3 Types of Self Esteem that Should Matter to You

Written by Karl Perera MA, DipLC.

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There are a few different ways to categorise the types of self esteem. One of the most useful ways is to list three types of self esteem according to level: Inflated self esteem, high self esteem and low self esteem. But it can also be divided up into different types such as Global and Specific self esteem. On this page we will look at these different types of self esteem and how they differ. Understanding this will help you to learn how to improve self esteem either in yours or that of others.

With my years of writing about self esteem and related topics, both online and in my published work, and with many years working with those who suffer from low self esteem and associated issues such as depression or lack of confidence, I will try to simplify this so anyone can understand and use this helpful information to improve self esteem.

The three types of self esteem can be defined as inflated, high and low. Alternatively, self esteem can be described as global or specific. Global self esteem is based on self evaluation, whereas specific self esteem is related to behaviour.

Let’s first take a closer look at what these different types of self esteem are, and what the various terms used to describe the different kinds of self esteem actually mean.

What are the Three Types Of Self Esteem?

As we briefly mentioned above one of the most common ways to describe the different types of self esteem is to use the following terms:

  • Inflated self-esteem
  • High self-esteem
  • Low self-esteem

Let’s take a look at each of these types of self esteem and discuss what they mean and how knowing this could help you.

What is Inflated Self Esteem?

Inflated self esteem is an excessive amount of self esteem, and is generally seen as a negative. There are many reasons why someone may have inflated self-esteem, but one major cause is a sense of entitlement which those who have money or power may feel (see Piff, 2013). Someone who has been brought up in a wealthy might feel entitled or act as if they are superior in some way.

Those who suffer from an inflated sense of the self may exhibit violent and aggressive behaviour. This study by Shreer (2002) also found that inflated self esteem can be a cause for aggressive driving. One reason for these findings could be that violence, aggression and risky behaviour such as driving aggressively are often due to a lack of self control which is something that this type of self esteem may cause.

What is High Self Esteem and is it Always Positive?

High self esteem is generally thought to be a good thing but most people are unaware that it can have negative consequences too such as arrogance or narcissism (see Baumeister and Boden, 1998).

If someone has an over inflated sense of their own self worth they may take on more than they can cope with. They may make unrealistic goals or take risks because they feel they can do more than they really can. According to this article by Baumeister et al. (1993), those with high self esteem may actually fail more often than those with low self esteem for the above reasons.

Secure High Self Esteem

This is positive self esteem built on a solid foundation that will help someone feel psychologically balanced and happy with who they are. This can also be called explicit self esteem and is regarded as positive.

Fragile High Self Esteem

Is a level of self esteem that can be vulnerable and needs to be constantly validated (Zeigler-Hill, 2005). This type of self esteem can also be called implicit self esteem and is based on fooling the self with cliche statements designed to boost self esteem. This kind of self esteem may make a person open to threats to confidence and may cause instability in self worth.

What is Low Self Esteem and Why is it a Problem?

According to Baumeister and Boden (1998), low self esteem can be linked to violence and aggressive behaviour. Low self esteem can also a lack of self confidence, anxiety and depression.

According to Foster et al. (2003), low self esteem can affect all ages. Because of the important and frequent life changes and experiences that young people, especially teenagers, go through, they can suffer from self doubt and indecision plus a great deal of stress and emotion.

What are the Two Types of Self esteem?

What is Global Self esteem?

Global self esteem is that which is based on our own self evaluation. In other words, this type of self esteem is what we think of and how we value ourselves. It is related to our psychological health (Rosenberg et al., 1995).

Dutton and Brown (1997) showed in this study that global self-esteem affects a person’s emotional reactions to performance or success. Therefore, global self esteem can maintain and improve motivation.

For younger people global self esteem has been linked to problems with social behaviour, violence and criminal behaviour (Donnellan et al. 2005).

What is Specific Self Esteem?

Another type of self esteem is specific to a certain aspect of our lives. For example, academic self esteem would be how one thinks of him or herself academically. Rosenberg et al. (1995) state that specific self esteem is all about behaviour and achievement or perceived success in a certain activity or field.

As an example of how specific self esteem works, imagine someone who has a high level of global self esteem and believes they are good at sports, but they have low specific self esteem in regards to playing tennis, for example, they believe they can’t serve very well. They will probably avoid playing tennis but be successful at sports in general and feel good about that. If, however, they are persuaded to play tennis the global self esteem will help them do their best, but the specific component may hinder them. The point is that the global attitudes will likely help them to overcome their specific attitudes and they will try harder.

What to do to Build Your Self Esteem?

If, after reading the above you feel you need help building your self esteem and confidence, this page offers you self esteem activities you can try and advise you what to do next, so go take a look now.

References

  • Baumeister, R. F., & Boden, J. M. (1998). Aggression and the self: High self-esteem, low self-control, and ego threat. In Human aggression (pp. 111-137). Academic Press.
  • Baumeister, R. F., Heatherton, T. F., & Tice, D. M. (1993). When ego threats lead to self-regulation failure: Negative consequences of high self-esteem. Journal of personality and social psychology64(1), 141.
  • Brown, J. D., & Marshall, M. A. (2006). The three faces of self-esteem. Self-esteem issues and answers: A sourcebook of current perspectives, 4-9. https://faculty.washington.edu/jdb/448/448articles/kernis.pdf
  • Donnellan, M. B., Trzesniewski, K. H., Robins, R. W., Moffitt, T. E., & Caspi, A. (2005). Low self-esteem is related to aggression, antisocial behavior, and delinquency. Psychological science16(4), 328-335.
  • Dutton, K. A., & Brown, J. D. (1997). Global self-esteem and specific self-views as determinants of people’s reactions to success and failure. Journal of personality and social psychology73(1), 139.
  • Foster, J. D., Campbell, W. K., & Twenge, J. M. (2003). Individual differences in narcissism: Inflated self-views across the lifespan and around the world. Journal of Research in Personality37(6), 469-486.
  • Piff, P. K. (2014). Wealth and the inflated self: Class, entitlement, and narcissism. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin40(1), 34-43.
  • Rosenberg, M., Schooler, C., Schoenbach, C., & Rosenberg, F. (1995). Global self-esteem and specific self-esteem: Different concepts, different outcomes. American sociological review, 141-156. https://www.jstor.org/stable/2096350
  • Schreer, G. E. (2002). Narcissism and aggression: Is inflated self-esteem related to aggressive driving. North American Journal of Psychology4(3), 333-342.
  • Walker, J. S., & Bright, J. A. (2009). False inflated self-esteem and violence: A systematic review and cognitive model. The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology20(1), 1-32. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14789940701656808
  • Zeigler‐Hill, V. (2006). Discrepancies between implicit and explicit self‐esteem: Implications for narcissism and self‐esteem instability. Journal of personality74(1), 119-144.

Website Author and Your Guide

Karl Perera is a fully qualified Life Coach (DipLC), Teacher (MA), and author of the book Self Esteem Secrets. He has taught at various universities including Durham, Leicester and Anglia Ruskin, Cambridge. He has run More-SelfEsteem.com since 1997 since suffering from low self esteem for more than 25 years overcoming it in his thirties.