Self-Esteem, Behaviors, and Life Satisfaction


This study presents a theoretical model that illustrates the correlation between self-esteem, negative behaviors, autonomy, and life satisfaction. Self-esteem is one of the most significant personal characteristics. This trait influences confidence and self-respect. Self-esteem demonstrates how individuals perceive themselves. High self-esteem implies a positive opinion about one’s abilities and importance, and low self-esteem gives an opposite perception (Mahanty, Sushma, & Mishra, 2015).

This characteristic depends on various factors like success, self-image, comparison to others, social status, relationships with others, and independence. Low self-esteem is deeply rooted in a negative self-image. It is a comprehensive term that includes such traits as reliability, honesty, and diligence. It also often depends on comparison to others. Another important aspect that has an impact on a person’s self-image is job satisfaction. Low self-esteem changes the way of thinking, making it more pessimistic and depressive.

A person might overreact to criticism. In addition, it affects the ability to handle difficult situations. On the other hand, high self-esteem makes an individual more satisfied. This characteristic also influences the autonomy of a person. Individual autonomy is the ability to make decisions independently. It is built on self-governance and self-determination. Autonomy provides an individual with freedom.

Self-esteem and autonomy correlate with life satisfaction. These traits eventually improve it and eliminate negative behaviors, making a person significantly happier. An example of such correlation is presented in a study that provides data collected from more than 400 participants in China (Kong, Ding, & Zhao, 2015). The main goal of this paper is to test a theoretical model, which is based on the data collected from a related group in a class, suggesting that high self-esteem enhances personal autonomy, leading to greater life satisfaction and simultaneously improves negative behaviors.


Self-esteem positively correlates with autonomy and life satisfaction

Data from a class survey that includes only a relationship group demonstrate the strong correlation between the mentioned above characteristics. A relationship group includes people that engaged in romantic relationships. As shown in Figure 1, self-esteem positively correlates with autonomy and life satisfaction. However, there is also even a closer correlation between autonomy and life satisfaction. In addition, higher scores for self-esteem negatively correlate with negative behaviors. The same tendency is seen between negative behaviors and life satisfaction.


Explanation of results

The results clearly demonstrate that higher levels of self-esteem enhance individual autonomy and life satisfaction. The positive scores of.49 and.47 prove the strong correlation between these characteristics. Also, the score of.66 illustrates that autonomy has an even more significant impact on life satisfaction than self-esteem. On the other hand, the model shows that higher scores of self-esteem are associated with lower scores of negative behaviors. It means that positive self-esteem improves negative behaviors. The -.33 negative score of correlation between life satisfaction and negative behaviors also demonstrates that a person’s happiness directly depends on bad attitudes.

Existing Psychological Theories

In order to support these results, it is necessary to discuss existing psychological theories pertaining to this issue. The correlation between self-esteem and life satisfaction has been a highly controversial topic for a long time. Some specialists assert that there is no direct connection between these aspects. They insist that self-esteem depends on circumstances. Events that are considered positive improve self-esteem.

However, unfortunate incidents affect it negatively. According to such views, self-esteem does not lead to individual achievements but is a result of them. However, other scientists believe that this characteristic enhances productivity, mental strengths, resilience, and positive attitudes. This dispute cannot be simply resolved. However, one recent research concludes that a positive self-evaluation leads to favorable outcomes whereas low self-esteem is more likely to cause negative consequences (Raboteg-Saric & Sakic, 2014). The researchers studied the possible influence on adolescents’ well-being.

The results demonstrated that high self-esteem contributes to psychological stability. It implies the lower possibility of the development of depression, anxiety, and even more serious disorders. Also, self-esteem is recognized as a characteristic that helps to overcome stress and psychological pressure, demonstrating the close relationship between self-evaluation and morale (Mahanty, Sushma, & Mishra, 2015). It was noted that programs established to improve the level of self-esteem and autonomy among students resulted in better academic accomplishments. Therefore, these findings allow concluding that a developed sense of self-esteem has a significant impact on the abilities to make decisions and deal with challenging obstacles.

Also, self-esteem has long-term consequences. Negatively affected self-image during the teenage years leads to unfavorable outcomes during adulthood. Constant comparison to others’ accomplishments threatens the well-being of an unconfident person. Hence, an opinion relating to self-image directly influences one’s life satisfaction (Mahanty, Sushma, & Mishra, 2015). Also, some individuals might avoid certain activities that can affect their self-esteem.

