Self-esteem encompasses beliefs about oneself (for example, “I am unloved”, “I am worthy”) as well as emotional states, such as triumph, despair, pride, and shame. Smith and Mackie (2007) defined it by saying “The self-concept is what we think about the self; self-esteem, is the positive or negative evaluations of the self, as in how we feel about it.”
Self-esteem is an attractive psychological construct because it predicts certain outcomes, such as academic achievement, happiness, satisfaction in marriage and relationships, and criminal behavior.
Self-esteem can apply to a specific attribute (for example, “I believe I am a good writer and I feel happy about that”) or globally (for example, “I believe I am a bad person, and I feel bad about myself in general”).
One of the most widely used instruments, the Rosenberg self-esteem scale (RSES) is a 10-item self-esteem scale score that requires participants to indicate their level of agreement with a series of statements about themselves.
An alternative measure, The Coopersmith Inventory uses a 50-question battery over a variety of topics and asks subjects whether they rate someone as similar or dissimilar to themselves. If a subject’s answers demonstrate solid self-regard, the scale regards them as well adjusted. If those answers reveal some inner shame, it considers them to be prone to social deviance.
Psychologists usually regard self-esteem as an enduring personality characteristic (trait self-esteem), though normal, short-term variations (state self-esteem) also exist.
Experiences in a person’s life are a major source of how self-esteem develops. In the early years of a child’s life, parents have a significant influence on self-esteem and can be considered the main source of positive and negative experiences a child will have.
Unconditional love from parents helps a child develop a stable sense of being cared for and respected. These feelings translate into later effects on self-esteem as the child grows older.
Shame can be a contributor to those with problems of low self-esteem. Feelings of shame usually occur because of a situation where the social self is devalued, such as a socially evaluated poor performance.
A poor performance leads to higher responses of psychological states that indicate a threat to the social self namely a decrease in social self-esteem and an increase in shame. This increase in shame can be helped with self-compassion.
Self-esteem may make people convinced they deserve happiness.
Understanding this is fundamental, and universally beneficial, since the development of positive self-esteem increases the capacity to treat other people with respect, benevolence and goodwill, thus favoring rich interpersonal relationships and avoiding destructive ones.
For Erich Fromm, the love of others and love of ourselves are not alternatives. On the contrary, an attitude of love toward themselves will be found in all those who are capable of loving others. Self-esteem allows creativity at the workplace and is a specially critical condition for teaching professions.