PHOTO: Erik Mclean
Text: Alejandra Misiolek
Self-esteem is a feeling towards oneself, which can be positive or negative and can be measured.
Is self-esteem the same as self-confidence? Although both concepts are related, they are two different terms.
By self-confidence we understand trust in oneself or the appreciation of the capabilities that a possesses. Self-confidence is the set of beliefs one has regarding the capacity and ability to be able to handle certain situations. Self-esteem, on the other hand, is the general feeling of value that one feels or thinks that one has and refers to the appreciation that one has for oneself. Both concepts are related and influence each other bi-directionally.
Self-esteem has shown to be a concept broadly related to general well-being, suggesting that it could be a good indicator of mental health. In addition, various investigations have confirmed the inverse relationship between self-esteem and depressive, obsessive-compulsive and anxious symptoms, among others. Therefore, being aware of the level of self-esteem is valuable information that would make possible the prediction of possible psychopathological disorders and their prevention.
Given the great importance of self-esteem for mental health and its important interaction with many areas of our life, in the 1950s Morris Rosenberg, professor and doctor of sociology at Columbia University, spent several years studying self-esteem and self-concept and in 1965 he presented the initial proposal for the self-esteem measurement scale.
Rosenberg understands self-esteem as a feeling towards oneself, which can be positive or negative, which is built through an evaluation of one’s own characteristics. The scale was originally aimed at adolescents, but today it is applied to other age groups as well.
In his research work, Rosenberg focused primarily on examining how social position, racial or ethnic variables, and institutional contexts, such as school or family, are related to self-esteem. The variables that he studied are part of the life experience of the human being and form its context, significantly affecting the concept of oneself that one has.
In addition, the research carried out with the use of the scale has confirmed the relationship of self-esteem with two of the 5 great personality factors: Extraversion and Neuroticism. People who are more outgoing and have a lower level of neuroticism tend to have higher self-esteem. It has been hypothesized that high self-esteem can protect us from anxiety symptoms.
Studies seem to show that self-esteem is a relatively stable construct that is learned implicitly as a consequence of the individual’s life experiences. However, if circumstances change, or our perception of them varies, our self-esteem can also change, and we intend to achieve this effect with psychotherapy.
How can I tell if my self-esteem is high or low?
Morris Rosenberg created a questionnaire that was translated into several languages and validated in many countries, which allows us to assess whether our self-esteem is high or low. You can answer the following questions by marking your answer on a scale. Positive affirmations are questions 1, 2, 4, 6 and 7 and are scored from 1 to 4 (“I totally disagree” to “I totally agree”). For negative statements, which are questions 3, 5, 8, 9 y 10, they are scored inversely.
- I feel that I am a person of worth, at least on an equal plane with others.
- I feel that I have a number of good qualities.
- All in all, I am inclined to feel that I am a failure.
- I am able to do things as well as most other people.
- I feel I do not have much to be proud of.
- I take a positive attitude toward myself.
- On the whole, I am satisfied with myself.
- I wish I could have more respect for myself.
- I certainly feel useless at times.
- At times I think I am no good at all.
You can click on this link to do the test and evaluate your self esteem.
Rojas-Barahona, C. A., Zegers, B., & Förster, C. E. (2009). La escala de autoestima de Rosenberg: Validación para Chile en una muestra de jóvenes adultos, adultos y adultos mayores. Revista médica de Chile, 137(6), 791-800.