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Self Concept And Self Esteem Psychology Essay

Info: 3480 words (14 pages) Essay
Published: 1st Jan 2015 in Psychology

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People not grow only in age, size, knowledge or skill but also in their awareness of themselves as persons. This consciousness is called self or self concept. By self means the conscious reflection of one’s own identity, as an individual separate from other or environment. There are a variety of ways to think about the self. Two of the most widely used terms are self-concept and self-esteem.

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Self-concept is the thinking aspect of self where as Self-esteem is the emotional aspect of self and generally refers to how we feel about or how we value ourselves. Self-concept can also refer to the general idea we have of ourselves and self-esteem can refer to particular measures about components of self-concept. Some authors even use the two terms interchangeably. The National Association for Self-Esteem (2010) defined self-esteem as, The experience of being capable of meeting life’s challenges and being worthy of happiness.

Healthy self-esteem is valued as important because it is important to be happy and productive life because if self esteem lowers it doesn’t just impact the way people perceive negative events of self but it can actually have great effects on health. According to Máire Forda (2010), “Low self-esteem doesn’t just impact the way people perceive negative events. It can actually take a toll on health”

During my mental health clinical rotation, I took care of 26 years old married girl, house wife with two baby boys. One was 5 years old and the other was 5 months old. She came in psychiatric ward with the complain of decrease sleep and appetite, low mood, sudden cries, decrease motor function and suicidal attempts that is cutting hands with knife, strangulated duppata around neck and hurt herself with nails. When she was explored about the reason of that act, she replied,

“I think I am no more worthful for my family, I can’t fulfill my responsibility any more, my life is meaning less for me as well as for others. I don’t know but I think now I am not able to perform even daily life activities and my life is insignificant to me. I m very bad mother as I can not care for my new born child, as I don’t feel like giving my feed to him. I am feeling so low that I should die. I cry all the time for no reason; I feel tiredness all the time. People use to say that I have become shy but I don’t feel like talking with anyone. My family forces me to go out but I don’t like to go, I think I should die”

According to the above scenario, my patient was having low self esteem and she did not give worth to her life therefore I thought to work on this concept in order to improve her self esteem and helped her to regain her daily activity through certain strategies. Self esteem is essential and is the foundation of positive attitude towards living. The issue of self-esteem deeply affects both the lives of individual and society. Low self-esteem leads to different psychiatric conditions including schizophrenia, depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, and suicidal behaviors. My patient was also end up with suicidal ideation and behavior due to low self esteem. A study done by Rahman & Hussain (2009) revealed that, “Patient with obsessive compulsive disorder suffers significant degree of lowered self-esteem” (p.1036). Recent study done by Courtney, Gamboza, & Johnson, (2008) reveals that, “Low self esteem people are at greater risk for high level of depressive symptoms and eating disorder.”

People develop and maintain their self-concepts through the process of taking action and then reflection, what they have done and what others tell them about what they have done. This reflection is based on one’s own expectations and the expectations of others and to the characteristics and accomplishments of others.

Healthy self esteem plays a significant role in shaping a person. It is that much important where our roots take hold and from there we grow as it promotes mental health. According to Branden (2005), “Self-esteem is the experience of being competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and of being worthy of happiness. Whereas, people having low self esteem are unable to enjoy their life challenges.

