Self-Esteem Theory

The self-esteem theory puts forth that all behavior is motivated by the individuals attempt to protect the ‘self’ in accordance with how they are viewed by others in social situations.

Often a low self-esteem will result in an individual feeling prompted to do things just to ‘fit in’ - often these things are detrimental and the individual knows they are not a good idea, so the result is that they feel even more unworthy and a cycle of abuse is formed.

Those suffering from low self-esteem may use drugs, engage in risky behavior (often sexual) and put themselves at risk simply to gain acceptance from their social set. Teen emotions can be overwhelming, and coping and social skills underdeveloped.




A renowned doctor named Adler studied self-esteem and came to the conclusion that all children begin life in an inferior position. He put forth the theory that most of a child’s early social life consists of learning to cope with feelings of inferiority. Much learning in the early stages takes place from a desire to please and be accepted. Self-esteem has to be developed during the early years by way of positive reinforcement and praise.

For those who a raised with a constant barrage of negativity, healthy self-esteem is never achieved. However, self-esteem theory states that low self-esteem can be changed later with the help of self-esteem building activities and therapy.





The main techniques to employ for most self-esteem issues center around praise VS blame. Praise helps in the development of self-esteem when it is given properly. When rewards in the form of praise are given for real achievement, no matter how small, true self-esteem is built. When praise is given when not warranted, one of two things can happen - the individual either believes it and becomes narcissistic thinking they can do no wrong, or sees through the lie and feels even worse - ‘I am so pathetic they have to lie to make me feel better’ - and any subsequent praise is viewed with suspicion and distrust.

Success and failure are subjective terms. For one, being a success in the world’s eyes may mean nothing and they have a very low self-esteem, seeing only their failures. For another, a simple job and place to live and food to eat may seem like a huge achievement, while to others they appear to be pathetic. In the first case, the individual has a low self-esteem; in the second, they may well have a healthy one. The individual alone knows how they view themselves, and this viewpoint alone is what is important.




Those with low self-esteem may have trouble coping with personal problems, and often develop a victim mentality - if they sleep in and are late for work they may reach for an excuse: “If I had slept better, I could have made it to work on time”. A more advanced individual with the self-esteem needed to take responsibility may say “If I hadn’t stayed up watching a movie, eating junk food and drinking caffeinated soda, I would have slept well and risen at the right time.” Taking responsibility for one’s actions is a sign of healthy self-esteem.





Self-esteem activities from self-esteem theory

Motivational theory

Home page from self-esteem theory


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