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Characteristics Of High Self Esteem Persons English Language Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 5397 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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This chapter consists of two parts. The first section describes the theoretical framework. This section explains topics such as English writing, affective factors, self-esteem theories, self-esteem and writing strategy, EFL teachers and their role in building students’ self-esteem and humanistic approach. The second section deals with the analysis and a comparison between variables. This section outlines issues such as the relationship between self-esteem and writing strategy, and continues to investigate the relation between self-esteem and speaking in English, then the relation between self-esteem and reading in English, and the relation between self-esteem and listening in English in the final turn.

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Theoretical Framework

English is an international language that is used throughout the world. The number of people who use English as a second language or foreign language is much higher than those whose native language is English. Thomas and Collier (2002) believed that until the coming of 2030 the percentage of students in U.S. schools will be over 40% of the border. Al-Sulaimani (2005) states that in some Arab countries, most people who study pharmacy, medicine, computer and science use English as their primary language. Al-Harbi (2010) found that EFL learners (especially beginners) may not be able to read and spell words or have sound-letter problems in pronunciation due to separation, the reason for this difference is that such problems exist in the native language and target language and another reason is the difference in writing in both languages.

English Writing

Typically, a relationship between reading and writing are combined. Practice in writing in a cross-training can help language learners to enhance the capabilities in reading and writing skills and write their spelling correctly (DuBois, Erickson and Jacobs, 2007). According to Krashen (1984), most teachers were convinced that education should focus on form and follow Krashen’s Natural Approach which relates to children’s L1 oral acquisition.

King (2003) points out that punctuation in our writing is physical and our speech can be seen as non-tangible, if we have no punctuation in written and spoken language, they are chaotic. Then, Allen and Huon (2003) argue that effective and good writing requires a sound understanding of which is considered as a mechanic of writing. For example, the use of punctuation in phrases such as keeping the car moving, stopping, starting in the right place, pausing or at any other time is necessary. In general, Rude (2006) believes that punctuation helps people who simply read the sentences. Commas, semicolons, dashes and so on are making relationship between sentence patterns and phrases. On the other hand, if we use the wrong punctuation we create confusion in the text, knowing how to use punctuation in the text is an important point in writing.

King (2003) states that capital letters can be considered as a form of punctuation that guide the eye and mind in the text. Typically, the capital letters use to start sentences and proper names.

Affective Factors

Cognitive domain, affective domain and psychological domain are very important issues in language learning process. In this regard, Brown (2000) asserts that the affective domain refers to emotions and feelings. Bloom and his colleagues have developed a wide assortment for the three domains on the affective domain. It consists of five levels. The first level is receiving, one person is in contact with others and is exposed to a series of data. He can accept and respond to them or reject them. If he responds, he is entering into the second level which is responding. The third level is valuing. After responding, a person according to his perceptions can be either positive or negative. Level four or organization is when a person organizes the values based on his beliefs and finds the relationship between values and his beliefs. The final level is realizing, which is a person’s thinking and behavior into a system based on values (He, 1996).


Inhibition is an aspect of affective domain that is directly linked to self-esteem. People have a defense system that protects them against internal and external criticism (Brown, 2000). Ehrman (1993) suggests that “students with “thick”, perfectionist boundaries find language learning more difficult than those learners with “thin” boundaries who favor attitudes of openness and ambiguity tolerance”. Inhibition is to prevent people expressing their freedom and comfort. It requires a second or foreign language learning series that mistakes happen and learning from these mistakes often occurs (He, 1996; Brown, 2000). But if the learner afraid of making mistakes and these mistakes affects his ego, from the inside (one’s self) who is fallen and from the outside (others’) who is threatened. Both are considered a barrier to inhibit. So it can be concluded that students in relaxed environments without threat have the lowest degree of degradation (He, 1996; Brown, 2000; Andres, 2002).


Communicate in a second and foreign language needs some competition and guessing. Some students are afraid of answering any questions and respond to a question that is absolutely true. They prefer to be silent all the time to keep from making mistakes or someone does not mock them. Having such a fear of making mistakes provides an opportunity to students who are unable to practice the language.

According to Weiten (1989) in conversation, the students do not have enough time to go to the dictionary for finding the exact pronunciation and grammar, whereas in reading and writing, typically the student has enough time to choose the best words and organize sentences. People with healthy self-esteem, do not have any psychological damage with errors and negative feedback. On the other hand, fear of making mistakes can have a negative effect on learning and knowledge of learners. As a verbal exercise, it is necessary the information stored in long-term memory that can be prevented from language learning. Brown (2000) claims that: students who make mistakes out of ignorance in the classroom tend to be silent. It seems that self-esteem is closely related to risk-taking factors: if someone has high global self-esteem and doing something wrong ignorance, has no fear of making mistakes.


