A Three Factor Operational Definition of SELF-ESTEEM
Self-Esteem could be defined as: What our unconscious believes to be true about how worthy, lovable, valuable and capable we are.
Our self-esteem is very dependent on factors within our environment. It is formed as a result of our years of experiences (especially the early ones). It could be said that one’s eyes and ears record the messages they receive from others, especially those most important to them. Because one’s unconscious accepts all words and emotions as facts no matter how legitimate or based in reality, one’s self-esteem is being continuously constructed and reconstructed by what is encountered in the mirror of others verbal and non-verbal messages
Research into the nature of self-esteem produces three factors that strongly correlate with self-esteem. Each of the factors/components outlined below is separate but interrelated. In the attempt to better understand and/or promote self-esteem in oneself and others, addressing these three components can help clarify our efforts.
INTERNAL LOCUS OF CONTROL: This factor is defined by one’s sense of internal causality and orientation toward personal responsibility. The more internal our LOC, the more we feel like our destiny is in our own hands. It could be contrasted to seeing life as a series of accidents or “things that happen to us.”
It comes from: recognizing that our actions result in consequences, seeing cause and effect relationships related to success and failure, being given power and control with an expectation of using them responsibly.
SENSE OF BELONGING AND ACCEPTANCE: This factor reflects how much one feels wanted and a part of the group, and how much one likes and accepts themselves as they are. The more one feels accepted and acceptable, the more they are able to express themselves, act authentically and be fully present to others. Self- acceptance could be contrasted to self-aggrandizement or a compulsion to please.
It comes from: accepting messages from VIPs (including self-talk), practicing a positive approach and attitude, experiencing emotional safety, and the ability to separate our performance from who we are.
SENSE OF COMPETENCE: This factor relates to one’s self-efficacy or how “good at things” one thinks they are. Our unconscious is getting continuous data related to our relative level of competence. If we interpret our experience as progress and/or success we become more confident and more inclined to take risks in the future. Success breeds success. This sense of competence could be contrasted to a defeatist attitude or the need to brag/show off.
It comes from: achievement, taking risks that pay off, having special talents, recognition of those talents from others, and others’ constructive feedback.