Self-Esteem and Happiness Analysis

Introduction

Happiness in psychological terms that refers to the mental well-being, it consists of a cognitive element called life satisfaction, and two affective components, positive affect and negative affect. Happiness may be defined as a form of well-being, but the definition is not really helpful for those in search of happiness. The questions that everyone is in search of answers are: how do we get to be happy? What aspects of life determine our happiness? There are numerous answers and mostly varies for person to person. The break down of cognitive and affective components of happiness may seem simple; the difficulty is to objectively measure the components of happiness. Therefore, happiness is almost exclusively measured based on self-report constructs.

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If this is the case, self-esteem is an integral part of ones definition of happiness. Self-esteem can account for the way one values his or her life, regardless of what particular elements determine happiness for anyone. It is not necessarily what one values to determine his or her happiness; it is the degree to which one appreciates those elements. This degree is determined by ones regard for oneself in terms of successes and status in his or her environment. According to the dictionary definition and the context, Self-esteem is generally viewed as a favorable appreciation or opinion of oneself. Yet, in psychology self-esteem is conceptualized as a gamut that varies from low to high. It has been noted that those who have high self-esteem have a good opinion of themselves.

Likewise, it has also been established that those people who suffer from low self-esteem are considered to posses poor opinions of themselves. People with high self-esteem have been associated with success while those that suffer from low self-esteem have been noted to perform poorly in various spheres of life. Therefore, there exists a strong relation between self-esteem and happiness. A study on the relationship between happiness and self-esteem has shown that individuals who posses high self-esteem are significantly happier than their counterparts who are detected to have low self-esteem. The high self-esteem individuals also responded slowly to stressing, depressing or traumatizing situations compared to those people who suffered from low self-esteem. Individuals that posses’ low self-esteem should put a lot of effort to boost their self-esteem, which will enable them, develop confidence. A greater sense of self-esteem is a key element to the success and happiness of that individual. (Dimatteo 2006, 400)

Main Discussion

Self-esteem is the foundation of ones personality, a fundamental essence that supports everything about the self. It is a relationship with the self, an assertion to consciousness, a consciousness not only of the external world, but of the true inner self. Self-esteem is to think independently, living through ones own perceptions and evaluations of how the world is, and how one fits in it. Self-esteem is acting from ones own convictions with full acknowledgment of your needs and desires, and what causes you pain, fear, and anger. Just as with the definition of happiness, Self-esteem can be broken down into specific components. Self-esteem is built on two principles: self-acceptance and self-concept. Self-acceptance is basic, primitive and shared by most other living things. It is unconditional and is required before self-esteem can develop. Self-acceptance is not a denial of a need for change, improvement, or evolution it is simply a recognition that one is. Ones’ self-concept develops from self-acceptance. Self-concept encompasses ones beliefs, convictions, and concerns. It also includes everything one likes or does not like about themselves, ones capabilities, skills, talents, as well as recognizing ones limitations.

Self-esteem stems from self-concept. Self-esteem means accepting the self in all of ones many facets, without resorting to self-repudiation, self-oppression, or deception of oneself or others. Nothing is more important to the core of ones existence than what one thinks of ones self. Relationships with others form and collapse, but the relationship one has with oneself always exists. To quote an often-heard truth: No matter where you go, there you are. Everything one feels, thinks, and does is influenced by how one evaluates the self. The type of relationship one creates affects how one relates to others and ones surroundings. The self-esteem one develops is a fundamental sense of efficacy and worthiness, and is evidenced in competence, self-reliance, and self-assurance. It is based on trusting the mind and heart to make correct decisions and life-affirming choices. Although it affects external factors it is based on an orientation towards the self, not only for self-preservation, but for self-furtherance, progress towards goals. Self-esteem is a key in order to make changes and to progress towards goals. As a happy consequence, progression towards goals builds yet more self-esteem. It is very difficult for those with low self-esteem to progress because they stagnate. Self-esteem is greatly determined by self-reflection, but external factors also play a large role on ones self-esteem.(Lee 1997,1150)

High or low self-esteem is based on both external factors as well as internal. These external factors involve both nature and nurture. To further understand this concept a study was done that observes the affect parents have on children’s self-esteem. Children that are born to parents who posses high self esteem also develop high self-esteem which enables them to be confident in their actions and choices. On the other hand children of parents that suffer from low self-esteem also suffer from the same problem. This is because self-esteem is a biological trait that children inherit from their parents. Not only is the biological make up of a child a determining factor of self-esteem, social and environmental status are also significant factors. Children that are brought up by people of low social status are more likely to grow up to be individuals of low self-esteem.

