New Directions in the Controversial Study of Self-esteem: A Review with Suggestions for Future Research

Famira Racy


The construct of self-esteem (SE) is controversial due to conceptual and methodological problems that have led to the near abandonment of its study. While little is known about the theoretical underpinnings of SE and its functions, clinicians, educators, organizational leaders, and policy-makers dangerously push for SE programs in hopes of boosting performance. Attempting to boost performance using unsubstantiated praise as a motivator may actually contribute to egotistical and narcissistic attitudes and related behaviours, yet good performances tend to raise self-ratings of SE.There are still good reasons to study SE because evidence supports positive relationships between SE and happiness, SE and well-being, as well as low SE and anxiety, rumination, depression, and poor self-regulation. Self-evaluation and self-regulation are strongly related to both SE and the cognitive phenomenon of inner speech (IS), and both SE and IS are strongly influenced by individual and contextual differences. Therefore, I use the present review to theorize about functions of SE within a self-system, place the study within current paradigms considering both psychological and social influences, and offer suggestions for future research in fundamental SE phenomenology using IS sampling.


self-esteem, self-evaluation, self-concept, self-regulation, self-system, inner-speech, descriptive experience sampling (DES), terror management theory (TMT), sociometer theory


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