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Self Esteem

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As people's outcomes in life depend heavily on how others perceive and evaluate them, they

are motivated to convey certain impressions of themselves to others and to refrain from

conveying other, undesired impressions. Thus, no matter what else they may be doing,

people typically monitor and control their impressions, i.e. a process known as:

self-presentation. A great deal of human behaviour is, in part, determined or constrained

by people's concerns with others' impressions and evaluations of them.

Because all human beings are different from one another, the thought process used which

results in the self-presentation of a person will also differ from person to person.

In this case the potential factor effecting the self-presentation of an individual is that of

the self-esteem of the individual. Self-esteem being: " An affective component of the self,

consisting of a persons' positive and negative self-evaluations." (Brehm, 1999).

Although most people have high self-esteem, there are various ways in which self-esteem

can be measured; for example when someone is referring to a persons condition at a

specific moment in time it is referred to as a "state". If the condition is something which

is an average over a period of time it is known as a "trait". Someone who has low

self-esteem as a trait is considered to be worse off than a person who is in a

state of low self-esteem. Low self esteem is though to have several side affects, both

mental and physical which inevitably affect the self-presentation of a person.

Low self esteem can lead onto other ailments of negativity such as: anxiety and depression.

Once low self-esteem sets into a person it triggers off a self-defeating cycle in which negative

expectations impair performance, which in turn reinforces low self-esteem. This cycle is

known as: "The Vicious Cycle of Low Self-Esteem" (Brehm, 1999).

On the contrary from people with low self-esteem, people with high self-esteem tend to

have a much better quality of life and are happier within themselves, healthier, more

productive and successful which all reflects on their self-presentation: "People high in

self-esteem are confident and bring to new challenges a winning and motivating attitude. In

contrast, people low in self-esteem lack confidence and bring to new tasks a losing attitude

that traps them in a vicious, self defeating cycle" (Brehm, 1999). (As described above).

People who have entered this cycle of low self-esteem tend to undergo a behavioural

pattern known as "self-handicapping", whereby their behaviour is designed to sabotage

They're own performance in order to provide a subsequent excuse for failure. This behaviour

is seen as a face-saving defence mechanism against failure for people low in self-esteem

as proved the experiment: "Self-handicapping: To protect or Enhance Self-Esteem"

(Tice, 1991). This is an experiment where participants worked on a task that supposedly

measured intelligence. When participants were focused on succeeding, those with high

self-esteem practised less. When participants were led to become fearful of failure, those

with low self-esteem practised less. This difference may reflect a desire to maximise the

self-presentation of high ability by appearing to succeed despite minimal preparatory effort.

Another stage, which can follow low self-esteem, is that of self-awareness. People are not

usually self-focused, but certain situations predictably force us to turn inward and become

the objects of our own attention. Actions such as looking in the mirror, standing before an

audience, watching ourselves on video camera or even talking about ourselves can put

us in a state of heightened self-awareness that leads us naturally to compare our behaviour to

some standard. We often find ourselves falling short of that standard which temporarily

reduces our self-esteem. Thus "people often experience a negative mood state when placed

in front of a mirror" (Hass & Eisenstadt, 1990). In fact, the more self-absorbed people are in

general, the more likely they are to suffer from alcoholism, depression, anxiety, and other

clinical disorders (Ingram, 1990).




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