What Is the Connection between Self-Esteem and Personality?

Debra Barnhart

Psychological research seems to indicate that self-esteem and personality are closely intertwined. Personality types are often measured according to the five-factor model, also known as the Big Five. The Big Five is a personality model based on five key personality characteristics, as its name implies. Studies have found a correlation between low self-esteem for those people who score negatively and high self-esteem for those who score positively, according to the Big Five personality model. A strong association between depression and low self-esteem is also indicated by these studies. Ideas about self-esteem and personality appear to be based on society's notions of good and bad behavior.

People with low self-esteem tend to be less outgoing.
People with low self-esteem tend to be less outgoing.

Personality is generally believed to be a person’s enduring patterns of thought, emotion and behavior. The Big Five became a widely recognized personality model in the 1980s and 1990s, and Big Five studies have been conducted in 56 nations and 29 languages. The five personality traits are conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness and extraversion.

Excessive criticism by parents while growing up can lead to low self-esteem in adults.
Excessive criticism by parents while growing up can lead to low self-esteem in adults.

To remember the Big Five, people often think of the word canoe. Conscientiousness refers to reliability, organization and discipline, while agreeableness indicates a person’s attitudes toward other people, including the ability to empathize, trust and be helpful. Emotional stability, sense of security, and personal satisfaction are considered measures of levels of neuroticism. Openness represents levels of imagination, intellect and independence. Extraversion refers to the ability to be social and affectionate.

Evaluating what a person likes about him or herself is a common self-esteem exercise.
Evaluating what a person likes about him or herself is a common self-esteem exercise.

Psychological studies based on the Big Five personality model have found a correlation between self-esteem and personality. Self-esteem is often defined as a person’s assessment of his or her value as a human being. Not surprisingly, people who say they are conscientious, agreeable, not neurotic, open new experiences, and extraverted have higher levels of self-esteem. Conversely, those people who are careless, disorganized, suspicious, self-pitying, conforming and reserved generally have lower levels of self-esteem.

A person with higher self-esteem will strive to accomplish more things.
A person with higher self-esteem will strive to accomplish more things.

People often view self-esteem as being an intrinsic notion of self-worth that does not vary too much. Studies seem to indicate, however, that mental health affects levels of self-esteem. Depressed people were found to have lower levels of self-esteem, so it would seem that effective treatment of depression could raise levels of self-esteem.

Someone who has high self-esteem generally socializes more.
Someone who has high self-esteem generally socializes more.

More importantly, it would appear that definitions of self-esteem and personality are based on some values favored by society and experts in psychology, rather than a personal sense of worth. For instance, an organized, disciplined person is valued in the workplace and society in general, while a disorganized, impulsive person is not. A calm person, with a secure sense of self is also valued in society, while an anxious, insecure, self-pitying person is not.

People with high self-esteem are more outgoing.
People with high self-esteem are more outgoing.
A person with high self-esteem generally is more motivated.
A person with high self-esteem generally is more motivated.
A person with high self-esteem typically has a positive outlook.
A person with high self-esteem typically has a positive outlook.
Individuals with low self-esteem tend to be more introverted.
Individuals with low self-esteem tend to be more introverted.

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Discussion Comments

SarahGen

I'm sure that personality affects self esteem. After all, our personality determines our worldview and the way we see ourselves. So naturally, our sense of self worth is linked to our personality.

That being said, I don't think that people are born with a certain level of self esteem. Even personality is not static, it can and does change over time. I'm sure that if someone took the Big Five model test five years apart, the results would not be the same. Our psychology and opinions change with time. Our experiences lead to these changes.

fBoyle

@turquoise-- I'm not an expert on this topic so I'm not sure.

As far as I know, self-esteem is a factor that influences personality, but not the only one. The strongest connection between self esteem and personality is life satisfaction. Those with high self esteem, have higher levels of life satisfaction. I think the general idea is that self esteem influences factors contributing to personality. At least this is the theory behind the Big Five model.

I'm not sure if the opposite is true as well. I also have no idea whether people are born with predetermined levels of self esteem. I have not come across any studies about it but it's an interesting thought. I think that should be studied.

turquoise

So does personality determine self-esteem or does self-esteem determine personality? I've always suspected that some people are born with low self esteem. The connection between self esteem and personality seems to support this idea.

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