For example, various competitions are highly undesirable for this kind of people due to the fact that such events imply comparison to other humans that might achieve better results. It impairs the sense of self-confidence and self-worth. However, the tendency towards upward comparisons characterizes people with low self-esteem. Such assessments create a perception that other people belong to a higher class. Upward comparisons are often highly unreasonable and exaggerated. They negatively affect a person’s beliefs and cultivate various prejudices. These negative comparisons diminish confidence and give the impression that a person lacks good qualities (Mahanty, Sushma, & Mishra, 2015).

However, downward comparisons might be considered self-enhancing and reassuring. Individuals suffering low self-esteem might avoid comparing themselves to people that show worse results. They cannot change the way of thinking and continue worsening their psychological conditions. Therefore, the fact that low self-esteem causes much unhappiness might let one think that a high level of self-esteem can improve life satisfaction.

There is a theory that suggests that insecurity in adults might be caused by low self-esteem. A study by Baker and McNulty (2013) presents the data that proves this theory. The authors underline the importance of cultivating positive self-esteem in children. Also, they highlight the necessity to avoid any attachment tendencies. Unreasonable upward comparisons stem from low self-esteem developed during childhood or adolescence.

People lacking confidence have less chance to become successful. Such people do not see the reason for making any effort as they believe that they would not be able to complete challenging tasks. The findings of this study prove the idea that upward comparisons that begin at a young age decrease the level of happiness and impair the person’s ability to seek and find satisfaction in life. Examples of such behavior might be found at school.

Pupils that compare themselves to other students that have higher grades start suffering low self-esteem. It also might be caused by parents that deliberately emphasize other student’s achievements. However, as stated above, downward comparisons, in some cases, might contribute to better self-esteem as persons start thinking that they have higher abilities than others.

People with positive self-esteem tend to make their lives more diverse, filling them with various events. It cultivates personal autonomy. However, it does not necessarily lead to favorable outcomes (LaTour, n.d.). In case if such events have negative consequences, even a person with high self-esteem might lose confidence. Subsequently, it impairs self-image and life satisfaction. Also, positive life events might contribute to higher confidence in persons with low self-esteem. Therefore, there is a connection between external circumstances and the level of self-esteem. Different experiences that are associated with achieving a person’s goal improve their confidence.

However, there is another concept that contributes to higher life satisfaction. Personal autonomy is the ability to make decisions independently and act willingly (Young, 2017). Autonomous persons are mostly driven by their egos. The ego is the center of personality. Therefore, every independent decision stems from it. Many individuals associate the concept of ego with egoism and the sense of superiority. However, it is only one side of this complex idea. All people are made of positive and negative beliefs about themselves. These beliefs directly affect self-esteem that forms an ego. However, autonomy depends on the level of positive self-esteem.

The sense of independence also contributes to happiness and life satisfaction. Autonomy is a highly necessary characteristic at a workplace as people spend there much time and professional achievements drastically influence their psychological conditions. Every person needs to set and accomplish goals, and this requires much autonomy. The implementation of one’s ideas contributes to moral satisfaction and integrity (Mahanty, Sushma, & Mishra, 2015).

The spirit of independence is an inherent trait. Therefore, suppressing leads to frustration and displeasure. Autonomy is the main aspect that influences a person’s choice. If individuals do not have an opportunity to decide independently, their well-being will be seriously impaired. Also, autonomy positively affects people’s productivity and consequently leads to higher job satisfaction.

Autonomy gives a feeling of control. It is very important as people need to make choices willingly without coercion and external influence. The degree of independence has a strong correlation with life satisfaction. The same effect might be seen in working groups that can change a course of action without the necessity of consulting seniors. Different studies demonstrate that employees with a higher degree of autonomy less often transfer or leave their positions.

Also, greater engagement among personnel is indicated in companies that promote autonomy. Independence eliminates negative feelings during completing stressful tasks. Situations that people cannot control elicit anxiety, frustration, and might lead to depression. However, when individuals feel that they have control over a stressful situation, it enhances their morale and, consequently, performance. In addition, most employees choose positions that imply less influence but more independence. Autonomy also improves people’s physical health. For example, stress caused by the feeling of being suppressed provokes various cardiovascular diseases.

However, low self-esteem often causes various negative behaviors. Many students cannot complete assigned tasks due to this emotional condition (Karimi, Najafi, & Mohammadyfar, 2016). It negatively affects their academic performance. Apathy induced by low self-esteem distracts students, causing them to lose focus. Another example of negative behavior is teen pregnancy. Unconfident teenagers experience alienation, which makes them gather in groups with similar people.

