Self-Esteem: Its Causes, Impact, and Possible Solutions

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Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Self-Esteem: A Literature Review on its Causes, Impact, and Possible Solutions
    Literature review
  • Causes of high or low self-confidence
  • Parenting style
  • Genetics and Heredity
  • Past Experiences
    Impact of a person’s state of self-esteem in different aspects of his/her life
    Impact of parenting style
    Impact of the past experiences
  • Conclusion
  • Gaps and Limitations
    Further Research


Self-esteem has always raised many scientists’ interest, as to what causes high or low self-esteem. This literature review focuses on presenting several possible influencers of self-esteem, how it affects several aspects of one’s life and what can be done to improve it. Several causes have been identified such as parenting styles, genetics, gender differences, past experiences, which can influence one’s personality, performance in workplace and the ability to deal with difficult situations throughout life. This literature review brings to light some possible solutions that will help people increase their self-confidence and self-esteem.

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Keywords: Self-Esteem, Self-confidence, causes, high self-esteem, low self-esteem, factors, Impact, solutions, parenting style, genetics, past experiences.

Self-Esteem: A Literature Review on its Causes, Impact, and Possible Solutions

“Until you value yourself, you won't value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it. ”― psychiatrist M. Scott Peck. Why is there a lot of research about self-esteem? This has been the center of interest of numerous philosophers, psychologists and social scientists. Self-esteem is when a person is confident about his abilities and self-worth. The reason behind the restless research regarding all that concerns self-esteem is that without it, a person would not be capable of reaching his/her full potential, not just in one but in all the aspects of life. Previous studies have shown some of the consequences of having extremely low sense of self-esteem, and some of the results have proven to be dangerous and even life threatening. For more than at least 30 years many specialists concerned with this issue have been trying to find the main influencers of the state of a person’s self-esteem in order to be able to come up with effective solutions to achieve a balanced and genuine self-esteem that will help people reach their full potential and be comfortable with who they are. The following literature review presents information about various definitions of self-esteem, what influences one’s self-esteem, its impact on one’s life and possible solutions that will help improve it.

Literature review

A large number of existing studies is the broad literature have examined the topic of self-confidence or self-esteem. Self-esteem is when a person has confidence in his/her own capabilities and it’s a significant aspect of anyone’s life because it shapes one’s present and future (Jadon & Tripathi, 2017). In addition, self-esteem also influences one’s evaluation towards himself or herself whether someone thinks positively towards his own self or not (Neiss, Sedikides, Stevenson, 2002). However, previous research shows that self-esteem can be interpreted in a different way, although similar to self-confidence but is another form of self-favorability, which is known as Narcissism (Tray, Cheng, Robins, Trzesniewski, 2009).

The majority of prior research have similar views about the definition of self-esteem, although small differences exist regarding what self-esteem is, either one’s belief in is/her own abilities or a general view of one’s self. Either way, this topic is integrated in different aspects, such as parenting, workplace environment, gender-specific study, and all are in some way linked to one another. There exists a considerable body of literature on self-confidence which further proves the importance of this topic and emphasizes its involvement in people’s daily lives.

Causes of high or low self-confidence

Parenting style

Several theories have been proposed regarding the causes for different states of a person’s self-esteem. One study shows that the main influencer of one’s self-esteem is the parenting style that he/she had been exposed to (Jadon & Tripathi, 2017). The research mentions different styles of parenting, such as authoritarian, authoritative, permissive/indulgent parenting, and neglectful parenting. This article strongly suggests that authoritarian parenting style is not the right parenting style and it casues low-self esteem and it favors the authoritative parenting style and claims that this parenting style is the best in order to raise self-confident children ( Jadon & Tripathi, 2017).