Low self esteem involves negative perception of one self includes, being unlovable, feelings of isolation, unable to express or defend one’s self, be a listener rather than a participant, sensitive to criticism, feelings of helplessness, worthlessness and inadequacy, seeking reinforcement from others, demanding reassurance but not accepting it, hostile behavior, angry at self and others but unable to express these feelings directly, self-dislike and seeing self as burden on others, decreased ability to meet responsibilities, decreased interest, motivation and concentration, difficulty initiating new things, decrease spontaneous behavior, withdrawal from activities, insomnia or hypersonic, overeating or loss of appetite feelings of ‘being stuck’, low energy levels, lack of physical activity, potentially destructive behaviors, depression, feeling helpless to change anything etc (Stuart 2009) and almost all the symptoms were faced by my patient. It is important to consider low self esteem as major cause and symptom of disease. It is also related to the development of individual’s cognitive functioning. Different authors have contributed in this regard. According to them academic achievement is highly affected by low self esteem. Jarmoc (2007) reported that, “As self-esteem decreases, achievement scores decline.” (p.340) and my patient reported that she was never been a good achiever in school life and she left schooling early. According to Donnellan, et.al. (2005), “Low self-esteem contributes independently to aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors…” My patient also mentioned that she used to scold her parents and siblings and became aggressive very frequently. Goodson, Buhi, & Dunsmore (2006) reported that, “Low self-esteem is related to early sexual initiation, risky sexual behavior, unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.” (p.311). Perception of social success and self-esteem is directly related to each other. Effective interpersonal relationships are greatly determined by the degree of one’s tolerance, open-mindedness and respect for those who are different. The healthier the level of self-esteem, the fewer the individual feel threatened by different worldviews.”

In the developing countries like Pakistan where there is no awareness regarding mental health and even Government have only less then 2.4% of all total health care budgets including mental health annually (Afridi, 2008) then how can we expect that the people will get the proper treatment of mental disorders. A least number of people who have awareness are still reluctant to seek medical help because of the stigma associated with the mental illness. Therefore our focus should be on educating the people regarding mental health and illness. In one of the article written by Wahab., & Naeem, (2007) suggested that, “Association of depression and low self esteem as a condition was replicated. Duration of illness and male gender were significantly associated with low self-esteem” one more study done by Risch, et.al, (2010) suggested that, “Negative self-esteem is suggested to play an important role in the recurrence of depressive episodes. The study investigated whether repeated experience of a negative view of the self with in recurrent course of depression might cause implicit self esteem to be impaired and negative self attributes to even be more chronically activated beyond remission” (p.08).

In our Pakistani culture there are some of the factors that commonly lead to low self esteem that is poverty, injustices, and gender differences. Other factors include society’s reaction, bad experiences at school or at work, Illness, disability or injury, and most importantly individual’s own thoughts and perceptions. According to Pakistani literature written by Unaiza Niaz (2004),

“The experiences of abuse deteriorate women’s self-esteem and put them at a greater risk for a number of mental disorders like depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicide, alcohol, and drug abuse. Children, who witness violence, face increased risk for emotional and behavioral problems such as low self esteem and other mental disorders.” (p.61)

According to Link, Struening, Neese-Todd, Asmussen, & Phelan (2001) authors conclude that, “Stigma associated with mental illness harms the self-esteem of many people…” (p.1621). There are several studies that proved that there is vicious cycle between low self esteem and onset of the psychiatric disorders. Thus there is a great risk that low self esteem increases the susceptibly for the development of psychiatric disorders and subsequently psychiatric disorders will lower self esteem. According to Mahnaz and Peter (2003), “Female patients had a significantly lower self-esteem compared to male patients” (p. 01)

Mental health professionals use different models and frameworks for different therapies in their every day practice. However, there is no recent and general framework available for adult mental health professionals on low self esteem but Maslow postulates that individuals must achieve a positive self-esteem before they can achieve self-actualization. According to Maslow, after the gratification of physiological and safety needs, one look for the fulfillment of emotional needs that is esteem needs. Maslow in his hierarchy of needs describes that the esteem needs must not go unmet because low self-esteem is a root cause for many of the psychological problems.