They stop communicating with their parents and avoid their friends, trying to find new ones. It leads to earlier sexual activity. Also, low self-esteem is a common reason for dropping out of school (LaTour, n.d.). Students feel insecure and try to find a more comfortable place to unwind. Although it mostly affects young persons, the lack of confidence provokes bad behaviors in adults as well. Low self-esteem might cause eating disorders (LaTour, n.d.). Another example is criminal behavior.

Such behaviors are very often rooted in a person’s emotional imbalance. Constant stress gradually develops into general dissatisfaction, and when it reaches a certain point an individual changes attitude, becoming more aggressive and emotionally unstable. After committing the first crime, a person realizes that it is impossible to undo what has been done. This new criminal gets confused, which additionally enhances the feeling of isolation and frustration. Also, it leads to alcohol and drug abuse (LaTour, n.d). Eventually, low self-esteem might reflect suicidal tendencies. Suicide attempts are very common among people that lack confidence and experience depression.

On the other hand, people with high self-esteem more often feel satisfaction and enjoy their lives. Healthy self-confidence elicits optimistic thoughts and positive energy. Such people are more social and extroverted. They are more likely to become professionally successful and built strong relationships with others. Therefore, high self-esteem decreases the chances of developing negative behaviors.

Advantages of Diary Methodology

This research involved the application of diary methodology. It is a way of collecting data. It is a survey that offers participants to answer a set of standard questions. The main advantages of this method are the efficient use of time, convenience, and informativeness (Lischetzke, 2014). Another important aspect of this study is uniquity. The presented data provide an opportunity for broad and profound research. It reveals correlations between various personal characteristics.

However, the most noticeable results demonstrate connections among self-esteem, autonomy, life satisfaction, and negative behaviors. These traits are of particular interest as they affect every aspect of people’s lives. These are the most important factors that determine the well-being of an individual and society. Therefore, the model describing such correlations might serve as a foundation for future studies in this field of psychology.

Discussion of Implications

The results of this study allow implying that self-esteem is one of the most significant characteristics that have a direct impact on functioning within people’s relationships. Low levels of self-esteem impair confidence and self-image. It causes frustration, stress, and depression. Consequently, it leads to strong dissatisfaction with one’s life. However, high self-esteem enhances the sense of self-worth and self-respect. People with positive self-esteem might be described as more satisfied and successful.


Personal traits drastically influence people’s lives and have a significant impact on the development of societies. Psychologists design various theories and models, trying to organize complicated concepts. Self-esteem is a comprehensive term that includes different ideas like confidence, self-image, self-worth, and some others. Self-esteem has a direct impact on a person’s behaviors and well-being. The main finding of this paper is that life satisfaction correlates with various aspects, though it is mostly affected by autonomy and self-esteem. These characteristics determine a person’s behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs. These implications are based on the results of a class survey and are supported by the information presented in the relevant literature. Therefore, this study might be used as a base for further research.


Baker, L. R., & McNulty, J. K. (2013). When low self-esteem encourages behaviors that risk rejection to increase interdependence: The role of relational self-construal. Journal of personality and social psychology, 104(6), 995.

Karimi, S., Najafi, M., & Mohammadyfar, M. (2016). A Comparison of behavioral disorders, self-esteem, and life satisfaction in derelict and normal students. Journal of School Psychology 5(3), 167-182

Kong, F., Ding, K., & Zhao, J. (2015). The relationships among gratitude, self-esteem, social support and life satisfaction among undergraduate students. Journal of Happiness Studies, 16(2), 477-489.

LaTour, A. (n.d.). 8 common causes of low self-esteem. Web.

Lischetzke, T. (2014). Daily diary methodology. In A. Michalos (Ed.), Encyclopedia of quality of life and well-being research (pp. 1413-1419). Netherlands: Springer.

Mahanty, S., Sushma, B., & Mishra, M. (2015). Self-esteem and life satisfaction among university students: The role of gender and socio-economic status. Scholarly Research Journal for Interdisciplinary Studies 3(17), 3071-3088.

Raboteg-Saric, Z., & Sakic, M. (2014). Relations of parenting styles and friendship quality to self-esteem, life satisfaction and happiness in adolescents. Applied Research in Quality of Life, 9(3), 749-765.

Young, R. (2017). Personal autonomy: Beyond negative and positive liberty. New York, NY: Routledge.

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PsychologyWriting. "Self-Esteem, Behaviors, and Life Satisfaction." September 22, 2023.