Self-Esteem and Self-Enhancement
- Zachary P. HohmanZachary P. HohmanTexas Tech University, Department of Psychological Sciences
- and Joshua K. BrownJoshua K. BrownTexas Tech University, Department of Psychological Sciences
Self-esteem and self-enhancement are two critical phenomena that play major roles in social psychological theory and research. Everyone has an idea what self-esteem is; however, from an empirical standpoint, what exactly is self-esteem is hotly debated. The unidimensional definition of self-esteem defines it as a global assessment of one’s worth, with greater self-esteem being associated with greater self-worth. Whereas the multidimensional view of self-esteem defines self-esteem as a ratio of competences and worthiness. Furthermore, self-esteem can be broken down into different types: trait self-esteem is a stable view of the self that does not fluctuate much from day to day; state self-esteem is a more transitory view of the self that fluctuates from day to day; and domain-specific self-esteem relies on decisions we make about ourselves or self-evaluations about how we perform in specific situations. Regardless of type, there is an overall belief that humans have an innate need for high self-esteem and that they are particularly attuned to situations that may threaten this. When self-esteem is threatened, people enact behaviors aimed at increasing it: this is called self-enhancement. The idea that people are driven to self-enhance has become a popular topic in psychology and is found in some of the field’s most influential theories. For example, self-determination theory (SDT) examines both interpersonal and intrapersonal aspects of self-esteem and self-enhancement. Terror management theory (TMT) explains why human beings need self-esteem and how they self-enhance. Sociometer theory is concerned with understanding how self-esteem developed in humanity’s past and how it affects self-enhancement in the present. Finally, self-affirmation theory focuses on how people try to self-enhance after their self-integrity has been threatened.