Motivation and emotion/Book/2014/Self-esteem and emotion

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Self-esteem and emotion:
What is the relationship between self-esteem and emotion?

Overview[edit | edit source]

"Self-esteem refelects how life is going, but is not the source of motivation that allows people to make life go well." (Reeve, 2009, p.267).

This chapter is focused on self-esteem and emotion, and whether there is a relationship between these aspects. The concept of self-esteem will be defined and how it is developed in individuals, the different types of self-esteem and dimensions will be explored, and the theories associated to self-esteem will be identified. The focus will then shift to defining emotions, how such emotions develop,then relating the two aspects together to identify whether a relationship between self-esteem and emotion exists, and if it can be influenced.

Emotion[edit | edit source]

What is emotion[edit | edit source]

Figure 1. Do you experience these emotions?

Emotions can be defined as a phenomena that is a brief feeling, enabling individuals to adapt to any challenges and opportunities that occur within their lives (Reeve, 2009). Defining emotion is a complex process; emotions are made up of four factors. These factors are feelings, sense of purpose, body arousal, and social-expressive aspects (Reeve, 2009). Emotions can be seen as the basis, mediators, and even effects of other psychological processes in individuals including that of attention, memory, and perception. Our emotions are seen as an extremely important factor contributing to our personal functioning (Barrett, 2006). Each one of the emotions we as individuals experience result in an alteration of our sensory, perceptual, motor, and physiological functions (Barrett, 2006).

There are two main aspects when it comes to emotion, automatic affective reactions which can be described as an expression, arousal of feeling or behavioural consequences that occurs automatically. This type of emotion occurs very rapidly despite knowing if it is pleasant or not (Jarymowicz, 2012). The second aspect is that of evaluative judgement which can be described as a particular level of positivity or negativity to a particular occurrence, this process is predominately automatic, in which we as humans have no control over it happening whether it happens unconsciously or consciously (Jarymowicz, 2012).

Development of emotions[edit | edit source]

The development of emotions occurs when events are considered relevant to a person's goals, motives, values, and expectations associated with the environment surrounding them (Mesquita, 2001). The development of emotions begins with a person experiencing a particular relationship with the surrounding environment and becoming aware of it. This can also occur through emotional communication, emotions and emotional processes, which have the potential to be felt or not and if they are felt the resulting feeling is an essential aspect to that relationship (Barrett, 1998).

Self-esteem[edit | edit source]

What is self-esteem[edit | edit source]

Figure 2.The Self

Self-esteem and its related aspect the ‘self’ were seen by Carl Rogers as a person’s experience or image, developed through interaction with other people (Thomson, 2012). The term self-esteem was defined by William James as “the tendency to strive to feel good about oneself and that people seek to maintain their self-esteem because they possess an inherent need to feel good about themselves” (Thomson, 2012, p160). Self-esteem is seen within the ethological approach of psychology as an adaptation evolving in maintaining dominance within social relationships (Thomson, 2012). However definitions of self-esteem can differ; within the humanistic approach self-esteem is a concept seen as having a congruency within an individual’s real and ideal selves (Thomson, 2012).

Types of self-esteem[edit | edit source]

Self-esteem is catergorised[spelling?] in two areas, high and low. Low self-esteem can be made up of somewhat positive feelings towards yourself, rather then extremely negative emotions towards our self (Brown & Dutton, 1995).Low self-esteem can impact adolescents and provides a high risk factor for negative outcomes across their life milestones[factual?]. In a study conducted by Erol and Orth (2011), research was conducted on individuals from the ages of 14 until 30 years of age[Rewrite to improve clarity]. This study identified that displaying lower levels of self-esteem within ones adolescent years, foretold that mental and physical health would be poor, and that antisocial behaviour, eating disorders, and depression would be more prevalent. People who display lower levels of self-esteem experience lower certainty of their self-views and display negative self-concepts, as they are more worried about the concept of failure and trying to avoid this (Crocker & Park, 2004).

