Tracking Self-Esteem

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tracking self esteemSelf-esteem refers to individual’s emotional evaluation of his/her own worth and personal abilities and capacities. Psychologists believe that self-esteem influences how we feel, act and relate to other people, which makes it one of the central concepts in positive psychology. In general, self-esteem considered to be a trait (a psychological construct that is relatively stable over-time, like personality characteristics), although some psychologists recognize also more short-terms expressions of self-esteem (self-esteem states). I have been tracking my self-esteem since February, and this week finally had a chance to look at the data. I was particularly interested to see its stability over time and throughout the day, and how self-esteem is related to everyday stress, mood and happiness.

While there are dozens of established and validated measures of self-esteem, most of them are too long. After reviewing research literature, I decided to focus on three main dimensions of self-esteem that seemed most relevant to me: my subjective assessment of my physical appearance and looks, my abilities and skills, and my social status and relationships. I set up 10-point scales in my rTracker log to rate each of these dimensions three times a day: in the morning, afternoon, and evening.  The overall self-esteem score was an arithmetic average of all three scores.

The first thing I looked at the fluctuations in my self-esteem. As you can see in the chart below, it was relatively stable, but there were some days with “highs” and “lows”: the average “swing” (difference between the maximum score and minimum score on the same day) was 1.3. The average self-esteem scores were 6.8 (standard deviation =0.8) in the mornings, 6.7 (SD = 0.4) in the afternoons, and 6.8 (SD= 0.4) in the evenings.

Self Esteem Fluctuations

Fluctuations in My Self Esteem Levels in the Mornings (Chart on the Top), Afternoons (Chart in the Middle), and Evenings (Chart on the Bottom), February – March 2013

I then looked at the association between my stress level and self-esteem: the correlation was pretty much non-existent (~ -.01) and non-significant. With the mood, story was different: self-esteem correlated positively with both Positivity (rho ~.31) and Intensity (rho ~ .45). The former is understandable: when I feel better about myself, naturally I should feel good overall, too. The latter correlation is somewhat confusing: higher self-esteem is associated with having “strongly charged” emotions. In other words, every time I feel good about myself, I am also more likely to experience emotions like happiness, thrill, pride, as well as frustration, irritability, anxiety. (For those of you who are familiar with statistics: I also computed partial correlation between self-esteem and mood intensity while controlling for potential effects of mood positivity, and the association was still notable, with r ~.41). I am still trying to figure out how to interpret these results.

Self Esteem Correlations with Mood Intensity and Positivity

Correlations between Self Esteem, and Mood Positivity and Intensity

Finally, I looked at the correlations between Happiness (measured as “How Happy I am”, 10-point scale) and Life Satisfaction (average of responses to six life satisfaction questions, 10-point scale). Both associations were positive and of notable strength: the higher I thought of myself, the more happy I was feeling (rho ~ 0.38) and the more satisfied I was with different aspects of my life (rho ~ 0.53).

Self Esteem Correlations with Happiness and Life Satisfaction

Correlations between Self-Esteem, and Happiness and Life Satisfaction

Based on these findings so far, I can conclude that self-esteem potentially has a significant influence on my happiness and life satisfaction. The next step would be to look into ways to control and boost my self-esteem levels; self-experiments with meditation and nootropics could be a good start. I will keep you posted!

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