According to Brown (1994) anxiety is a variable that is associated with self-esteem. In general, anxiety has a negative relationship with self-esteem. Anxiety includes feelings such as worry, despair, self-doubt, apprehension and concern.

Anxiety is divided into two different levels:

Global or trait anxiety

Situational or state anxiety (Brown, 1994).

Anxiety is in many forms, such as anxiety test. Foreign language anxiety is one of the forms that are filled with anxiety items. Between the years 1968 to 1980 some studies performed by Clement, Gardner, Symthe, Tarampi, Lambert and Tucker about the relationship between different types of anxiety and second language performance. The results of these studies indicate that there are no direct relationships between measures of anxiety and second language anxiety. But in 1975, Chastain conducted a study and found an inverse relationship between anxiety and learners’ grades in Spanish. However, the same relationship was not found for learners of German and French (Gardner and Clement, 1990).


Motivation is one of the affective factors that is important in success and failure of students. Dornyei (2001) argues that motivation is a vague term that encompasses a wide variety of meanings. Gardner (1985) defining the role of motivation in learning L2 argues that a field that individual deals with his attempts to learn the language because tends to this work and to be satisfactory of the experience of activities. This definition includes:

Attempt expended to reach the goal

Willingness to learn

Satisfaction of learning a language.

In general, motivation in the classroom depends on the teachers’ abilities to maintain interest in the classroom. Many factors affect the motivation as far as Danis (1993) believes these factors include:

Interest in the subject

Understanding of its usefulness

General desire to achieve


Self-esteem as patience and resistance.

The main model of motivation includes four components that have been designed by Gardner and Smythe (1975). These components include:

Group-specific attitudes

Learners’ motives for learning the target language

Affective factors (Stern’s ‘Generalized Attitudes’)

Extrinsic and intrinsic motivation (Stern’s “Attitudes towards the learning situation”)

You can see the Gardner and Smythe’s motivation model in the figure 1.

Group-specific attitudes

Learners’ motives for learning the target language

Affective factors

Extrinsic and intrinsic motivation

Favourable versus unfavourable attitudes to the users of the target language

Motivational intensity

Interest in foreign language


Need achievement




Integrative motivation

Instrumental motivation


Extrinsic motivation provided in self-instruction (i.e. incentives, encouragments and threats):


Learning contracts

Records of work


Reality testing

Summative assessment

Factors from self-instruction promoting intrinsic motivation (i.e. continuing willingness to put learning at a high level of priority):

Learner’s awareness of needs and goals

Perceived relevance of the course to achieving goal

Maintenance of self-esteem as a person through involvment in decision making

Degree of freedom to use preferred learning strategies

Membership of a supportive group leading to increased empathy and reduced inhibitions

Troble shooting procedures

Figure 2.1: Gardner and symthe’s (1975) model of motivation


Self-esteem is a fundamental need in human life. There are some meanings for self-esteem: Bandura (1997) defines self-esteem as ” an individual’s judgement of their own value”. Pervin and John (2001) believe that self-esteem is a general attitude to personality traits not any particular individual circumstances; and finally, Barnden (2001) stated that self-esteem is the experience of feeling competent to deal with the problems of life and knowing the life happiness. This competency includes self-efficacy and self-respect.

According to Brown (2000), self-esteem includes various dimensions which are:

Global self-esteem which means general assessment a person makes of one’s self

Situational self-esteem which means a specific situation such as foreign language context

Task self-esteem that means a particular task within a situation e.g. writing in an EFL context.

In addition, self-esteem helps in all aspects of one’s life. Self-esteem is essential for a healthy psychological life. This is an important aspect of affective factors because all the affective factors are related to the self-esteem (Brown, 2000).

Self-esteem has two different levels, low self-esteem and high self-esteem. Roger found that: children with higher self-esteem compared to children with lower self-esteem are more decisive, more independent and more creative. Also people with self-esteem can easily define their observations are flexible, and able to produce solutions to major problems (Pervin and John, 2001).

According to McAdams (2006) Maslow proposed that humans are having a series of abilities that these abilities do not available unless, the basic needs provide for the first time. By paying attention to figure 2, we can understand the importance of positive self-esteem.

