Everybody wants it. The amount you have changes hour to hour, day to day. How you get it depends on two factors: how you think others view you, and the perceived control you have over your life. When you don’t have it, you’re not happy.
When you have it, you feel great. What is it? Self-esteem.
How much do you know about this illusive, have-to-have-it-for-happiness quality? Some recent research findings might surprise you.
Getting in trouble with your boss will not necessarily lower your self-esteem. If you’re a person who doesn’t care about what others think and tend to do what you please, your boss’s criticism won’t faze your self-esteem one iota.
On the other hand, if you’re a pleaser and your boss is unhappy with your performance, expect your self-esteem to take a tumble. Too many tumbles and you may find yourself heading for a depression.
Most people tend to exaggerate their abilities and as a result boost their self-esteem. Because people have a need to see themselves as successful, they have learned to overestimate their abilities and underestimate their shortcomings. Call it our ability to figure out a way to feel good about ourselves.
People who have low self-esteem often report feeling a high level of stress, as well as depression. Modern society greatly emphasizes personal achievement. When a person doesn’t measure up, he often blames himself, with bad feelings the result.
People who are loved and admired as well as successful will almost always have high self-esteem. High self-esteem involves a favorable evaluation of self. When one is loved and admired, it’s easy to view oneself in a favorable light.
Self-esteem may vary greatly hour to hour but it tends to remain pretty much the same through the years. It’s easy to understand how landing a big sale will boost one’s self-esteem one hour and a fight with a friend will lower it the next, but why self-esteem remains somewhat constant year to year no one knows.
Maybe we’ll find that self-esteem is also linked to our genetic makeup.
People with high self-esteem expect to succeed in whatever they undertake. Perhaps this is so because the high self-esteemers already have a number of successes under their belt. So why wouldn’t they be optimistic that the success pattern will continue?
If you want to raise your self-esteem, all you have to do is compare yourself to one who is doing worse than you. Most people use the mechanism of downward comparisons to boost their own self-esteem. Looking around for someone who is worse off or has less talent is a universal practice to maintain one’s own self-esteem.
People with high self-esteem usually cope better with failure. Research has shown that when people with high self-esteem fail they defend harder and blame others more, thus keeping their self-esteem intact.
People with low self-esteem have a more difficult time taking risks than those in the high self-esteem category. People with low self-esteem will guard against further erosion of their self-esteem, thus the lack of risk taking.
When a person acts unethically or immorally, he or she will downplay the consequences of the bad behavior to maintain self-esteem. People are masters at deluding themselves and believing that their behavior isn’t really all that bad.
Self-esteem has a high impact on happiness. The more self-esteem one has, the more happiness one experiences. Perhaps this is why we delude ourselves about our talents and abilities, how much we’re loved and admired, and how our immoral and unethical behavior affects others.
Posts by Doris Wild Helmering, LCSW., BCD
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