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Do You Love Yourself?Yonseians’ Self-esteem
Ha He-bin  |
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승인 2014.06.02  15:38:09
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Do You Love Yourself?
Yonseians’ Self-esteem

JOHN HERSCHEL, an English astronomer and mathematician once said, “Self-esteem is the cornerstone of all virtue.” As shown in this phrase, self-esteem is one of the most essential and important assets in our lives. With self-esteem, one can have strong belief and love toward him or herself, overcoming many obstacles in life without being severely depressed. However, even though self-esteem is essential in our lives, when it is overly heightened, it will not always bring out positive results. How is your self-esteem? How much do you love yourself?

*Survey Respondents

Total: 526

Sex: Male 48% Female 52%

What is self-esteem?

   According to the Dictionary for Educational Psychology, self-esteem is a strong belief in which people accept and love themselves as they are. Since it is based on someone’s own belief, it is quite a personal and a subjective concept, rather than an objective judgment. It is closely related with some key instruments in one’s life, such as scholastic aptitude, leadership and personal relations. Self-esteem largely affects these key elements, but at the same time, the same key elements affect one’s self-esteem as well. Because of this, one can have multiple forms of self-esteems. For example, someone can have high level of self-esteem regarding appearance, but at the same time have quite a low level of self-esteem when it comes to one’s academic knowledge.

   Then, it is pretty easy to be confused between self-esteem, self-confidence and self-respect. These three concepts are very similar in that they are all about one’s intrinsic positive belief about oneself. To begin with, when you have strong self-confidence, it means that you strongly believe that you can successfully achieve a certain goal. Thus, self-confidence is very similar to self-esteem. However, self-respect and self-esteem are clearly distinguished in terms of where they come from. Unlike self-esteem, which comes from within one’s own opinion of oneself, self-respect is built based on competition and comparison between oneself and others; thus, it is similar to the sense of superiority or inferiority, and is likely to change according to the comparison between oneself and other people. For example, you can have heightened self-respect when you win in a competition or feel that you are superior to someone else. In contrast, when you lose in competitions or are in an inferior situation to someone else, your self-respect would greatly go down. Still, these three concepts are closely interrelated, influencing each other.

   Though self-esteem does not easily fluctuate depending on other people’s evaluations, it is still affected by many elements and can be changed throughout one’s lifetime. One of the elements may be the scholastic aptitude, especially for the students. According to the survey conducted by The Yonsei Annals, 39% of the respondents answered that their scholastic aptitude is the factor that influences the most in raising their self-esteem. Likewise, the smallest number of respondents chose scholastic aptitude as an element that lowers their self-esteem (12%). Regarding this result, Seo Young-seok (Prof., Dept. of Education, Yonsei Univ.) said that since Korean society puts on large values on entering universities, it may be pretty natural that many Yonseians feel higher self-esteem about their scholastic aptitude. On the other hand, the largest portion of the respondents answered that appearance lowers their self-esteem the most (30%). Anonymous student A (Soph., Dept. of Public Admin.) said "Among the various elements, my appearance often lowers my self-esteem. I think it is because appearance is an element which is pretty hard for me to change or improve easily on my own." However, a person being exceptionally beautiful or handsome does not automatically mean that he/she has high level of self-esteem. Sun Ahn-nam, a writer and psychology consultant also emphasizes in his book, Power of Self-esteem That Promotes Happiness that it is important to have a positive image about one’s appearance regardless of how they actually look like.

   Though there are numerous elements that can directly or indirectly influence someone’s self-esteem, they can be categorized into two parts. First, the relationship between one’s parents and oneself is one of the most important factors that largely affect   self-esteem. When children experience emotional rejections from their parents, it leads to low self-esteem, thinking that their parents do not love them. Interestingly, not only the negative rejection from the parents but also receiving positive expectation can sometimes lower down one’s self-esteem. Koh Hye-jung (Prof., Dept. of Education, Seoul National Univ.) points out that if parents have too much expectation on their children’s scholastic aptitude, their kids might form low self-esteem when they fail to meet those high expectations. Also, the self-esteem of their parents can sometimes be directly handed down to their kids. If the parents have low self-esteem, it is likely that they express their dissatisfaction about themselves in front of their children, passing down similar mindset.

   Another factor that affects one’s self-esteem is personal experience. In most cases, one’s experiences can be divided into positive experiences and negative experiences. It is reasonable that positive experiences, such as winning a prize or receiving praise from other people most likely raise one’s self-esteem. On the other hand, negative experiences would lower the self-esteem since they can lead to self-criticism. However, sometimes, negative experiences can work in a way that raises someone’s self-esteem. Sun asserts that when someone goes through negative experiences and successfully overcomes those obstacles, it would largely raise the self-esteem. Though personal experience could play a significant role in most of the students’ self-esteem, students who are mentally or physically handicapped may have their disabilities playing a bigger role in their self-esteem. Those people are usually apt to have lower self-esteem because they usually have many difficulties when carrying out common everyday activities.

 What is the most reasonable self-esteem?

