Self-esteem is a term used in psychology to reflect a person’s overall evaluation or appraisal of his or her own worth.
Self-esteem encompasses beliefs such as “I am competent” or “I am incompetent”, and emotions such as triumph, despair, pride and shame. Self-esteem can apply specifically to a particular dimension such as “I believe I am a good writer, and feel proud of that in particular”, or have global extent such as “I believe I am a good person, and feel proud of myself in general”.
Psychologists usually regard self-esteem as an enduring personality characteristic or a so-called trait self-esteem.
Synonyms or near-synonyms of self-esteem include: self-worth, self-regard, self-respect, self-love, and self-integrity. Self-esteem is distinct from self-confidence and self-efficacy, which involve beliefs about ability and future performance.
Modern theories of self-esteem explore the reasons humans are motivated to maintain a high regard for themselves. Sociometer theory maintains that self-esteem evolved to check one’s level of status and acceptance in ones’ social group. According to terror management theory, self-esteem serves a protective function and reduces anxiety about life and death.
Level and quality of self-esteem, though correlated, remain distinct. Level-wise, one can exhibit high but fragile self-esteem as in narcissism, or low but stable self-esteem as in humility. However, investigators can indirectly assess the quality of self-esteem in several ways:
1. in terms of its constancy over time (stability)
2. in terms of its independence of meeting particular conditions (non-contingency)
3. in terms of its ingrained nature at a basic psychological level (implicitness or automatized)