FeatureFor StudentsPsychologyScience

‘How good am I?’ The psychology of self-esteem

For many college students, mental health is an issue that gets put on the backburner. Even more so, issues of self-esteem and confidence are cast aside. When it comes to self-esteem, we all seem to have those moments when we doubt ourselves and start the chain of comparing ourselves to others in an unhealthy manner.


“Self-esteem answers the question of how good am I?” University of South Florida St. Petersburg Psychology Professor Wendy Rote said. “It’s an evaluation of worth based on positive and negative perceptions that make up self-concept.”

According to a 2016 study by Telangana State University, 52.5 percent of students reported having low self-esteem.

Our brains are made up of cells called neurons. These help form pathways in the brain and through these pathways, our brains communicate. According to a 2014 study by Dartmouth University, people with low self-esteem suffer from weak connections in the prefrontal cortex to the area of the brain that is associated with reward sensation.

Women generally tend to report low self-esteem more often than males. However, the number of males reported having low self-esteem is still quite high.

According to a 2015 study by Ohio State University, social media has heightened the problem. College-age students have been found to focus too much on self-esteem.

Self-confidence in college students is important to physical well-being. With self-confidence, you’re able to take on situations with good intentions.

Freshman Lauren Obrador views self-esteem in a similar way.

“To me, self-esteem means knowing who I am and being confident in the person that I am today,” Obrador said.

On the other hand, a lack of self-confidence can contribute to other mental health issues that can halt a college career completely according to the National Mental Health Institute.

“Being surrounded by many more people as I’ve entered college has made my self-esteem go down a bit,” freshman Jadesola Fashoro said. “I’ve noticed that I’ve started comparing myself to people more than I did before.”

“Self-esteem is important because it makes us feel good about ourselves,” sophomore Breanna Wallace said. “And, if you’re feeling good about yourself, you’re more likely going to feel more motivated to do things and be productive.”

According to the American Psychological Association, self-esteem grows as we age. However, this may not always be the case for people in college.

Self-esteem can have a tremendous impact on parts on your personality according to a 2001 study by the University of California, Davis. In college, your personality tends to change slightly. Cultivating self-esteem in students is an issue many psychologists and mental health professionals are trying to find an answer to. To this day, the challenge still continues.

According to licensed psychotherapist Allison Abrams, there are many ways in which you can boost your self-esteem. Exercising is one of the most popular forms of stress relief, and a direct link has been found between exercise and higher self-esteem. Another helpful tip is to be mindful of negative self-talk as recognizing the problem can help you distance yourself from it.

If you or someone you know is struggling with issues surrounding self-esteem, call the USFSP Wellness Center at (727) 873- 4422 to schedule an appointment or learn more information. For after-hours questions, students can reach the Wellness Center at the same number above.


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