Maslow noted two versions of esteem needs, a lower one and a higher one. The lower one is the need for the respect of others, the need for status, fame, glory, recognition, attention, reputation, appreciation, dignity, even dominance. The higher form involves the need for self-respect, including feelings like confidence, competence, achievement, mastery, independence, and freedom. (Martin, & Joomis 2007), (p.73)

Another theory given by Erikson (1963) on personality development, describes eight transitional or maturational crises, the resolution of which can have a profound influence on the self-esteem. If a crisis is resolved successfully at one stage, the individual develops healthy coping strategies to fulfill task of subsequent stage however less successful adaptation develops negative behaviors and views of self, which make himself less healthy and less able to adapt successfully to the next maturational or situational crises.

Eight maturational crises given by Erikson are;

Trust versus Mistrust:

Unsuccessful resolution of crises at this stage leads to emotional dissatisfaction thereby promoting negative or low self-esteem.

Autonomy versus Shame and Doubt

When the child’s independent behaviors are restricted or when child fails because of unrealistic expectations, low self-esteem is promoted by a lack of confidence in the abilities to perform and a sense of being controlled by others.

Initiative versus Guilt

The child begins to develop conscience and becomes vulnerable to the labeling of behaviors as “Good or Bad” during this stage Guidance and discipline that relies heavily on shaming the child creates guilt and results in low self-esteem.

Industry versus Inferiority

Non-achievement, unrealistic expectations and persistent negative feedback develops a sense of inadequacy resulting low self-esteem.

Identity versus Role confusion

Failures to develop a new self-definition result in a sense of self-consciousness, doubt and confusion about one’s role in life. It occurs when adolescents are encouraged to remain dependent, or if the discipline in the home is overly harsh, inconsistent or absent and when parental support has been lacking, low self esteem results.

Intimacy versus Isolation

Failure to achieve intimacy results in behaviors such as social isolation, withdrawal, aloneness and inability to form lasting intimate relationships. Isolation occurs when love in home has been deprived or distorted causes a severe impairment in self-esteem.

Generativity versus Stagnation

Generativity promotes positive self-esteem through gratification of personal and professional achievement and form meaningful contributions to others. Failure to achieve Generativity leads to development of low self-esteem. The person has lack of self worth and becomes withdrawn and isolated as he or she thinks them unable to contribute some thing valued for self and for others.

Ego integrity versus Despair

Ego integrity results in a sense o f self worth and self-acceptance. Individuals in despair posses a sense of self-contempt and disgust with how life has progressed. Earlier developmental tasks of self-confidence, self-identity and concern for others remain unfulfilled, negative self esteem prevails.

Research undertaken over many years has indicated that people with a strong sense of self-esteem and the ability to focus positively on their attributes and skills are much happier and lead more satisfying and successful lives than people having low self-esteem and lack of confidence. Many researches have proved that low self esteem can lead to mental disorders like depression, aggression, anxiety and personality disorders. Individual’s sense of worthlessness can ruin their whole life and they remain no more functional. My client had experienced the same condition and moved towards maladaptive strategies to cope with the stressors of life

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The key to understanding low self esteem is learning how to deal with and prevent the negative thoughts and self perceptions which create and reinforce your belief that in some way you are not good enough. Once you can start to change the way you think about yourself, you can feel better about yourself and can create and sustain better relationships. In order to overcome low self-esteem, some of the strategies at individual, group and institutional levels should be plan but according to individual capabilities. Those are discussed below:

Many tools are available for assessing the level of self-esteem like Rosenberg SES, Multidimensional SE inventory, Harrill SE inventory etc. It is necessary to identify the root cause of low self-esteem. Secondly, identification of our own beliefs that impact our self esteem and ways to modify them in a practical life can enhance our self esteem.

At individual level:

The first and foremost strategy to have sense of self is to look for self needs and wants and develop optimisms. Secondly, Building resilience by taking good care of own self by consuming healthy food, proper sleep, exercise, maintaining personal hygiene and dressing up clothes that make one’s feel good. Thirdly, to take out time for own self and do things that cheers them the most like listening music, going for party or outing, playing indoor and outdoor games or engaging themselves in house hold activities. Fourthly, doing things that can help individual to make use of their own hidden talents or abilities and giving rewards or gifts to own self. Furthermore, improving appropriate coping mechanism by spending time with people and sharing views, ideas, happiness and worries with them, and finally by self-forgiveness, self-evaluation and importantly confront our fears to one whom you feel comfortable and relaxed or even one can write on piece of paper.