Genetics and Heredity

Another study has been conducted in an attempt to determine the causes of high or low self-esteem, and this study shows the role of genetics and DNA in explain one’s self-esteem. The authors show that our self-esteem is not entirely defined by external factors and that there are some genetic fathers that influence a significant part of our self-esteem (Neiss, Sedikides, Stevenson, 2002). Regardless of their focus that may be responsible for defining one’s self-esteem, such as environmental factos or individual experiences (Neiss, Sedikides, Stevenson, 2002).

Past Experiences

It is noteworthy to bring to light a common factor found in several research studies. There is one cause of high or low self-esteem that is repeated by several authors, which is the past experiences that people have lived through. Parenting style is one considered the first of anyone’s past experiences. The authors who considered genetics to be one of the causes of the state of one’s self-esteem also mention that “…change in self-esteem can largely be explained by the unique environmental events that individuals experience “ (Neiss, Sedikides, Stevenson, 2002). In addition, another research discovers a more specific aspect of self-confidence, and talks about how childhood experiences cause either a very strong and positive sense of self-confidence in a person or lead towards a negative version of self-esteem when a person grows to become narcissistic. According to the authors, narcissism starts to develop at a young age, when a child is pressured by parents to exhibit perfect performance in everything they do and when they demand standards that overwhelm the child (Tray, Cheng, Robins & Tresniewski, 2009).

Past experiences also tend to be present in studies regarding one’s performance in the workplace. The author of the following literature names four sources of self-efficacy /self-esteem and claims that employees tend to be able to succeed at certain tasks more when have previously experienced success with similar tasks (Malik, 2013). ¬¬There are diverse opinions on the causes of high or low, positive or negative self-esteem. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that some causes are not factual and reasonable. Although the authors Jadon and Tripathi show bias towards authoritative parenting style and are judgmental towards the authoritarian parenting style , that doesn’t eliminate the negative influence this type of parenting can have on children. Authoritative parenting style may not be perfect or “just right” as the authors claim but we cant deny that it influences children positively as they grow up. As for the article discussing the possible genetic influence, the authors were persuasive with their claim and respectful towards other possible influencers of self-esteem.

Impact of a person’s state of self-esteem in different aspects of his/her life

Impact of parenting style

The state of one’s self-esteem greatly influences his/her future. For instance, the permissive parenting style, when parents show respect and trust and set reasonable boundaries to the child, as he grows older he becomes more self-confident about his own abilities whereas the authoritarian parenting style renders the child incapable of dealing with certain situations he might face in his life due to his low self-esteem and feelings of inferiority and low sense of self-worth ( Jadon & Tripathi, 2017). When it comes to genetics, due to the various differences emphasized by society, and certain preassigned gender roles, girls sometimes feel that they are incapable of excelling in certain areas of their lives, for instance their careers, and this may also apply to men. So they would be able to learn from their mistakes or listen to constructive critiques, affecting negatively their professional development (Faber and Rickenberg, 1999).

Impact of the past experiences

It was reported in the literature regarding childhood experiences causing narcissism that this can influence one’s life greatly , causing antisocial behavior, negative interpersonal relationships, in addition to aggression, rejection sensitivity, trait anxiety, social phobia, attachment insecurities and poor relationship qualities (Tray, Cheng, Robins, Tresniewski, 2009).

Possible Solution to improve one’s self-esteem and consequently other aspects of a person’s life.

Several methods are reported in the previous studies as to how to help improve self-confidence. For instance, Jadon and Tripathi suggest authoritative parenting to be the best at increasing self-esteem. Other research literature makes it the workplace leader’s responsibility to be able to create certain environment at the workplace to improve the employees self-confidence (Maliks, 2003). Another research regarding gender differences, suggest a certain program that will make those who underestimate their abilities come to visualize their own potential, and those who have unrealistic sense of confidence be more aware of what they’re truly capable of ( Faber and Rickenberg, 1999).