This is associated with the poor upbringing that these children are exposed to which robs them of their confidence. Children that possess high self-esteem have great confidence which acts as an intrinsic motivator that helps them to excel in academics, sports and other arenas of life. Many of these individuals have been noted to assume leadership positions when they grow up. Similarly children that are fostered by successful parents or guardians grow to become persons of high esteem such as professionals in academics, sports, athletics and music. This is mostly associated with the encouragement and confidences they receive from their parents. Contrary children that develop low self-esteem suffer from low confidence which acts as a de-motivating factor in life. Subsequently such children have been noted not to excel as well in various subjects. This in turn makes them develop low opinions of their selves which eventually may render them to become depressed and unsatisfied with life.( Eunkook 2007, 1330)

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While having a high sense of self-esteem is almost always more favorable, it does have its complications. Self-esteem is literally defined as the amount to which people value their selves. It is the evaluative component of self-knowledge. High self-esteem refers to a highly favorable global evaluation of the self and low self-esteem refers to an unfavorable definition of the self. Whether this signifies an absolutely unfavorable or relatively unfavorable evaluation is a problematic distinction because self-esteem does not carry any definitional requirement of accuracy. Thus, high self-esteem may refer to an accurate, justified and balanced appreciation of ones worth as a person based on ones successes and competencies, but it can also refer to an inflated, ostentatious and unnecessary sense of arrogant dominance over others. Similarly, low self-esteem can be either an accurate, well-founded consideration of ones shortcomings as a human being or a distorted, even pathological sense of insecurity and inferiority.

Self-esteem is thus perception rather than reality; it is how one views the self in relation to values, and not necessarily the actual value of specific elements. Self-esteem refers to a person belief about whether he or she is intelligent or attractive, for example, and does not necessarily mean that the person actually is intelligent or attractive. This does not mean that self-esteem is a false and invalid indicator of ones personality; on the contrary self-esteem is a fundamental quality in understanding an individual. This demonstrates that people beliefs about themselves have important consequences regardless of what the fundamental realities are. Psychologically such beliefs of whether one is intelligent or not has been shown to shape ones actions in many important ways, and these actions in turn shape the social reality and the social realities of those around the individual. (Jeff 2004, 452)

Since there are benefits as well as consequences of high and low self-esteem, having an opinion of ones -self is vital and hence it is fundamental for parents to understand and to learn the methods of raising their self-esteem and that of their children. There are several methods that Jennifer Crocker and Katherine Knight discuss.

There is a relationship between happiness and self-esteem. These two appear, on the surface, to be inextricably linked. In their everyday experience, happy individuals tend to feel good about them, and people who lack self-worth and self-respect are generally unhappy. Self-esteem is often used as an index of global happiness or psychological well-being more common is the view that happiness and self-esteem are so intimately related that it is difficult, if not impossible, to separate them conceptually. Indeed, happiness may not be possible or realizable without a healthy dose of self-confidence and self-acceptance. It was noted that there exists three aspects that determines the degree of the self.

