Self-Esteem

What Is Self-Esteem?

Confidence in one's value as a human being is a precious psychological resource and generally a highly positive factor in life; it is correlated with achievement, good relationships, and satisfaction. Possessing little self-regard can lead people to become depressed, to fall short of their potential, or to tolerate abusive situations and relationships. Too much self-love, on the other hand, results in an off-putting sense of entitlement and an inability to learn from failures. It can also be a sign of clinical narcissism, in which individuals may behave in a self-centered, arrogant, and manipulative manner. Perhaps no other self-help topic has spawned so much advice and so many (often conflicting) theories.

Self-esteem can influence in life in myriad ways, from academic and professional success to relationships and mental health. Self-esteem, however, is not an immutable characteristic; successes or setbacks, both personal and professional, can fuel fluctuations in feelings of self-worth. Each individual’s experience is different, but over the course of the lifespan, self-esteem seems to rise and fall in predictable, systematic ways. Research suggests that self-esteem grows, by varying degrees, until age 60, when it remains steady before beginning to decline in old age.  

Self-Actualized

Self-actualization represents the pursuit of reaching one’s full potential. The concept is rooted in a theory established in 1943 by Abraham Maslow. The psychologist set forth a hierarchy of psychological needs, illustrating an order of human motivation. At the base of Maslow’s motivational pyramid lies physiological needs, such as the air we breathe and the food we consume. Once those needs are met, it is possible to pursue needs for safety, love and belonging, and self-esteem. Self-actualization occurs when the more basic needs are met or in the process of being met and it becomes possible to strive to add meaning and personal and social fulfillment to existence—through creativity, intellectual growth, and social progress. As Maslow himself stated, “What a man can be, he must be. This need we may call self-actualization.”

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