Self esteem can be defined as one’s confidence in his or her abilities and worth. Because of this, a lot of our actions and emotions stem from the state of our self esteem. Self esteem can be the difference between success and failure, the difference between a positive or negative outlook on life. It can effect our confidence and self-image. It can even affect our happiness.
The state of a person’s self esteem relies heavily on his or her environment. Our personal experiences combined with what we hear and see from others help form self esteem. If our experiences are good, our self esteem is good. If what people have to say about us is always bad, then chances are our self esteem will be low. Because these experiences and messages are always changing, so does the state of a person’s self esteem.
According to researchers, there are three main factors that contribute to high or low self esteem. Although these factors are independent of each other, they are interrelated in how they affect and build one’s self esteem. These factors are locus of control, belonging and acceptance, and competence.
Locus of Control: Locus of control refers to a person’s perception of control he or she has over their own life or actions. A person’s locus of control develops from learning cause and effect. As we grow older, we begin to realize that our actions have consequences which could result in either success (good things) or failure (bad things). Those who feel that others or their environment is responsible for their successes and failures have an external locus of control. Those with an internal locus of control feel that they are in control of their own lives and destinies.
A person’s locus of control is important when it comes to building self esteem because it helps define how we see and feel about ourselves. For example, Lucy and Jane both apply for the same job. Lucy knows that she isn’t completely qualified for the position, but if she does well during the interview she will get the job. She learns as much as she can about the position and does her best to impress the boss during her interview. Meanwhile, Jane is qualified and knows a lot about the company and position, but feels the interviewer doesn’t like her. She fumbles through the interview. Lucy gets the job and attributes it to her hard work and research. Jane doesn’t get the job and attributes her failure to the interviewer liking Lucy more than her.
Belonging and Acceptance: Belonging and acceptance is important when it comes to self esteem because it validates who we are and what we do. We gain feelings of belonging and acceptance from the people we care about and practicing a positive outlook. We also gain these feelings when we learn to separate what we do from who we are. If we feel accepted by our peers and belong to a group, our self esteem rises. If we feel shunned and rejected by others then our self esteem falls.
Competence: Competence is related to self efficiency. It is how good we think we are at the things we do. We gain a sense of competence from achievement and praise. It can also be gained when we take risks that pay off. The more competent we feel, the greater our self esteem is.
Although a person’s locus of control and sense of belonging and acceptance and competence are separate factors, they are equally important when it comes to self esteem. If these factors aren’t in sync or positive, then your self esteem won’t be. If your self esteem isn’t positive then everything in your life will be considered negative.