We are, either explicitly or implicitly, "under examination" all the time with regard to our or others' expectations, or compared to ideal standards, or relative to some specific task. That is why self-esteem is an essential condition for our psychological well-being, as well as a guide for action and goal attainment. But, what is self-esteem, and how much does it depend on our own aspirations, on the importance we attach to possessing certain qualities and skills, and on others' judgement of ourselves? What favours a high o low self-esteem? Is it better to harbour self-enhancing illusions or to stick to dispassionate realism? Is it possible to be successful and yet feel a deep dissatisfaction about oneself or even a sense of personal unworthiness? On the other hand, is it possible to feel good about oneself while acknowledging one's shortcomings and limited potential? A few important distinctions - between stable and unstable, accurate and inaccurate, global and specific self-esteem - allow to answer most of those questions. This book explores the fascinating domain of self-esteem in the light of the relevant social psychological literature, and tries to stress the multifaceted role of self-evaluation in everyday life.
Contents: Introduction. - 1. The Self as the measure of all things. - The manifold roles of the Self. - Public Self and private Self. - 2. Self-evaluation and self-esteem. - Knowing oneself feeling good about oneself: The goals of self-evaluation. - Strategies for defending self-esteem. - 3. High and low self-esteem. - Self-esteem: Ratio between self-evaluations and aspirations. - Gloria and Modesta: Two portraits. - The reverse of the medal: The "cons" of high self-esteem. - 4. Stable and unstable self-esteem. - What does self-esteem instability depend on? The two faces of high self-esteem. - The two faces of low self-esteem. - 5. Psychological well-being versus success, or global self-esteem versus specific self-esteem. - Why many swallows do not always make a summer. - Success and psychological well-being: Sons of different mothers. - Specific and global self-esteem: A two-way road. - 6. The manifold faces of self-esteem. - The dimensions of self-esteem. - The importance of self-evaluation. - The importance of other. - Self-esteem, other needs, and implicit theories.
Maria Miceli is researcher at the Psychological Institute of the National Research Council (Cnr) in Rome.