There are different types of self-esteem depending on whether it is high or low and stable or unstable. Self-esteem is one of the most relevant factors for personal well-being and a key to relate to the environment around us in a positive way.

Since different types of self-esteem have their peculiarities, in today’s article we will review their characteristics.

Self-esteem and its relationship to well-being

Despite the fact that the concept of self-esteem has been one of the most confused, questioned and analyzed throughout the history of psychology, most experts indicate that it is an element that is innate to each individual and is exposed to multiple modifications throughout our lives.

Self-esteem evolves and develops due to the relationship with the world, and changes constantly as it is linked to the change in society. Different social and cultural contexts will correspond with different perceptions about what we consider to be healthy self-esteem.

The 4 types of self-esteem

As we have mentioned, self-esteem needs to be nurtured, in varying degrees, from the outside. Although the foundations are built during childhood, self-esteem is not unchangeable in other stages of life.

It is important to note that self-esteem is not the same as self-confidence. Self-confidence (also called self-efficacy) is related to the specific objectives and goals we set for ourselves, while self-esteem refers to the overall assessment we make of ourselves.

Since self-efficacy refers to the confidence in one’s ability to accomplish a specific task, someone may think he is very good at tennis, however he may have low self-esteem: he may want to be taller or have a better physique, but he is confident in his ability to beat his opponents on a tennis court. Self-efficacy may positively affect an individual’s self-esteem if he or she considers it a priority in life.

To learn more about self-confidence, you can visit our article “Albert Bandura’s Self-Confidence: Do You Believe in Yourself?

Factors explaining good (or bad) self-esteem

It seems that there are 4 relevant factors that affect self-esteem, they are the following:

  • The history of triumphs and the position reached through the recognition that triumphs bring.
  • The areas associated with the different triumphs, as long as they are significant for the person.
  • The respect, acceptance and interest that the individual receives from the people he considers important in his life.
  • The control and the defence against negative consequences and implications . That is, the internal or external attribution that the person makes of the negative events.

In his book Self-esteem and identity. Narcissism and Social values , Luis Hornstein proposes 4 types of self-esteem. According to the author, the types of self-esteem vary because the assessment of oneself can be more or less high and more or less stable.

Here are the 4 types of self-esteem:

1. High and stable self-esteem

External circumstances and life events have little influence on self-esteem. People with this type of self-esteem are open-minded because they do not need to defend their image, they defend themselves. Moreover, the person is able to defend his point of view without becoming destabilized.

2. High and unstable self-esteem

People with this type of self-esteem have high self-esteem but are unable to maintain it consistently. Competitive environments can have a destabilizing effect. They respond with a critical attitude to failure , as these are perceived as threats. The individual will show conviction in defending his point of view, but will not accept other points of view and will tend to monopolize the word in a discussion.

The instability of self-esteem leads to placing self-esteem as a central concern and requires preserving it at all costs and appealing to an aggressive (to promote it) or passive (to protect it) attitude.

3. Low and stable self-esteem

In cases where there is low and stable self-esteem, external events (whether favourable or not) do not alter the self-esteem of the subject, who makes no effort to promote his personal image and is undervalued.

Individuals with this type of self-esteem are indecisive and have a great fear of being wrong . These people do not defend their points of view because their self-esteem is always negative; they believe that they are not up to it.

This type of self-esteem is very frequent in people with depressive tendencies , who because of their pessimistic mentality do not usually perceive their personal achievements as such, assuming that they are the result of luck or chance.

4. Low and unstable self-esteem

People with this type of self-esteem are often sensitive and influenced by external events . As soon as they are faced with a successful event, their self-esteem rises, but as soon as the euphoria of the moment ends, their level of self-esteem falls again.

That is, this type of self-esteem is defined by its lack of solidity and the instability it presents , which makes it highly sensitive to all kinds of events, however irrelevant they may seem from a rational point of view.

Certain types of narcissistic people, for example, are characterized among other things by low self-esteem and are highly dependent on the perceived opinion of others.

To learn more about this kind of self-esteem, I recommend you read this article: “Low self-esteem? When you become your own worst enemy”

Bonus: Inflated self-esteem

Other authors also talk about a type of self-esteem that is detrimental to well-being, inflated self-esteem . But what is inflated self-esteem?

The person with inflated self-esteem is unable to listen to others , let alone accept or acknowledge a mistake. Their perception of themselves is so inflated that they think they are better than everyone else. When things get complicated, they don’t recognize their mistakes and immediately blame others. This type of attitude generates negative behaviours because they are not able to make self-criticism and correct mistakes . In general, these individuals despise others and adopt a hostile behaviour towards them.