High levels of self-esteem are made up of feelings that provide a general affection towards ourselves (Brown & Dutton, 1995). Individuals displaying higher self-esteem tendencies such as self-feelings that are positively based, can become vulnerable to changes (Kernis, Cornell, Sun, Berry, & Harlow, 1993). People who experience high self-esteem levels, are more likely to display positive self-views, and are more sure of these views, as a result avoiding failure becomes less of a concern. Higher levels of self-esteem show the pursuit of self-esteem is achieved through dominance and competence in one’s self (Crocker & Park, 2004). When pursuing self-esteem, if done successfully provides an individual with emotional and motivational benefits (Crocker & Park, 2004). When an [missing something?] pursuing self-esteem, it can be achieved in various ways, with some having negative consequences and some positive. Every person is different in what they believe and value therefore affecting what aspects may increase or decrease their self-esteem levels. A major driving force in the pursuit of self-esteem, is allowing individuals to fulfill their self-worth levels (Crocker & Park, 2004).

This is a short video from Dailymotion,(2011) with some helpful tips on how to improve our self-esteem. [1]

How does self-esteem develop?[edit | edit source]

Self-esteem changes in individuals as a result of various situations it can also be made up of various dimensions which can be seen in Table 1. The changes one may see could be a result of the environment, or simply changes due to through puberty (Chung, Robins, Noftle, Roberts, Widaman, 2014). Research on development of self-esteem has identified that alterations of self-esteem occur differently at different life stages (Chung et al., 2014). Self-esteem can develop and be influenced through age, health, personality, and even an individual’s wealth. Erol and Orth (2011) identify that an individual’s income level can have significant effects on ones' self-esteem, [grammar?] as the adolescent stage passes income can influence ones self-esteem, and can very much mould ones’ perceptions associated with their social values (Erol & Orth, 2011).

Health can also influence self-esteem. It has been suggested that individual’s displaying higher levels of self-esteem receive higher levels of social support, their levels of stress are reduced, and are included more in social situations, in which all aid a healthy lifestyle (Erol & Orth, 2011).Personality can influence self-esteem also, and research has shown individuals displaying higher levels of self-esteem show traits such as extroversion, display stable emotional traits, and tend to be more agreeable and conscientious, suggesting the that personality traits do in fact influence ones' self-esteem and may explain differences between individuals (Erol & Orth, 2011).

It has been thought during the time of moving into adolescence ones' self-esteem is rather decreased, slightly increasing as one moves into adulthood, then returning to a decrease as one moves into the elderly life stage (Chung et al, 2014). Research has identified this is not always the case and other life milestones can influence turning points in ones' self-esteem levels[factual?]. Turning points can be defined as events that have the ability to alter ones' behaviours, cognition's, and context that can lead to a change in lifelong self-esteem levels (Chung et al, 2014).

Table. 1 Dimensions of self-esteem.

Personal self-esteem Intrinsic perceptions and feelings of self –worth
Social self-esteem A persons feelings and views based on relationship quality with peers.
General self-esteem A person’s whole perceptions and feelings based on their self worth.

(Coetzee, Martins, Basson,& Muller, 2006).

Theories associated with self-esteem[edit | edit source]

The Sociometer theory of psychology defines self-esteem as a psychological meter which monitors an individual’s relationship quality with themselves and others (Thomson, 2012). The Sociometer theory relates to self-esteem, as it suggests the motive of self-esteem does not function to maintain self-esteem, but instead to minimise the risk of rejection or devaluation in an individual’s life (Thomson, 2012). The Sociometer theory is comprised of two different self-esteem perspectives, the first being trait self-esteem in which can be defined as an individual’s general appraisal of his or her value, and secondly state self-esteem which is that of momentary fluctuations in an individual’s feelings about themselves (Thomson, 2012). The Sociometer theory suggests ones feeling about them, or their self-esteem is a major aspect, that is a reflected judgement from other individual’s views. Individuals decide their own worth, based on what they feel their valued among the social community (Wood, Heimpel, Manwell, & Whittington, 2009). This theory could potentially aid the relationship between self-esteem and emotion as it is based on ones' feelings, which come from the emotions they may experience.

