An adequate self-esteem has been linked to greater success and happiness, while low self-esteem has been linked to disorders such as depression and learned helplessness. Self-esteem is the value we give to ourselves and our feelings. In other words: it’s how much you appreciate and like yourself.
Many think that self-esteem is a stable and lasting personality trait, but that’s not true. In the same way that we can develop a good self-esteem, we can also lose it. Self-esteem is more like a plant that we must take care of and protect every day.
Why is self-esteem so important?
Self-esteem plays a transcendental role in the motivation and success we will have in life. Low self-esteem can prevent you from succeeding simply because you think you do not have the qualities necessary to succeed. On the contrary, an adequate self-esteem will encourage you to make an effort, it will allow you to face adversity with a more positive attitude and will keep you motivated along the way.
Self-esteem is also important because it determines our feelings. A person with a low self-esteem may succeed in some areas of his life, but even so, he will not be satisfied with himself, which will turn him unhappy. A person with a healthy self-esteem will not be recriminated or blamed in vain, he will take note of his mistakes, learn the lesson and move on.
How does self-esteem change by age?
Self-esteem, like personality, changes over the years. The usual thing is that as we face different life experiences, we mature, so that the different pieces of our personality fit better.
Psychologists from the University of Bern discovered that, as a general rule, self-esteem reaches its peak at age 60. To reach this conclusion, they analyzed more than 331 studies on self-esteem in people of different ages. Thus they managed to identify a pattern that remained stable regardless of the year of birth, gender and nationality: self-esteem improves until it reaches its peak at age 60, then gradually decreases after 70 years old.
They also noted that self-esteem usually increases from 4 to 11 years old, from then until the age of 13 there is a slight decline, linked to the difficult transition from childhood to adolescence and the problems of self-image and self-concept. Then it remains stable until approximately 15 years old and, once the person solves the typical conflicts of adolescence and youth, self-esteem grows rapidly until age 30, when growth moderates but continues to rise until 60 years old.
Of course, this study refers to the oscillations of self-esteem in a “natural” way, which does not mean that we can not develop a solid self-esteem much earlier in life and it is not a guarantee that when we reach 60 years old our self-esteem will be bulletproof.
However, the usual thing is that as we face different experiences in life, we gain the maturity and confidence we need to underpin the foundations of a solid self-esteem. In adolescence and youth we tend to have an artificially high self-esteem, which means that we have developed a relatively distorted vision of our abilities and potential, but as years go by we are testing them and displaying a more realistic vision of ourselves.
The years permit us understand better who we are, feeling good with that self-concept and accept it without conditions or recriminations. While aging we get stripped of social influences and pressures, we gradually reach that wonderful point where we feel that we do not have to prove anything to the world but we can be ourselves without fear of criticism.
We reach the point where we do not need to impress anyone, we do not want to wear disguises or pretend that we are always strong or nice. That wonderful point on the road where we do not want to be like the others but only be ourselves, with our virtues and defects, so perfectly imperfect.
We recognize, accept and like ourselves as we are. And that is the key for having a good self-esteem.
Orth, U. et. Al. (2018) Development of self-esteem from age 4 to 94 years: A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Psychological Bulletin.