   Even though self-esteem plays an essential role in our lives, we should always remain alert of having overly heightened self-esteem. Inflated self-esteem may lead to narcissism, which is an excessive love about oneself. When someone has excessive self-esteem, he/she becomes arrogant and looks down on other people, thinking that others are inferior. They may also be aggressive sometimes when someone else gives a negative opinion of them, because they often have distorted and exaggerated image about themselves. On the other hand, when someone’s self-esteem is too low, it can also create a lot of problems. When people have low level of self-esteem, they cannot acknowledge their strengths. They always blame themselves for small mistakes and are afraid of failure even before they start. Moreover, they are overly sensitive about the external evaluation made on them by other people.

   Then what is the most reasonable form of self-esteem? To have a good form of self-esteem, it is important to love oneself, but at the same time, be able to directly confront their shortcomings that need improvement. Therefore, when someone has a self-esteem that is too low or overly heightened, he/she might need a proper solution. However, since self-esteem is rooted in one’s own judgment about oneself, it can be raised by a simple change in mindset. Anna Freud, one of the psychologist once said, "I was always looking outside myself for strength and confidence, but it comes from within. It is there all the time,” emphasizing that self-esteem can be recovered within oneself. Therefore, one of the solutions is to stop blaming ourselves.

   Rolf Merkle, a psychological consultant and writer, gives concrete solutions in his book Why Can’t I Love Myself? for overcoming low self-esteem. He suggests that the most important thing is to have “reconciliation” with a blamer inside you. According to him, people should understand their problems and encourage themselves while focusing on and praising their strengths. Only then, will they reconcile with the blamer. He also added one more specific method to raise one’s self-esteem in terms of the appearance. According to him, even though the appearance is not directly related to one’s self-esteem, it is still effective to embellish yourself for raising the self-esteem. When you buy new cloths that look good on you, it will give help raise your self-esteem.

   However, some people may still have difficulty in keeping a stable form of self-esteem even though they tried to change their mindset. For these people, they need external help. One of the external help one can receive is from counseling. Seo suggests those who have problems with self-esteem visit counselors to understand themselves better.. For those who have overly lowered self-esteem, counselors can help them find out their good points and internalize them. As for the people who have inflated self-esteem, counselors help them change the distorted and exaggerated image about themselves. As for the people who have low self-esteem due to the physical disabilities, proper education and medical care can help them to raise their self-esteem.


A simple test to measure your self-esteem developed by Rosenberg


   A psychologist named Rosenberg M., Ph.D. developed a scale that can measure one’s self-esteem by answering 10 simple questions. You can answer the following questions as Strongly Agree (SA), Agree (A), Disagree (D), and Strongly Disagree (SD).

1.       On the whole, I am satisfied with myself.

2.       At times, I think I am no good at all.

3.       I feel that I have a number of good qualities.

4.       I am able to do things as well as most other people.

5.       I feel I do not have much to be proud of.

6.       I certainly feel useless at times.

7.       I feel that I am a person of worthy, at least on an equal plane with others.

8.       I wish I could have more respect for myself.

9.       All in all, I am inclined to feel that I am a failure.

10.    I take a positive attitude toward myself.

* How to calculate your self-esteem:






Number 1,3,4,7,10

4 points

3 points

2 points

1 points

Number 2,5,6,8,9

1 points

2 points

3 points

4 points

* What your score means: This scale is not for providing exact criteria to decide whether your self-esteem is high or low. Instead, with the score, you can compare it with the average of Yonseians and judge the relative level of your self-esteem. According to the survey conducted by the Annals, the average score of Yonseians was 27.99. 

A Report About Yonseian’s Self-esteem

 1. The Annals asked the students’ personal opinions about their self-esteem on a scale of 1 to 7. Many students chose 5 or 6 which is relatively high. However, at the same time, a decent number of students answered 3 or 4 which is relatively low.

2. Many respondents seem to think that the fact that they attend Yonsei University largely influences their self-esteem. Anonymous student B (Soph., Dept. of Applied Statistics) says, "To raise my self-esteem, I thought I should study harder than other students. Therefore, I tried my best and entered Yonsei University. Some might think that I am somehow showing off myself, but I am sure that this is one of the most important elements that raise my self-esteem.”

3. For some respondents, the period when their self-esteem was the highest shows that their self-esteem is largely influenced by the scholastic aptitude. Anonymous student C (Jr., Dept. of Education) said, “I had to study one more year to reapply for college after I graduated from high school. During that period, my self-esteem was not high due to my low academic results. However, as times went by, I studied hard and my academic results got better, which recovered my self-esteem.”

*                 *                 *


   Self-esteem gives vitality and helps us to overcome many obstacles in our everyday lives, so it is essential if we are to enrich the quality of our lives. This might be especially important for university students, because being a university student means a lot of variations in everyday life, which may result in instability in self-esteem. Under this situation, it is strongly advised that all students try their best to maintain the proper level of self-esteem. At the same time, it is also important to keep in mind where their self-esteem comes from; out of their honor and love toward them, not based on the evaluations about one by other people.

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