How can Everyday Life Affect Self-Esteem?
Self-esteem is a form of self-evaluation that we make based on how we rate our own qualities and attributes that make up our self-concept.
Self-esteem is a form of self-evaluation that we make based on how we rate our own qualities and attributes that make up our self-concept. Bowlby’s (1988) “working models” theory tells us that the building blocks of self-esteem are laid in early childhood. A securely attached child with a positive working model of self and others, will begin very quickly to evaluate themselves more favourably than their insecurely attached counterparts. Furthermore, there is a correlation between the strength of a child’s self-esteem and prosocial behaviour in the future (Gerard and Buehler 2004). By the age of 4-5 children have a sense of self-worth that usually correlates with their teacher’s ratings and stems from their attachment in early years.
Harter (1982) came up with 5 domains across which we rate ourselves. These are; Scholastic, Athletic, Social, Behavioural and Physical competence. This is a multidimensional hierarchy that Harter used with children aged 4-7 to provide a platform for self-evaluation. The children at this age tend to rate themselves highly, but by the age of 8, their evaluations tend to reflect more of what their peers think. In other words, children’s self-rating seems to depend a little more at this age on how they are perceived by people other than themselves. This brings us to the term Looking-Glass Self (Charles Cooley 1902). We are not completely at the mercy of others however, as children place difference emphasis on different domains. Being rated highly on some becomes more important than being rated highly on others. Self-esteem in older children, therefore, seems to rest on both how they think they are evaluated by others and how they choose to evaluate themselves (Harter 2005).
How self-esteem continues to develop through life, its stability, begins to depend on different things as children transition to adolescence. Ratings from peer and intimate relations take on more value. Erikson (1963) suggested that the level of self-esteem drops as adolescence struggle to find adult identity and other ‘stressors’. Furthermore, gender differences start to manifest as girls tend to hit puberty before boys and have the additional strain of physical and emotional change. Girls’ self-esteem rates tend to be higher if they have managed to cultivate strong, supportive friendships. Failure to cultivate such friendships is related to lower self-esteem. Regarding boys, higher self-esteem is related to their ability to influence their friends, and low self-esteem is related to their ability to find romantic partners. Self-esteem is relatively stable, those with high self-esteem entering adolescence are more likely to have higher self-esteem when they move onto early adulthood. However, girls have a few more challenges to address, as they may be dissatisfied with their physical appearance, deal with school transitions and their own onset of maturity.
There are three main areas of our lives where our self-esteem is influenced heavily; parental influence, peer influence and cultural influence. As we have seen, secure attachment directly effects self-esteem in early childhood, but the type of parenting makes a difference too. Authoritative parenting, supportive, warm and understanding with clear standards to live up to, leads to higher self-esteem. Peers provide a comparative platform where children can compare themselves to each other. This allowed children to see where they stand in relation to others. Regarding culture, there are two influences (Triandis 1989) collectivistic and individualistic cultures. Those who are part of a collectivistic culture tend to have a lower self-esteem as individual achievement is not celebrated like it is in an individualistic culture.
There is a considerable amount of study on how a person can move from who they are, towards the person they want to be. Although there are a number of factors that may lay pathways throughout our lives, coaching methods can help immensely in rewriting your paths, and treading new ones. Modern Psychologists, such as Arthur Maslow, were pioneers in this relatively new field of coaching. Whether it is career-based coaching or life-balance coaching, more often than not the different facets are intertwined and both play a role in understanding where you are and where you want to be. Coaching can help clear the debris and find the right pathway.