The Relationship between Self-Esteem and Self-Efficacy and their Development of Self-Concept

Numerous studies have been done on the development of one’s self-concept. Self-concept is defined as how a person perceives, evaluates, or thinks about oneself (Azeez et al., 2015). This term was made widely popular by psychologist Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow who explained self-concept as being a compilation of many different domains of self and as being developed over time.

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Self-concepts encompass peoples likes and dislikes, physical and mental attributes, as well as their strengths and weaknesses. Although self-concept is influenced by many different domains of self, the driving influencers are self-esteem and self-efficacy (Hogg & White, 1999). These terms seem interchangeable, but contrary to common belief, they are completely different and each one helps to develop one’s self-concept in its own way.

In order to understand how self-esteem and self-efficacy influence self-concept, it is important to first understand the characteristics of people with positive and negative self-concept. Those with a positive sense of self-concept have a realistic and good representation of themselves. These people are more academically successful, are highly motivated, and are less prone to confrontation. People with a negative self-concept think very low of themselves. These people have low self-motivation, are less academically active, and are more confrontational. The fundamental characteristics that make up a person’s self-concept are directly related to their self-esteem and self-efficacy. If a person has low self-esteem and low-self efficacy, they are likely to have a negative self-concept and vice versa. The direct correlation of these selves is known as congruence. It is possible however to alter one’s self-concept. In order to change one’s self-concept, they must start by shifting their self-esteem and self-efficacy. This can be done by eliminating negative self-talk, accepting mistakes, recognizing self-worth, and developing a skill set. The fact that by improving one’s self-esteem and self-efficacy can alter one’s self-concept shows that these concepts are closely associated with one another.

Self-esteem refers to the extent to which a person values oneself. This includes the sense of self-worth as well as self-confidence. Self-esteem is an attitude towards oneself whereas self-concept is a more concrete knowledge and total evaluation of who one is as a person. Someone’s self-esteem can influence their academic success, social life, relationships, and mental health. A person with low self-esteem is characterized as having feelings of unhappiness, anxiety, inferiority or superiority, and negativity. Those whose self-esteem is properly balanced are characterized as having a strong sense of responsibility, are goal committed, genuine, and positive. An inflated sense of self-esteem can become a problem when it leads to narcissism. These people often lie or exaggerate, rarely admit flaws, often violates boundaries, and manipulate others. It is important that there is a balance of self-esteem; too little or too much can be harmful to the overall self-concept and wellbeing of a person. Self-esteem affects the physical, moral, social, and academic life of a person (Gupta & Thaplyal, 2015). All of which define the quality of their self-concept.

In 2012, Chain, Feng, Ting, Yi, and Yuin defined self-efficacy as being the belief as an individual to complete a certain goal or task. Self-efficacy refers to confidence in one’s ability to take control over their own behavior, motivations, and social interactions. The confidence of a person due to self-efficacy influences the goals people strive towards, the energy focused on these goals, and the probability of these goals coming to fruition. A person who is considered to have high self-efficacy will be self-confident, willing to take risk, and will obtain a strong sense of accomplishment throughout life. On the other hand, those with low self-efficacy will fear taking risk, failing, and will put a lot of emphasis on what others perceive of them. The extent to which a person believes in completing their goals is directly correlated to their sense of self-concept. If a person is extremely confident and goal oriented, they are more likely to have a positive sense of self-concept; therefore, they will be more likely to give good representation of themselves.

Self-efficacy and self-esteem are two completely different concepts. If a person generally likes themselves that is self-esteem, but if a person believes they can do something that is self-efficacy. Although these terms are different, they do work together to form a personalized self-concept. Frequently, if one is low the other is as well, and vice versa; however, this is not always the case. For example, it is possible to have a high sense of self-efficacy, but low self-esteem. This is largely seen in perfectionists who are capable of completing a task properly, but are over-critical and think very negatively about themselves or their work (Hogg, Terry, & White, 1999).

In 1994, Miller and Pajares conducted a study on 350 undergraduate students in order to evaluate the effects of self-efficacy and self-concept on a student’s ability to perform a series of mathematical problems. The researchers began this experiment by simply asking each student a series of questions such as, “”Are you good at math? The answers to these questions allowed them to measure the student’s self-efficacy and self-concept. The researches then used the Dowling Mathematics Confidence Scale to measure the confidence of the student’s as they completed different components of mathematics. They found that students frequently overestimate their math performance capabilities. This means that they had high self-efficacy when related to mathematics. What is interesting about this study is that in most cases, the student’s self-efficacy was a direct correlation to their self-concept. The researches saw consistent similarities in the level of confidence a student had in their mathematic capabilities and their overall self-concept and how they perceived themselves in other aspects of their lives. If people were overly confident in their abilities they were also explained as having an unrealistic sense of self-concept. The study focuses on mathematic skills of college students, but it gives a great example of how self-efficacy builds a person’s self-concept. Though self-esteem was only briefly mentioned in the study, one can infer that if a person had high self-efficacy and an altered or elevated sense of self-concept, they would probably have an elevated self-esteem as well. Miller and Pajares successfully demonstrate how self-efficacy and congruence between different selves plays a major role in developing one’s self-concept.

Another study was done in 1994 by Mutran and Reitzes on 800 men and women of varying job statuses and walks of life. The researchers analyzed these adult’s self-esteem and compared them to other factors in their lives. From this, they found many different factors influenced a person’s self-esteem, which in turn influenced their self-concept. For example, those who obtained and oversaw more roles in their life had higher self-esteem. This self-esteem boosted other aspect of their attitudes, relationships, and commitment which in turn influences their personal self-concept. Another interesting finding of this study is that a person’s self-esteem is directly correlated to their sense of commitment to their work of family. A sense of connected to one’s self-efficacy. Yet again, this study is an example of how tightly related self-esteem, self-efficacy, and self-concept truly are.

Research has proven that self-esteem and self-efficacy are the key developing factors of self-concept. These factors allow people to understand their personalities, capabilities, and skills. One’s self-concept cannot be fully developed without the support of self-esteem and self-efficacy. A person’s confidence in their abilities is what drives them to achieve their goals. Without this, how would one find purpose in their life? A person’s belief or knowledge of their self-worth is what influences their behaviors, relationships, and attitude. Self-concept is a dynamic, comprehensive knowledge of who a person is at their core. Without self-efficacy or self-esteem, one’s true self could never truly be defined.

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