Sunday, October 2, 2016


Self-esteem has become a household word. Teachers, parents, therapists and others have focused efforts on boosting self-esteem, on the assumption that high self-esteem will cause many positive outcomes and benefits—an assumption that is critically evaluated in this review.

Appraisal of the effects of self-esteem is complicated by several factors. Because many people with high self-esteem exaggerate their successes and good traits, we emphasize objective measures of outcomes. High self-esteem is also a heterogeneous category, encompassing people who frankly accept their good qualities along with narcissistic, defensive, and conceited individuals. 

The modest correlations between self-esteem and school performance do not indicate that high self-esteem leads to good performance. Instead, high self-esteem is partly the result of good school performance. Efforts to boost the self-esteem of pupils have not been shown to improve academic performance and may sometimes be counterproductive. Job performance in adults is sometimes related to self-esteem, although the correlations vary widely, and the direction of causality has not been established. Occupational success may boost self-esteem rather than the reverse.

Alternatively, self-esteem may be helpful only in some job contexts. Laboratory studies have failed to find that self-esteem causes good task performance, with the important exception that high self-esteem facilitates persistence after failure.

People high in self-esteem claim to be more likable and attractive, to have better relationships, and to make better impressions on others than people with low self-esteem, but objective measures disconfirm most of these beliefs. 

Narcissists are charming at first but tend to alienate others eventually. Self-esteem has not been shown to predict the quality or duration of relationships.

High self-esteem makes people more willing to speak up in groups and to criticize the group's approach. Leadership does not stem directly from self-esteem, but self-esteem may have indirect effects. Relative to people with low self-esteem, those with high self-esteem show stronger in-group favoritism, which may increase prejudice and discrimination. 

Neither high nor low self-esteem is a direct cause of violence. Narcissism leads to increased aggression in retaliation for wounded pride. Low self-esteem may contribute to externalizing behavior and delinquency, although some studies have found that there are no effects or that the effect of self-esteem vanishes when other variables are controlled. The highest and lowest rates of cheating and bullying are found in different subcategories of high self-esteem.

Self-esteem has a strong relation to happiness. Although the research has not clearly established causation, we are persuaded that high self-esteem does lead to greater happiness. Low self-esteem is more likely than high to lead to depression under some circumstances. Some studies support the buffer hypothesis, which is that high self-esteem mitigates the effects of stress, but other studies come to the opposite conclusion, indicating that the negative effects of low self-esteem are mainly felt in good times. Still, others find that high self-esteem leads to happier outcomes regardless of stress or other circumstances.

High self-esteem does not prevent children from smoking, drinking, or taking drugs. If anything, high self-esteem fosters experimentation, which may increase drinking, but in general effects of self-esteem are negligible. One important exception is that high self-esteem reduces the chances of bulimia in females. 

Overall, the benefits of high self-esteem fall into two categories: enhanced initiative and pleasant feelings. We have not found evidence that boosting self-esteem (by therapeutic interventions or school programs) causes benefits. Our findings do not support continued widespread efforts to boost self-esteem in the hope that it will by itself foster improved outcomes. In view of the heterogeneity of high self-esteem, indiscriminate praise might just as easily promote narcissism, with its less desirable consequences. Instead, we recommend using praise to boost self-esteem as a reward for socially desirable behavior and self-improvement. 

Self-Esteem Questionnaire


Below is a list of statements dealing with your general feelings about yourself. 

Please indicate how strongly you agree or disagree with each statement.

1. On the whole, I am satisfied with myself.
Strongly Agree Agree Disagree Strongly Disagree

2. At times I think I am no good at all.
Strongly Agree Agree Disagree Strongly Disagree

3. I feel that I have a number of good qualities.
Strongly Agree Agree Disagree Strongly Disagree

4. I am able to do things as well as most other people.
Strongly Agree Agree Disagree Strongly Disagree

5. I feel I do not have much to be proud of.
Strongly Agree Agree Disagree Strongly Disagree

6. I certainly feel useless at times. 
Strongly Agree Agree Disagree Strongly Disagree

7. I feel that I'm a person of worth, at least on an equal plane with others.
Strongly Agree Agree Disagree Strongly Disagree

8. I wish I could have more respect for myself.
Strongly Agree Agree Disagree Strongly Disagree

9. All in all, I am inclined to feel that I am a failure.
Strongly Agree Agree Disagree Strongly Disagree

10. I take a positive attitude toward myself.
Strongly Agree Agree Disagree Strongly Disagree


Items 2, 5, 6, 8, 9 are reverse scored. 

Give “Strongly Disagree” 1 point, “Disagree” 2 points, “Agree” 3 points, and “Strongly Agree” 4 points. Sum scores for all ten items. Keep scores
on a continuous scale. Higher scores indicate higher self-esteem

Description of Measure

A 10-item scale that measures global self-worth by measuring both positive and
negative feelings about the self. The scale is believed to be uni-dimensional. All items are answered using a 4-point Likert scale format ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree.


Rosenberg, M. (1965). Society and the adolescent self-image. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.