The word “self-esteem” comes from the Latin aesimare, which means “to estimate or appraise”. Self-esteem thus refers to our positive and negative evaluations of ourselves (Coopersmith, 1967). There are two social psychological theories which explain why all of us need to have self-esteem. One theory, proposed by Mark Leary and his colleagues, is that people are inherently social animals and that the need for self-esteem is driven by this more primitive need to connect with others and gain their approval. Our self-esteem thus serves as an indicator of how we’re doing in the eyes of others.
The other theory, proposed by Jeff Creenberg, Shelton Solomon, and Tom Pyszczynski, is that people are motivated to see themselves as valuable members of society as a way of coping with a deeply rooted fear of death that haunts us all. There are two types of self-esteem: high and low self-esteem. High self-esteem can be divided into secure and fragile high self-esteem. Some people prefer having high self-esteem while others claim that low self-esteem is better than high self-esteem.
For most people it’s easier to say they have normal self-esteem, but there can’t be “normal self-esteem. Such people should specify what type of self-esteem (either high or low) can be considered “normal”. And the question is, “What type of self-esteem can be considered relatively the best? The answer to this question was found through a deep analysis of advantages and disadvantages of both high and low self-esteem. Firstly, I analyzed the advantages of high self-esteem. High self-esteem people usually have a strong position in their life. They always know who they are, what they want, and what way they are going. They don’t depend on others’ opinion, because they have their own point of view and are not afraid of sharing it with others.
Thanks to high self-esteem, people are encouraged to participate in extra-curricular activities which develop their potential skills. In any business, people want to deal with confident businessmen with a strong will power and ability to solve any challenges that come their way. Such people put high goals and commitments, and, eventually, they achieve them, because they believe they can. As it was said, “If you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t, you’re right! ” For people with high self-esteem, there’s no reason for stress and depression, because they love their life and feel good about themselves.
People with high self-esteem have been said to lead happier and more psychologically healthy lives (Baumeister, Campbell, Krueger & Vohs, 2003). Finally, high self-esteem may even have long-term benefits. “Higher levels of self-esteem similarly have been found in other research to predict growth in socioemotional functioning among younger, preschool age children and, at the other end of developmental continuum, decreased likelihood of mortality among older adults. ” (Dubois & Flay, 2004, p. 416). But still, high self-esteem has a number of disadvantages.
People with high self-esteem are prone to boasting and narcissism (Baumeister et al. , 2003); and to engage in more risky behaviors such as unprotected sex (Hollar and Shizek, 1996). Most people with high self-esteem are usually arrogant and selfish. From my own experience, I know people who become arrogant simply because they had achieved success in a particular area of life. Instead of coping with other weaknesses of character, high self-esteem people think they’re perfect and don’t change themselves. As a result, they become blind to their own faults and don’t go forward because they don’t improve themselves.
Some people start forgetting their old friends as their self-esteem gets higher. For example, I had been a friend of one girl for 3 years. Especially, the last year of our friendship, I noticed some changes in her character, her self-esteem became higher and higher from day to day as she got richer and richer. She started wearing expensive clothes, meeting new friends with the same material position and feeling superior and cool compared to her previous friends including me. Eventually, she stopped saying “Hi” and didn’t even look towards my side.
This is not a single example when people with high self-esteem discriminate people with low self-esteem. I had a lot of cases when my classmates with very high self-esteem used to boast and humiliate those with low self-esteem knowing they wouldn’t do anything in reply. Moreover, people with high self-esteem have been shown to place success over well-being and to demonstrate more in-group favoritism than others (Baumeister, Campbel, Krueger & Vohs, 2003). They may blame others for their own shortcomings in relationships or engage in downward social comparisons that put others down personally. Crocker & Park, 2004).