Another theory associated with self-esteem is that of the self-verification theory. The self-verification theory suggests that as individuals we are more in favour of other people viewing us as we see ourselves. The self-verification theory was introduced by Prescott Lecky, and he suggested long lasting self-views provide us with a strong sense of reason (Swann, n.d). An example of this can be seen in a study conducted by Wood, et al, (2009) in which the theory aids the explanation of why low self-esteem may be more accepting of sad moods than those with higher self-esteem.

The self-esteem movement is another aspect related to the topic of self-esteem, it was first suggested in 1986, in California when self-esteem was boosted, to try and achieve a reduction in various factors including school failure, crime, unwanted pregnancy, and drug addiction (Reeve, 2009). It was thought that low self-esteem was a determining factor in all individuals psychological issues, however there was no strong evidence to support this thought. It was then that programs aimed at raising self-esteem levels become a very popular trend. However once strong evidence became apparent it was released that such programs had no real effects and did not successfully reduce the target problems mentioned earlier (Reeve,2009).

Relationship[edit | edit source]

Is there a relationship between self-esteem and emotion?[edit | edit source]

Emotions and self, which can be related to the concept of self-esteem are no doubt influenced by each other, providing a strong relationship with one another,[grammar?] self as an experience can be moulded by the fluctuation of emotions one experiences, and for example feelings such as pride and shame cannot be effective without an evaluation, along with perceptions from our self (Tracey & Robins, n.d).Self-esteem can be associated with many different emotions and emotional states; it can even be related to mental illness such as anxiety and depression. Brown and Marshall, (2001) talk about self-relevant emotions. Self-relevant emotions constantly involve the self as a factor, where as non- self-relevant emotions do not include the self as an aspect. Self-relevant emotions can include pride, arrogance, modesty, and shame, and some examples of non-self-relevant emotions incorporate, happiness and sadness (Brown & Marshall, 2001). A study conducted by Brown and Marshall, (2001) aimed to investigate whether there is a relationship between self-esteem and positive and negative affective states. The study included three investigations based around self-esteem and concluded that self-esteems is related more specifically to emotional states that are self-relevant, compared to emotional states not directly related to one’s self (Brown & Marshall, 2001)[explain?]. Another conclusion to arise from this study incorporates variables of one’s personality and these variables being able to predict and individuals response to failure and success, however these effects were rejected after self-esteem was included (Brown & Marshall, 2001). The final conclusion to come from the study included that of self-esteem being successful in foreseeing self-relevant emotional reactions to failure, but being unsuccessful in predicting non-self-relevant emotional reactions (Brown & Marshall, 2001)[explain?]. Overall, the main thoughts to arise from this study with strong supporting evidence includes that of self-esteem being related very closely associated to a certain group of emotions that refer to how we feel about ourselves, such as shame and pride (Brown & Marshall, 2001).

A study conducted by Terwogt, Rieffe, Miers, Jellesma, and Tolland, (2006) suggest there is a relationship between self-esteem and emotions. It was identified in this study that individuals experiencing low self-esteem experience more negative thoughts, along with negative memories, when experiencing a bad mood episode. Individuals experiencing higher self-esteem levels will display a higher positive emotional thinking. This shows that low self-esteem can have the ability to strengthen negative emotions we experience, but also can have an effect on how we deal with such feelings. Positive feelings allow for development of optimistic emotions , which result in higher self-esteem levels, and being successful with coping (Terwogt et al., 2006).

Figure 3.Colours of Happiness. What does happiness represent to you?[explain?]

Happiness is an emotional state that has a strong relationship with self-esteem, by definition happiness is seen as a balanced state of one’s goals, wishes, and needs, with some influence from ones surroundings (Jacobsen, 2007). The relationship between happiness and self-esteem can be seen in a study conducted by Furr (2005), in which identified that self-esteem and happiness do have a correlation, however it is not always a positive one. Individuals while experiencing high levels of self-esteem, can display lower levels of happiness , and the opposite can occur for people who experience low self-esteem.

