What makes us confident or, conversely, makes us doubt ourselves
Self-esteem is not just confidence. The way one perceives oneself affects personal and work relationships, as well as one's mental health.
Self-esteem problems are one reason why a person can tolerate broken promises, neglect and abuse--and remain in a failed or even outright abusive relationship. To end them, you need to feel that you are worthy of love and respect. But a person with unhealthy self-esteem does not have that feeling - and allows himself to be mistreated.
The same goes for work. An insecure person doesn't feel he or she deserves a high salary. This is likely why researchers find: people with low self-esteem often earn less.
Self-esteem affects mental health - and significantly. Healthy - it helps to withstand stress and not to lose faith in yourself, despite setbacks and criticism. A low one, on the contrary, prevents all this. And besides this, it makes a person more vulnerable to depression.
And that's not all. Even sex depends on self-esteem - so much so that scientists even use the term "sexual self-esteem. The higher your overall self-esteem, the higher your sexual self-esteem tends to be. And the higher it is, the more satisfied a person is with his sex.
But self-esteem does not exist separately from a person's experience - what has happened to him before and is happening now. We have studied the scientific research on this subject and selected the most significant factors that affect self-confidence.
Most psychologists believe that childhood shapes self-esteem. In childhood, the psyche is malleable and soaks up everything that happens like a sponge.
Faced with a kind and supportive attitude of others, first of all parents, the child forms a positive image of himself/herself. He is loved and respected - and he considers himself worthy of love and respect. He makes mistakes - and they do not stop loving him.
Such a child grows into an adult who evaluates his or her skills adequately, but believes in himself or herself and does not give up if something fails. Unfair treatment surprises and outrages him or her, but it does not seem deserved.
And vice versa. For example, a child who was constantly criticized by his parents turns into an adult prone to self-criticism, as scientists have found out.
Those who experienced violence within the family as children are even less sure of themselves. Psychologists have calculated: their self-esteem is four times lower than that of those who grew up in loving families. And there are many more of these people than meets the eye. According to American data, one in five children experiences domestic violence.
The perception of self changes with age and tends to become more positive - this is the conclusion American scientists came to after analyzing more than 330 studies, the participants of which were people from 4 to 94 years old.
Imagine that a four-year-old's self-esteem is a conditional zero. That's what the American researchers did, taking the perceptions of the youngest survey participants as their starting point. According to their calculations, by the age of eleven, that zero turns into 0.34 - self-esteem grows. It stays roughly that way until the age of fifteen, and then, as a rule, it continues to grow.
If at the age of four the self-esteem was zero, then at the age of thirty it is already 1.05. And at the age of sixty, self-esteem peaks at 1.3. Until the age of seventy it remains stable, from seventy to ninety it decreases a little, and after ninety it falls sharply to 0,76.
Scientists have offered the following explanation for this pattern: the older a person gets, the more social roles he or she has. If at eighteen he is only someone's child and classmate, then at thirty he is also a parent, employee, professional, knitting enthusiast, and so on. In each of these roles it is possible to achieve success. And achievements - raising self-esteem.
A person acquires new social roles before adulthood. That is why self-esteem peaks at the age of sixty. The next decade the self-perception is stable - a person stays with the same roles and successes as before.
But after seventy it changes - for the worse. Partly because of the limitations associated with health. Partly - because of the attitude towards oneself as a person who has already revealed his potential and is summing up the path he has traveled.
Women and men evaluate themselves differently. Japanese researchers analyzed data from a survey of 697 junior high and 956 high school students. They were asked to rate on a four-point scale how well they understood various issues, whether they were learning, whether they were confident and other characteristics.
When asked if they were happy with themselves, boys more often answered positively and received on average 2.45 points, and girls - 2.34. Self-esteem boys scored 2.6 and girls 2.42, their chances of being a great person - 1.94 and 1.73, respectively, and the ability to do something better than others - 2.42 and 2.25 points. Girls also rated their physical fitness markedly lower than boys.
At the same time, the statements "no matter what you do, it's all wrong" and "you're a useless person" were also applied to themselves more often by boys than girls. So boys are confident in themselves, even if they are not useful and fail.
The difference in self-perception also persists in adults: women are inferior to men in self-esteem in almost all indicators, say American scientists who analyzed 115 scientific papers on the subject.
This may be influenced by the fact that women are more likely to experience feelings of guilt and shame. And, by the way, are much less likely to suffer from narcissism. Scientists estimate that about 75% of people diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder are men.
Opinion of others
Self-esteem increases when people around a person are valued, and decreases when they are rejected.
Researchers used fMRI to find out how brain activity changes when people find out what others think of them. To do this, 40 volunteers were asked to create a new social media profile, telling them that this page would be shown to 184 strangers and asking them to rate the page owner. But before that, the researchers showed photos of these strangers to the volunteers and asked them to guess how they would rate a particular person.