Some solutions among the mentioned are reasonable. For instance, the suggestion about the workplace leader’s responsibility to improve employees’ performance is logical but I believe that self-confidence, being part hereditary, part developed during childhood, the most significant and influencial step should start from the beginning, with a good environment provided in the family. Various factors play a role simultaneously in shaping a person’s self-esteem, and this tends to be the most influential when a person is at a young age because the most basic traits of a person are developed when he/she is still a child and newly developing (dalgas-Pelish, 2006). Hence parenting style is crucial in shaping a child’s self-esteem. It doesn’t have to be perfect because there is no such thing as a perfect parenting style but a balanced one that will direct the child to a path of self-confidence, to reach a state where environmental or external challenges wouldn’t easily break a person’s sense of self-worth.

This section presents a review of a literature on the effects of self-esteem Intervention program on school-aged children. The author claims that growing a strong sense of self-esteem is very important during childhood in order to be able to confront and overcome future family problems, social pressures and new difficult experiences faced at the early ages ( Dalgas-Pelsih, 2006). This study suggests exposing children to a program where they will gain knowledge and awareness about what self-esteem is, how media influences our perceptions and hence how it influences our self-esteem, in addition to learning how to improve your own self-esteem(Dalgas-Polish, 2006).

According to this study, there are several steps that can be taken to improve self-confidence in children, such as involvement in extra-curricular activities that will increase sense of accomplishment and consequently increase self-worth and self-esteem. Also the environment in the house, the family and how parents treat their children is also one part of the research, and they also say that a healthy development within the house is strongly linked to the child’s self-esteem. Divorce and/or living with one parent also has a negative impact on the child, therefore the program helps such children gain knowledge about how to handle such difficult social situations and how to improve self-esteem regarding this area. They also highlight the options girls have for their future in the many cases of lack of self-confidence due to gender differences, society and common beliefs (Daglas-Pelsih, 2006).

I believe that these types of programs are necessary in every country and every school because the previous research regarding the importance of early intervention for a better and higher self-esteem has reasonable information and suggestions. As the author of this article notes earlier, more detailed and clear work has to be done in order to get more specific results and more factors can also be considered and discussed further such as obesity and self-esteem.


We can be born with a certain potential of self-esteem, or build it through good development at an early age or hard work and self-improvement, or all together. Self-esteem has several definitions. It can either refer to one’s own belief in his own value and general sense of self-worth, or one’s ability to succeed at a certain task, or one’s confidence in his/her own abilities. Although the causes of positive or negative self-esteem differ, like parenting style, past experiences or gender differences, the impact of these factors affect a person’s belief in himself/herself can be very strong and very difficult to inverse. It is mentioned in the literature review above the importance of the first years of a child’s life in shaping his/her personality and self-esteem, hence the solution to a positive and real self-esteem starts at an early age, when the child is still learning and developing.

Gaps and Limitations

Although the majority of the research provided above explores a variety of causes and impact on self-esteem, still it does not target the issue worldwide. Accurate conclusions cannot be drawn when the sources restrict their findings within certain countries. For instance research on the parenting style does not include Middle Eastern regions, where parenting styles can be very different from the mentioned countries. Hence a wider research is required in order to reach more reliable and correct answers that can benefit not only one group of people but everyone who is concerned with this issue.

Further Research

The literature review provides several causes and impacts regarding self-esteem, with mainly focusing on genetics, parenting styles and past experiences. However, as some authors note earlier, more work can be done to discover different causes of one’s self-esteem, for instance social media. Social media, now more than ever is almost inescapable. Hence it is an uncontrollable factor that may easily influence children’s self-esteem since they are exposed every day to certain beliefs about what is considered to be good or bad, beautiful or ugly, acceptable or unacceptable.


A balanced parenting style with a healthy environment is crucial in order to grow a strong self-self-esteem that will help us withstand possible ordeals without losing our sense of self-value because as psychiatrist M. Scott Peck has said, if we don’t value ourselves we won’t value our time, and if we don’t value our time, we won’t move forward and live up to our full potential and fulfill our dreams.

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