Brown & Dutton (1995) identify self-esteem is closely associated with emotional states, these states being feelings of self-worth, in other words experiencing proud feelings compared to that of ashamed feelings. The study focused on self-esteem and the emotional responses to success and failure, with the utilised emotions being happy versus unhappy and sad versus glad. The study concluded self-esteem did not influence individuals when they experienced failure, but did however have an influence on their emotional feelings of humiliation and being ashamed (Brown & Dutton, 1995). In this study it was also identified other emotions such as dejection or agement[spelling?] could have the potential to be influenced by an individual’s self-esteem. One of the main points to come from the study suggested self-esteem differences can be influenced by emotional reactions, and these reactions are influenced by emotions relating to the self. Another finding identified participants in the study felt happy and proud when they succeeded at a particular task (Brown & Dutton, 1995).

How does emotion influence self-esteem[edit | edit source]

The development of emotional expression and self-esteem in adolescents occurs differently for both boys and girls. Emotional expression is a topic that can be described as the way in which an individual expresses and shows their emotions (Polce-Lynch, Myers, Kilmartin, Forssmann-Falck, & Kliewer, 1998). The importance of emotional expression is seen in positive mental health. Being able to express our thoughts and feelings can be a reflection of how much we as individuals show expression by writing or verbally expressing these feelings(Polce-Lynch et al,. 1998).

Self-esteem is seen as a concept that experts see contributes to the self, it may be possible such a contribution allows for a deeper understanding of the emotions we utilise in relation to self-esteem and the self (Tracy & Robins, n.d). We utilise two particular emotions including that of pride and shame, which are seen in this definition “self-esteem is that balance between pride and shame states in a person’s life, taking into account both the duration and intensity” (Tracey & Robins, n.d, p196). Pride is an emotion that has shown a relationship towards self-esteem by enabling positive social behaviours to occur, therefore providing a positive increase in ones feeling about themselves (Tracy & Robins, n.d).

A study conducted by Wood et al., (2009) explores the idea of sad moods influencing individual’s views of themselves. The study indicates that individuals who experience lower levels of self-esteem may experience higher levels of sadness, compared to those who experience higher self-esteem levels. When participants in this study were given a task of reading an evaluation of themselves that was based around negative aspects of themselves, they showed to display more negative self -emotions and accepted these undesirable thoughts, this can be linked back to the self- verification theory and can explain individuals who experience low self-esteem levels are more accepting of sad moods compared to those displaying high self-esteem levels (Wood et al, 2009). This shows the emotions can influence self-esteem levels, and the emotions do in fact have a relationship with emotions.

Self-regulation which can be associated with ones’ emotional states and processes of though[spelling?] can be interconnected with self-esteem. When people set goals for themselves and achieve them, their self-esteem levels are going to be high and positive, emotions have the potential to occur in the process of achieving such goals, when an individual successfully completes this goal their faced with emotions of happiness or joy (Tice,2008). When these goals are not achieved the experienced emotions could include anger, sadness, or even frustration. Emotions are seen to have a relationship with self-esteem this relationship includes being actively involved in the process of achieving goals, which occurs as a result to self-esteem as we achieve goals and are overfilled with positive emotions[grammar?][Rewrite to improve clarity]. Emotions are seen as a pivotal aspect in complementing the self and the processes one associates with the self, such as self-esteem (Tice, 2008).

Self-esteem assessment[edit | edit source]

This is a quick assessment that aims to measure how you feel about yourself and your levels of Self-esteem, you need to read the questions and take note of your responses as there is no right or wrong answers (Rosenberg, 1965).

Take note of your response for each question on a separate piece of paper.

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

To score this test Numbers 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 in individuals(Rosenberg, 1965).

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

The relationship between self-esteem and emotion is very real. There have been numerous studies that have included these factors into research[factual?]. We have seen through the Brown & Dutton (1995) study [grammar?] self-esteem is closely associated with emotional states in which a conclusion stated self-esteem differences can in fact be influenced by various emotional states and emotions that relate to the self.Emotions are seen to have a relationship with self-esteem as they are actively involved in the process of achieving goals, as we achieve goals and are overfilled with positive emotions. Emotions are seen as a pivotal aspect in complementing the self and the processes one associates with the self, such as self-esteem (Tice, 2008). self-esteem is a concept that experts see contributes to the self, it may be possible such a contribution allows for a deeper understanding of the emotions we utilise in relation to self-esteem and the self (Tracy & Robins, n.d). The Sociometer theory can be applied to self esteem as it suggests the motive of self-esteem does not function to maintain self-esteem, but instead to minimise the risk of rejection or devaluation in an individual’s life (Thomson, 2012).The relationship between happiness and self-esteem can be seen in a study conducted by Furr (2005).Self-esteem differences can be influenced by emotional reactions, and these reactions are influenced by emotions relating to the self (Brown & Dutton, 1995).