These are material, the social, and the spiritual aspects which are capable of evoking feelings of happiness. Nearly a century later, in a review of the ensuing perspectives on happiness, Tom (2007) concluded that the most recurrent standard for positive well-being has been the individual’s sense of self-acceptance or self-esteem. He observed that many who are socialized in individualistic cultures may not even make a distinction between how happy they are with their lives and how satisfied they are with themselves. An alternate observation holds that happiness and self-esteem are distinct and distrainable constructs. Although self-esteem may seem crucial and adaptive for happiness, it does not provide an adequate description of happiness and may be unrelated to many of our most happy or unhappy experiences Just as a good income, a good job, or a good marriage does not guarantee happiness. Thus high self-esteem on its own is not a sufficient condition for happiness. (Katherine2005, 201)

Conclusion

Howard Mumford Jones once said that ‘‘happiness…belongs to that category of words, the meaning of which everybody knows but the definition of which nobody can give’’.Although happiness may have different meanings for different people, most agree that it is a ‘‘glow’’ word that is, a pervasive and lasting sense that life is fulfilling, meaningful, and pleasant.To study this sometimes elusive construct, researchers have achieved a modest amount of agreement on how happiness should be measured and defined. The most widely accepted definition of happiness is the one that uses subjective well-being, defining it as a combination of life satisfaction and the balance of the frequency of positive and negative affect. Most people are capable of reporting on their own global happiness, and this judgment is not necessarily equivalent to a simple aggregate of their recent levels of affect and ratings of life satisfaction. For example, one may conceivably consider oneself a very happy person, despite not typically experiencing more positive than negative emotions.

On the other hand Self-Esteem is taken as a global feeling of self-worth or adequacy as a person, or generalized feelings of self-acceptance, goodness, and self-respect This global, personal judgment of worthiness is characterized as the evaluative component of the self and as distinct from collective or racial self-esteem people have a basic need for self-esteem, and, at least in Western cultures, they use numerous strategies to maintain it. It is critical to delve deeper into the literature and explore the particular constructs that have been empirically related to the two constructs namely, what attributes characterize people who are happy versus unhappy and what attributes characterize people who are versus low in self-esteem. Whether these attributes happen to be quite comparable or quite distinct might offer clues into the differences and similarities between happiness and self-esteem. Social affiliation is one of the most important sources of happiness. Individual relationships support a link between happiness and friendship, marriage, intimacy, and social support. Indeed, people are happiest when with friends, also happy people are more likely to have friends who encourage and support them.

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A number of studies suggest that close friendships can help buffer stress and avert distress due to loneliness, anxiety, boredom, and loss of self-esteem.The experience of happiness is marked by more frequent positive affective states than negative ones. It has been noted that since subjective well-being is commonly defined as an aggregate of life satisfaction and the balance of affect, it is not surprising that individuals with high self esteem demonstrate both global satisfaction with their lives and satisfaction within specific life domains, such as work, recreation, friendship, marriage, health, and the self. People with high self-esteem have been found to possess clearer self-concepts, to be less vulnerable to depression and anxiety, to be more resilient to self-image threats and to be more likely to savor positive affect, to persist in the face of failure and these people perceive negative feedback as a challenge rather than a threat. Self-esteem is also highly correlated with optimism and lack of hopelessness. This is the reason why people that have a high self esteem are very persistent and do not lose hope easily even after failures. (Jeff 2004, 450)

References

Lyubomirsky, Sonja & Ross, Lee (1997). Hedonic consequences of social comparison: A contrast of happy and unhappy people. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73(6), 1141-1157.

Lyubomirsky, Sonja, Tkach, Chris & DiMatteo, M. (2006). What are the Differences between Happiness and Self-Esteem. Social Indicators Research, 78(3), 363-404.

Miller, David & Daniel, Brigid (2007). Competent to Cope, Worthy of Happiness?: How the Duality of Self-Esteem Can Inform a Resilience-Based Classroom Environment. School Psychology International, 28, 605-622.

Crocker, Jennifer & Knight, Katherine M. (2005). Contingencies of Self-Worth.

Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14 (4), 200–203.

Pyszczynski, Tom, Greenberg, Jeff, Solomon, Sheldon, Arndt, Jamie & Schimel, Jeff (2004). Why Do People Need Self-Esteem? A Theoretical and Empirical Review. Psychological Bulletin, 130(3), 435-468.

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Suh, Eunkook M. (2007). Downsides of an Overly Context-Sensitive Self: Implications from the Culture and Subjective Well-Being Research. Journal of Personality, 75 (6), 1321–1343.

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