Figure 2.2: Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs

Low self-esteem is like a person to overcome their own lives and affects on the one’s life cycle. Negative thoughts lead to negative attitudes, negative attitudes cause negative behavior, negative behavior may develop negative feelings and finally, all parts affected by self-esteem (Napoli, et. al., 1992). This can be shown as follows:

Negative behavior

Negative feelings

Negative attitude

Figure 2.3: Interaction Between Low Self-esteem and Negative Behavior

Characteristics of high self-esteem persons

A person with high self-esteem has special characteristics. According to Branden (1985) he/she may have some or all of the following characteristics:

A person is open to criticism and deals with mistakes comforting.

A person can give and receive expressions of feeling, appreciation and so on spontaneously.

A person’s saying , doing and appearance go in harmony.

A person accepts changes in different life aspects without being worried.

A person is flexible in responding to situations and challenges.

A person can be firm under conditions of stress.

A person can speak about his proficiency and lack of it with honesty and without being embarrassed.

A person moves and speaks easily and confidentially.

A person appreciates his own merits.

A person does not consider himself inferior to others.

Moreover, according to Napoli et al. (1992) a person who has high self-esteem has the following characteristics:

The individual is open to take the opportunity to participate in developing experiences in spite of the risk of making mistakes,

He/she takes part in an activity (sports, learning a new skill etc.) just for the pleasure of doing it without feeling the need to prove anything,

He/she takes the responsibility of his/her actions without blaming anyone or finding pretexts,

He/she accepts his own and other’s strengths and accomplishments,

He/she accepts the personal power of someone without trying to abuse or control them,

He/she focuses on the quality rather than the quantity of life experiences (e.g. friendship),

He/she enjoys team work and appreciates its value in getting a job done or improving interpersonal relations,

He/she finds a balance in life (e.g. work, entertainment, solitude).

Internal consistency of high self-esteem may have higher (or lower) range types of psychological processes on the take. According to Schneider and Turkat (1975) possibly some of the people use a high self-esteem as a defensive measure to identify the optimal of society.

Characteristics of low self-esteem persons

A person with low self-esteem like a person with high self-esteem has a series of characteristics. He/she may have some or all of the following characteristics:

A person feels awkward, shy conspicuous and unable to express him/ herself with confidence.

A person worries about making mistakes and is always embarrassing to expose him/herself to anything new.

A person is hyper sensitive and hyper alert to signs of rejection.

A person deals with life in a protective and defensive manner.

A person is depressed, unhappy and shows a greater degree of anxiety and aggression.

A person does not feel satisfied with his/her life.

A person is vulnerable to criticism and has greater social anxiety.

A person feels inferior to others or unworthy.

A person does not like leadership role or voluntary tasks.

A person behaves inconsistently.

A person suffers a lot of personal mistakes and sees failure as a result of deficiency in his/her abilities.

A person underestimates his/her abilities (Apter, 1998; Timothy et al., 2001).

On the other hand, according to Napoli et al. (1992) a person who has low self-esteem has the following characteristics:

Note: Deficiency in accepting constructive criticism and making use of it in one’s development.

Deficiency in taking decisions and realising creative values, need to obey firmly set rules,

Deficiency in taking the risks that may give way to mistakes,

Deficiency in changing, a fixation on the same food, environment, course of action etc.,

Deficiency in focusing on others’ power,

Deficiency in focusing on one’s own power,

A tendency to live others’ accomplishments vicariously (isolating heroes),

Tendency to attach a lot of importance to the outward appearance (like dating the most attractive person on the campus, driving the hottest car, etc.),

Tendency to be compulsive about cleanliness, eating, orderliness and the like,

Tendency to be overly competitive (to be in need of winning every time and surpassing everyone in order to feel important),

Tendency to be a poor loser and to see this position as an approval of their personal value,

Tendency to be overly critical (finding fault),

Tendency to overwork to prove themselves and to show others their worth.

Theories on Self-esteem

According to Murk (1999) in his book as “Self-esteem; Research, Theory and Practice”, take a number of theories that are briefly defined in the following:

A historical view with modern relevance

William James as a famous American psychologist, believes that the origin of self-esteem involves factors such as history, culture, family and circumstances. These factors are forming the identity of someone. He knows a self-esteem relationship with values, success and competence in the development of level of self-esteem; for example, if a person is able to manage their identity competently or the other side fails to do this. Success increases self-esteem and failure decrease it.

