There are two components of self-esteem: a feeling of being lovable, and a feeling of being competent. It is best to have both lovability and competence in one’s life, so to have a balance. Low self esteem essentially means a feeling that one is unworthy, so one has a negative self-view. Low self-esteem is different from depression, although they are related.
There are two strong motivations that people have. One is a need for praise or positive feedback. People want to be praised. However, there is also a need for self verification; people need to have their selves verified. That is, people need others to confirm the view they have of themselves. These motivations can conflict with each other, which can put one in a trap. The conflict occurs when one’s self view is negative, or when one has low self-esteem.
People with negative self views will like to get small amounts of praise, but when they receive large amounts of praise they will become anxious, because they do not feel worthy of large amounts of praise. If they took large amounts of praise seriously, then that would be questioning their self view, which is a very scary thing to do.
We create an identity for ourselves with the people we interact with. Thus, social interactions are very important for our self identities, and self esteem.
People create opportunities for themselves that will allow them to satisfy their need for self verification of their personality. These situations work in a way that they allow us to preserve our view of our self – our self-view. We create these situations by giving other people cues as to the type of person we are – through our behavior or appearance.
People tend to recall comments that confirm their self views better than comments that disconfirm their self views. Also, low self esteem people will emphasize their weaknesses, not their strengths, while high self esteem people do the opposite. Thus, people’s perceptual biases are essentially creating the world that they believe exists.
Changing Self Esteem – Raising Low Self Esteem
It is possible to increase your self esteem, but it’s not easy. Raising one’s self esteem means changing one’s self view, and that can create anxiety. People generally like predictability and continuity. They like novelty or variety, but only within a broad context of predictability and continuity. Their present self view is predictable and keeping that self view would be continuing the course that the person has been on, although that course might not be the best one for the person. It is comfortable.
Some people in chronic pain who then have their pain relieved do not feel their life has improved, because taking away their pain has made them a different person. They’re not sure they like that person, or want to be that person.
If someone’s going to change their self views, then they need to change their social interactions. They won’t necessarily have to change who they interact with, but they will have to change how they interact with them at least.
Also, people are complex, so a self esteem change can be initiated by emphasizing the things that the person does feel they do well. That is, even people with low self esteem feel they do some things well, and those things should be emphasized while the other things that they want to change are allowed to drop away.