On the dynamics of self-esteem : Empirical validation of Basic self-esteem and Earning self-esteem

Abstract: The present thesis aims at distinguishing between self-esteem as basic self-love (basic self-esteem) and self-esteem as related to competence (earning self-esteem). In previous research these two phenomena have most often been studied under one and the same self-esteem concept. In Study 1 the Basic Self-esteem Scale and Earning Self-esteem Scale were developed for capturing these different aspects of self-esteem. The empirical studies generally sustained the assumption that successful acts are unlikely to provide an individual with self-esteem if a basic sense of self-esteem is lacking. In Study 2, individuals with high basic self-esteem, subjected to an achievement test with false feedback, employed an adaptive coping which led to good performance while the unrealistically high ambition in individuals who had low basic self-esteem combined with high earning self-esteem hampered their possibilities to gain additional self-esteem from their achievements. Study 3, which compared the stability over time of two different self-esteem concepts, supported the assumption that basic self-esteem is a more stable indicator of "trait" self-esteem than global self-esteem, which partly reflects competence aspects. That high earning self-esteem increased the instability of global self-esteem suggests further the need to separate self-esteem conceptually from competence. Study 4 investigated the self-esteem structure of fibromyalgia patients and indicated that high earning self-esteem in combination with low basic self-esteem may be a vulnerability factor leading to diffuse bodily symptoms and depression. The results of the four studies offered validity to the construcs of basic and earning self-esteem and suggest that the role of competence in self-esteem acquisition depends on the degree of basic self-esteem. They have also proposed the importance of the dynamic structure of self-esteem for individuals' health and well-being, which is worth investigating in future research.