Some high self-esteem individuals appear to think more highly of their values to others in relationships or they tend to overvalue the contributions they make in group situations (Baumeister, Campbell, Krueger & Vohs, 2003). However, these advantages and disadvantages of high self-esteem are only general ones. Specifically, there are two types of high self-esteem: secure high self-esteem and fragile high self-esteem. Secure high self-esteem is characterized by self-esteem that is positive both implicitly and explicitly (Kernis, 2003).
Explicit self-esteem refers to global self-evaluations that one is conscious of, and therefore, able to report while implicit self- esteem exists outside the consciousness (Kernis, 2003). Thus, individuals are said to have secure high self-esteem when their self-reported self-evaluations (explicit self-esteem) coincide with their real self-esteem shown in practice (implicit self-esteem). People with secure high self-esteem are confident because they can prove their explicit self-evaluations with implicit self-evaluations which show their self-reported self-evaluations are true.
It can be concluded that people with secure high self-esteem are usually nice and friendly with people around. They don’t need to put others down to lift themselves, because they feel good about themselves and don’t wait for people’s approval and admiration. Such people are optimistic and confident in their strengths while still struggling with weaknesses. In contrast to secure high self-esteem, fragile high self-esteem is characterized by narcissism, dependence on desired outcomes, unwillingness to admit the possession of some negative self-feelings or weaknesses (Kernis, 2003).
In the case of fragile high self-esteem, individuals’ positive explicit self-esteem doesn’t coincide with their implicit self-esteem which is not positive. Thus, people with fragile high self-esteem deceive themselves compensating their self-doubts by exaggerating their abilities and feelings of self-worth. Such people don’t listen to criticism and don’t change themselves for the better. As a result, they are likely to abuse relationships with others putting their needs first in any situation. If their needs don’t stand first, they become angry and demonstratively try to prove they’re the best.
In Baumeister, J. M Boden, and L. Smart’s article “Relation of threatened egoism to violence and aggression: The dark side of high self-esteem”, it’s written that: “… violence appears to be most commonly a result of threatened egoism – that is, highly favorable views of self that are disputed by some person or circumstance… The major cause of violence is high self-esteem combined with an ego threat. When favorable views about oneself are questioned…or otherwise put in jeopardy, people may aggres against the source of the threat.
Therefore, people with high fragile self-esteem are more prone to be criminals than people with secure high self-esteem. If we come to the disadvantages of low self-esteem, we can find that low self-esteem is associated with major depression, anxiety, eating disorders, sexual dysfunction, pathological shame, and suicide attempts. Owens (2001) also identifies that the chief characteristics of low-self-esteem are hypersensitivity, instability, lack of risk taking, general depression, pessimism, loneliness, alienation, and so forth.
It can be concluded from the statements above that low self-esteem people have a wide range of negative effects. The first one is missed career opportunities. People with low self-esteem are afraid of taking risks and failing as it was previously mentioned. If even a small failure has a strong negative effect on the personality of a low self-esteem person, he will most likely avoid opportunities and won’t take the initiative. Hence, individuals with such problems will make little progress in their career. They may complain that their career isn’t going anywhere, but this is entirely their fault. The second negative effect is poor health.
Some research suggests that becoming aware of one’s negative traits unfavorably affects the activity of certain white blood cells in the immune system, thus threatening the body’s capacity to resist disease (Strauman et al. , 1993). The third effect is poor social life. Such attributes as loneliness, depression, sensitivity, instability etc. pushes people to have a very small social circle, usually with the same people since high school or college. The interactions they have with other people are usually brief, predictable, and infrequent, because such individuals with low self-esteem are usually quiet and reserved.
Despite many disadvantages, advantages of low self-esteem also exist. For a long time, it had been considered that low self-esteem is the worst self-esteem as long as it was sinful to be sad and complain for a life. But in 1993, Campbell and Lavallel (1993) found that in contrast to people with high self-esteem, low self-esteem people use self-protective strategies, characterized by unwillingness to take risks and reluctance to call attention to the self. In other words, the self-presentational styles of people with low self-esteem are not self-humiliating, but self-protective, cautious, and conservative.
