Benefits of Healthy High Self-Esteem
In contrast, a low (or poor) self-esteem tends to be associated with more negative outcomes. Youth with low self-esteem do not feel like they have many positive, worthy characteristics and may feel ashamed, embarrassed, guilty, sad, or angry about themselves. Because of this, they may believe that they do not deserve basic things like food, shelter, love, time, respect, or dignity from others. They may behave in negative, self-defeating ways that end up confirming their poor opinion of themselves. For example, they may convince themselves they aren't smart enough to pass a math test. Because they believe they do not believe themselves capable of earning a good grade, they do not put much energy or effort into preparing for the test. They may also anxiously dwell on thoughts about how badly they're going to perform. They then fail the test, more as a result of lack of sustained study effort, and anxious preoccupation than due to an actual lack of ability. This failure then is interpreted, incorrectly, but with great emotional "truth" weight as further proof that they are indeed bad at math. Further efforts at learning math are then discouraged in the wake of the failure experience. This type of negative feedback cycle of self-defeating thoughts and behavior is sometimes referred to as a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Youth with poor self-esteem are less likely to be happy, and more likely to have emotional and social problems than are their higher self-esteem peers. Lower self-esteem children are less likely to persevere through tough situations, because they assume they lack the ability to be effective in difficult circumstances and so give up too soon. They may be more likely to become victimized or exploited by others, because they do not strongly believe they deserve to be treated well, or because they believe they lack the capabilities necessary to better or escape from their situation.
Children with an overly inflated self-esteem based on a sense of narcissistic entitlement rather than on genuine accomplishment also face difficulties. Such children may complacently view themselves as more perfect and more deserving of access to resources than other children with the result that they come across as arrogant and are ultimately isolated and avoided by peers. They may dismiss and thus fail to benefit from constructive social criticism which other children would use to their benefit so as to identify areas for productive growth or change. They may exhibit "externalization", which is to say that they assume incorrectly that all problems they experience are caused by the failings of other people, and that they have no responsibility to change. Sometimes children with inflated self-esteem will resort to bullying others because they believe they should be allowed to judge others, and to treat them however they wish. Children who do not grow out of this immature, entitled pattern will often go on to have less success than their genuinely high self-esteem counterparts, at least with regard to their ability to form lasting and emotionally satisfying intimate relationships.