When expectations of liking the evaluator were not met, the brain activity of volunteers with low self-esteem, high anxiety, and depression especially changed. For example, the anterior part of the islet lobe, which is responsible for the perception of pain, was activated. In people who are confident of themselves, such processes were not observed during criticism - their brain works differently.
Nevertheless, praise boosted the self-esteem of both those who were not confident and those who were. Praise is the most important incentive. When people get confirmation that they are appreciated, loved and respected, they are more enthusiastic about doing a particular job, succeed as a result, and are reinforced again by the approval of others. It works like a snowball effect.
The cost of things
Some people buy expensive things of famous brands, when they do not differ in quality from their budget counterparts. And this is not surprising: their high price has a strong impact on self-esteem.
German neurophysiologists offered volunteers a pleasant activity - wine tasting. They tasted five drinks - worth $5, $10, $35, $45 and $90.
In fact, there were not five wines, but three. Behind the $5 and $45 price tags was the same wine. And the $90 wine was the same as the $10 wine. But to the unsuspecting participants, the more expensive wines tasted better. At the same time, the frontal lobe striatum was activated in their brains.
And this is no coincidence. The striated body is not only sensitive to rewards like good food, money, and expensive wine. It is also an indicator of how one perceives one's social status.
Expensive wine, like any other luxury item, raises one's status-or at least that's how the owners of "status" items feel. And the higher the status, the higher the self-esteem. That's why people buy expensive things, even when they are not worth it.
Even problems with money do not stop such aspirations. For example, psychologists from the University of Missouri describe the following case: a 30-year-old woman from New Hampshire lost her job and became homeless. Despite this, she would not sell her Mercedes and her mink coat, even though it would allow her to sleep in her apartment rather than her car.
Expensive things preserved her self-esteem-albeit unemployed and homeless, she possessed something luxurious and as if corresponding to a high social status. By giving things up, she would lose the right to that status in her eyes, and with it, her self-respect.
Physical attractiveness is the most important factor of self-confidence. But judgments about appearance are very subjective. When a particular feature of appearance becomes fashionable - a chiseled chin or voluminous hips, for example - the self-esteem of those who possess these features increases dramatically. Even if until now they evaluated themselves very modestly.
How this works was shown by an American schoolteacher Jane Elliott in a rather risky experiment in 1968. She divided her class into two groups - brown-eyed and blue-eyed - and told the children that higher levels of melanin, which colors their eyes brown, made them smarter. The students believed her, and their behavior changed dramatically.
Within just a couple of days, the teacher noticed how the self-esteem of the brown-eyed kids increased: several people who had previously been quiet turned into class leaders. The blue-eyed children, on the contrary, showed a loss of self-esteem, many of them becoming indecisive and doing less well on school assignments.
When Jane Elliott announced to the students that she had deliberately misled them in order to demonstrate the dangers of racial discrimination, their self-esteem returned to its previous level.
In some cases, a change in appearance affects self-esteem. For example, correcting dental defects often increases it. And in Brazil, women's self-esteem was measured three months after plastic surgery. As a rule, it went up. But of course, only if the surgery was successful.
Compliments also have a good influence on self-esteem - even if they are comments under a photo on the social network.
Self-Esteem Affects Sex. But The Opposite Is Also True: Sex Affects Self-Esteem. Especially - If We Are Talking About Men. Scientists Found This Out By Studying The Self-Perception Of Men With Erectile Dysfunction.
A Total Of The Study Was 533 Participants, And - From Different Countries And Cultures: The United States, Mexico, Brazil, Australia And Japan. All Of The Participants Had Erectile Dysfunction And All Of Them Were Undergoing Treatment. Only This Treatment Was Not Necessarily A Real Treatment. Half Of The Participants Received The Real Drug, While The Rest Received A Placebo.
Before The Experiment Began, The Scientists Measured The Participants' Self-Esteem - The Overall Self-Esteem Of Their Personality As A Whole, Not Just The Sexual Aspect. And After Twelve Weeks Of Taking The Pills - Real Or Placebo - They Re-Interviewed The Men. It Turned Out That All The Men Became More Likely, As The Researchers Put It, To "Experience Successful Intercourse." Those Who Drank The Drug Were Five Times More Likely, And Those Who Drank The Placebo Were Twice As Likely.
But Another Pattern Turned Out To Be More Important. The More Sexual Acts Ended "Successfully" - The More Confident The Man Became In General, Not Only In Sex. As A Result, The Self-Esteem Of Those Who Received The Real Treatment And Became Five Times More Successful In Sex Increased By 36.6%, While Those Who Received The Placebo Increased By 14.1%.