Other researchers such as Tennen and Affleck (1993), Tice (1993) found that people with low self-esteem use self-handicapping strategies and lower expectations to help protect themselves against further losses in this area. Typically, such individuals don’t suffer the degree of pain, because the self-esteem they have is protected by the devices of self-protection. It has also been found that such individuals desire high self-esteem, but prefer to attempt to reach it through more indirect methods, such as associating with those who have it. Brown, Collins & Schmidt, 1988). I didn’t find researches that show other advantages of low self-esteem, but in my opinion, low self-esteem people can be successful.
They are usually never satisfied with what they have done and want to achieve more and more. Low self-esteem is a kind of motivation that tells there are many people who are more clever and successful than you. As a result, you feel inferiority compared to those people and try to work more intensively to achieve their level and even exceed it.
After exceeding their level, if you have low self-esteem, you will try to find other more successful people and will reach their level too repeating their way of success. Thus, people with low self-esteem are exacting to themselves and aim to self-perfection by imitating ideal people. Such individuals try to accept any criticism, because they’re used to criticizing themselves. It’s good, because criticism motivates people to get rid of their weaknesses and prove their self-worth. In comparison with high self self-esteem people, low self-esteem people aren’t arrogant, boastful, and overconfident.
On the contrary, they are obedient, patient, hard working and never stop improving themselves. I’m telling it because I know that thanks to my low self-esteem and endless criticism addressed to me, I’m studying at AUCA, which is the best university in Kyrgyzstan. I could succeed because I required a lot from myself whereas some people in my school thought they were the best and, consequently, didn’t enter AUCA. Of course I understand that my entrance and the first year of study are nothing compared to what should be done in the near future: receiving the first degree Bachelor’s diploma, entering a Grad School abroad etc.
That’s why, I ‘m not pleased with myself as I know that people will never be perfect. In sports, you should have low self-esteem in order to be a champion. I know many sportsmen who’re very famous and rich, but still stay unsatisfied with their accomplishments saying that there’s no limit for perfection. After analyzing advantages and disadvantages of both low and high self-esteem, I found the answer to the question “What type of self-esteem should people have?
The answer is that secure high self-esteem is ultimately the most adequate one. As it was previously mentioned in my essay, secure high self-esteem is characterized by self-esteem that is positive both implicitly and explicitly (Kernis, 2003). People were mistaken saying that all high self-esteem people are those people who may say a lot of positive things about themselves which don’t coincide with their real abilities in practice. However, this type of self-esteem is called fragile high self-esteem which is the worst one.
Actually, people with fragile high self-esteem, according to the analysis, are boastful, aggressive, and arrogant. Secure high self-esteem people, in contrast to fragile high self-esteem, are optimistic, friendly, not arrogant, and less aggressive ones. It’s true because people with this type of self-esteem estimate their abilities and accomplishments as they are in reality. They know who they are and don’t need to be praised all the time. Everything they say about themselves is usually true, and people agree with such people, because they can see that.
This secure high self-esteem is the best on, because it allows people not only to dream, but it teaches also how to achieve dreams by setting right goals according to the abilities of a person. In my opinion, most famous people including political leaders are successful thanks to secure high self-esteem. They may say they can do this, that, and all things they say are likely to be true according to their success in career. I didn’t choose low self-esteem as the most adequate, because the disadvantages of this type of self-esteem are very harmful, and the arguments against low self-esteem are very strong.
Because of low self-esteem people may miss career opportunities, have poor health, lead poor social life, and may even commit a suicide. Therefore, I call people to have secure high self-esteem which is the best one by all means. Before writing this research paper, I couldn’t answer the question, “Do you have high or low self-esteem? ” I used to answer, “Sometimes high, sometimes low, or may be neither high nor low”. But now, the types of high self-esteem are distinguishable for me, and I can say explain why I have secure high self-esteem and why it’s good to have this type of high self-esteem.