At group level:

Healthy self-esteem and a confident are among the most important skills we can teach client or patient today as they are facing the challenges of a diseased life. Group includes family, peers; community can help a person improving his/her self esteem by Praise client or patient for good behaviors, Look for opportunities to positively comment on the things they are doing well, helping them learn new skills that are appropriate to their age and strengths, f you need to change a behavior, focus on the behavior not on the person, encouraging them to try new things, when person makes a mistake, help them to learn from it by discussing what happened and what could happen next time, offering genuine praise for trying hard, as well as for success, acknowledge effort, even if the result isn’t great, never compare ones abilities to other, spend effective time with your loved ones , express acceptance and care, a hug and words of encouragement, particularly when things go wrong will help one to keep things in perspective and being a good listener and letting the person know that his or her ideas and feelings are important, explain that everyone make mistakes and be a role model to deal with problems.(Perera, 2010)

At institutional level:

According to Mahnaz and Peter (2003), “Significantly increased self-esteem was observed with an increase in age, educational achievement and income. Employed patients showed significantly higher self-esteem compared to unemployed patients.” (p.01). Institution play a major role to develop and enhance individual self esteem by, implementing work place ethics, creating a healthy and stress free workplace environment, providing job opportunities and security, providing rewards and appraisals to encourage the employee, and avoiding workplace harassment.

Self-esteem is important in and out of the hospital setting, self motivation, group support and institution policies together can help build individual self esteem. To evaluate healthy self esteem in an individual, a nurse should observe the behavior of that individual; observe improvements in work performance, relationships, and reduction in or no co-dependency.

Above strategies can help one to feel good about them and also enhance their self esteem. Finally, continuous monitoring, motivation and evaluation are the responsibility of family and health care team.

Every individual have a right to feel good about one self. However, it can be very difficult to feel good about yourself when you are under stress. People with low self esteem feel bad about themselves .Feelings of low self-esteem may be triggered by being treated poorly by someone else recently or in the past, or by a person’s own judgments of him or herself. I think parents and teachers play major part in the development of their children’s self-esteem and should ensure that they are well equipped to deal with whatever life throws at them. Secondly sessions should be conducted in school and at religious places to promote awareness. Thirdly self awareness and positive self motivation is playing a major role in promoting self esteem as my client was not having trust on herself and she ended up with mental illness. Lastly, family support plays a vital role in promotion of healthy self esteem.

Self-esteem is shaped by relationships, experiences and by own thoughts. Healthy self-esteem promotes mental well-being, assertiveness and resilience. After reading so many articles I came to know that People with low self esteem can end up with mental illnesses and other physiological and psychosocial problems. According to Saeed, & Zafar, (2003), “People with low self esteem end up with substance abuse.” (p.272). Self-esteem ranges from very positive to very negative. Neither extreme nor low is healthy. Although self-esteem fluctuates over time, depending on your circumstances, it generally stays in a range that reflects how one feels about herself. Before in-depth reading about this concept, I was bit familiar with this topic but now I came to know the importance of healthy self esteem in individual’s life. Moreover, I learnt different strategies that help to promote self esteem.

Self esteem is an important concept of everyone’s life. It is true that if we ignore ourselves, the life will ignore us. Low self-esteem keeps you from enjoying life, doing the things you want to do, and working toward personal goals, so giving time to one’s self and exploring own strengths and weaknesses will help us to cope with different circumstances. Self awareness, will power and family support are essential pillars of building high self esteem as every one is special, unique, and valuable person and deserves to feel good about self so love with yourself.


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