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Barrett, L.F.(2006). Are emotions natural kinds? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 1(28), doi:10.1111/j.1745-6916.2006.00003.x.

Barrett, K.C.(1998). A functionalist perspective to the development of emotions.

Brown, J.D., & Dutton, K.A. (1995). The thrill of Victory, the complexity of Defeat: Self-esteem and peoples emotional reactions to success and failure.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68(4), 712-722

Brown, J.D., & Marshall, M.A. (2001). Self-Esteem and Emotion: Some Thoughts about Feelings. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27(5),575-584.

Chung, J.M., Robins, R.W., Noftle, E.E., Roberts, B.W., &Widaman, K.F. (2014). Continuity and Change in Self-Esteem During Emerging Adulthood. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.106, 469-483.

Coetzee, M., Martins, N., Basson J.S., & Muller,H. (2006). The relationship between personality preferences, self-esteem and emotional competence. Journal of Industrial Psychology. 32 (2), 64-73

Crocker,J., & Park, L.E.(2004). The costly pursuit of self-esteem. Psychological Bulletin, 130(3), 392-414.doi 10.1037/0033-2909.130.3.392.

Erol, R.Y., & Orth, U. (2014). Development of Self-Esteem and Relationship Satisfaction in Couples: Two Longitudinal Studies. Developmental Psychology. 50, 2291–2303.doi:

Furr, M.R.(2006). Differentiating Happiness and Self-esteem.Individual Differences Research,3(2).

Jarymowicz, M. (2012). Understanding Human Emotions. Journal of Russian and East European Psychology, pp. 9–25.doi: 10.2753/RPO1061-0405500301.

Jacobsen, B. (2006). What is happiness: The concept of happiness in existential psychology and therapy. Existential Analysis.

Kernis, M.H., Cornell, D.P., Sun, C.R., Berry, A., & Harlow, T. (1993). There’s more to self-esteem than whether it is high or low: The importance of stability of self-esteem. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65(6), 1190-1204.

Mesquita, B.(2001). Emotions in collectivist and indivdualist contexts. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80(1), 68-74. doi:10.1037///0022-3514.80.1.68.

Polce-Lynch, M., Myers, B.J., Kilmartin, C.T., Forssmann-Falck., & Kliewer. (1998). Gender and age patterns in emotional expression, body image, and self-esteem: A qualitatuve analysis. Sex Roles. 38, 11-12.

Reeve, J. (2009). Understanding motivation and emotion (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Rosenberg, M. (1965). Society and the adolescent self-image.Self Report Measures for Love and Compassion Research: Self-Esteem. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Swann, W.B. (n.d). Self-verification Theory, Handbook of Social Psychology.

Terwogt, M.M., Rieffe, C., Miers, A.C., Jellesma, F.C., & Tolland, A. (2006). Emotions and self-esteem as indicators of somatic complaints in children. Infant and Child Development, 15, 581-592. doi: 10.1002/icd.479.

Thomson, M.M. (2012). Labelling and self-esteem: Does labelling exceptional students impact their self-esteem? Support for Learning.

Tice, D.M. (2008). How Emotions Affect Self-regulation. Retrieved from

Tracy, J.L., & Robins, R.W. (n.d). Self-conscious emotions: Where self and emotion meet. Self-conscious Emotions.

Wood, J.V., Heimpel, S.A., Manwell, L.A., & Whittington, E.J.(2009). This Mood Is Familiar and I Don’t Deserve to Feel Better Anyway: Mechanisms Underlying Self-Esteem Differences in Motivation to Repair Sad Moods. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96(2), 363–380. doi: 10.1037/a0012881.

External links[edit | edit source]