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Social Cognitive Theory's Views on Self-Esteem

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Social cognitive theory is embedded in the belief of human intervention, which suggests that individuals are proactively engaged in their own development and that they are able to exercise a measure of control over their thoughts, feelings, and actions (Bandura, 1986). When exploring self-esteem, the Social Cognitive Theory suggests that it is composed of four processes of goal realization: self-observation, self-evaluation, self-reaction and self-efficacy. These components are interrelated, each having an effect on motivation and goal attainment (Redmond, 2010). Self-efficacy refers to beliefs in one's capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations (Bandura, 1995). Self-efficacy is what an individual believes he or she can accomplish using his or her skills under certain circumstances (Snyder & Lopez, 2007). Self-efficacy has been thought to be a task-specific version of self-esteem (Lunenburg, 2011). Individuals are more likely to engage in activities for which they have high self-efficacy and less likely to engage in those they do not (Van der Bijl & Shortridge-Baggett, 2002).

Self-esteem and self-efficacy are often thought of as one and the same, however their differences are significant. Self-efficacy differs from self-esteem in that it's a judgment of specific capabilities rather than a general feeling of self-worth, for example-an employee may have low self-efficacy for training a new employee, but this will not cause any ill feelings of perceived self-worth (Beck, 2008). The two concepts are different but they are connected at the same time. According to Bandura, an individual who has high self-efficacy and is successful in most of the tasks he/she undertakes will most likely build a high self-esteem. Vice-versa, self-esteem could also influence self-efficacy. Bandura stated that people tend to cultivate their capabilities in activities that give them a sense of self-worth. If empirical analysis are confined to activities in which people invest their sense of self-worth, they will inflate correlations between self-efficacy and self-esteem, because the analysis ignore both domains of functioning in which people judge themselves inefficacious but could not care less and those in which they feel highly efficacious but take no pride in performing the activity well because of its socially injurious consequences" (Bandura, 1997).

Bandura suggested that people don't just respond to external stimuli with a learned behavior, but can also control that behavior through self-regulation which involves three steps (Boeree, 2006), and they are:

* Self-observation - one looks at himself and his behavior keeping track of his actions.

* Judgment - one compares these observations with standards and expectations introduced by the society or himself.

* Self-response - if expectations are met, one gives himself a rewarding self-response and opposite. The self-responses one gives himself can vary from treating himself with a good meal to feelings of pride or shame.

According to Bandura, long range results of more positive self-responses are a higher self-concept (self-esteem). Negative self-responses according to Bandura result in lower self-concept and possibly compensation (superiority complex), inactivity (apathy or depression) or escape (drugs, television fantasies, even suicide). Bandura's recommendations to those who suffer from poor self-concepts or low self-esteem come straight from the three steps of self-regulation:

1. Regarding self-observation -- know thyself! Make sure you have an accurate picture of your behavior.

2. Regarding standards -- make sure your standards aren't set too high. Don't set yourself up for failure! Standards that are too low, on the other hand, are meaningless.

3. Regarding self-response -- use self-rewards,

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