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The psychodynamic approach

White believes that self-esteem is based on the relationship between ego and ideal ego. Here the focus is on efficacy. Self-esteem depends on someone’s competence and effectiveness. He believes that the relationship between self-esteem and achievement, respect is obtained. Thus, White concluded that the efficacy is “taproot” of self-esteem. Self-esteem is seen as an evolutionary phenomenon that subject to other processes, force development and deals with them in adulthood. Briefs, White to be exploring the relationship between competence, ego and self-esteem.

The sociological approach

Rosenberg can be defined self-esteem as “positive and negative attitude towards a particular object in the other words ego” (as cited in Murk, 1999, p. 122). Rosenberg was focused on the role of social factors on self-esteem. He combined both affective and cognitive processes in judging self-worth. He believes that the person who is evaluated should develop standards and values that including social aspects and compare him/herself with those standards. The smaller gap is between self and those standards and the highest gap is between self-esteem and those standards. Finally, Rosenberg focused on self-worth as a representative of self-esteem.

The behavioral perspective

Coopersmith defined self-esteem as “evaluation that a person had to be done in relation to himself. This reflects the attitude of approval or disapproval, and indicates the extent to which a person believes in himself” (as cited in Murk, 1999, p. 124). Under this approach, there is the relationship between self-esteem and behaviors such as anxiety and depression. Coopersmith believes that self-esteem or lack of it can be learned. In short, Coopersmith the first theorized who expressed two components which are included performance and competence as the principle component of the self-esteem.


Informational reinforcement

Aversive stimuli

Hedonic reinforcement

Consumer’s learning history

Current behavior setting

Figure 2.4: Adapted from summary of the behavioral perspective model

The humanistic vision

According to Branden (2001) “one’s evaluation is the most important key to one’s behavior, business process, feelings, desires, values and goals affects him”. He believes that the impression that person towards himself affects some responses; for example, if a person believes that is “stupid”, it has joined to the fact. In the first instance, he would suffer vision of human after self-esteem. Murk (1999) also emphasized “self-esteem is an important part of human existence that must be managed throughout to life cycle” (p. 130). In addition, Branden views self-esteem as one’s having two components:

Self-confidence (a sense of efficacy)

Self-respect (a sense of competence).

Moreover, Branden believes that a student may be damaging his self-esteem based on his notion; for example, when the learner in the learning has some difficulties, maybe he/she thinks these problems due to his/her inability.

In summary, all these theorists have paid largely to the self-esteem. James is one of the first scientists who spoke about the foundations of self-esteem. White focused on effectiveness. Rosenberg puts his focus on self-worth and finally, Coopersmith and Branden, both of them focused on self-efficacy and self-worth as an essential component of self-esteem.

EFL teacher’s role in building students’ self-esteem

Teachers have an integral role in building self-esteem. Teachers should make the atmosphere so that students can develop their self-esteem; with this, the level of their success and confidence goes up. Finch (2001) believes that “success less depends on the materials, techniques and linguistic analysis and more depends on what happens between people in the classroom”.

It is the teachers’ task to create a positive learning environment. They can improve students from the different ways and while students understand that their teacher is watching them out, but they have the sense of freedom and comfort. In this regard, Sano et al. mentioned that “friendly relationship between teachers and learners and even learners with each other and this is our opinion that is the most important factor in language learning” (as cited in Finch, 2001, p. 135). Students can do work correctly when they feel safe. This event occurs when then teachers’ behavior modestly, be a good listener, pay attention to his/her students and make them feel that they are efficacious and competent. Dorneyi (2001) offered teachers to create a supportive environment in the classroom in following ways:

Establish a norm of tolerance.

Encourage risk-taking and have mistaken accepted as a natural part of learning.

Bring in and encourage humour.

Encourage learners to personalize the classroom environment according to their taste (p. 31).

Then, Kirstein (2001) offered more strategies:

Create a positive classroom environment.

Encourage your learners.

Know your learners.

Encourage interactions with other learners.

Structure learning to be flexible and supportive.

Help your learners acknowledge success (pp. 85-89).

According to Oxford (2003) a strategy is useful for teaching base on the following circumstances:

The strategy relates well to the L2 task at hand,

The strategy fits the particular student’s learning style preferences to one degree or another

The student employs the strategy effectively and links it with other relevant strategies.

Oxford (1990) believes that strategies which based on these circumstances are “make learning easier, faster, more enjoyable, more self-directed, more effective, and more transferable to new situation” (p. 8).

In short, teachers should encourage students to create positive environments not only for students with low self-esteem but also for students with high self-esteem up to maintain the level of their self-esteem.

Review of literature

This section includes a preview about self-esteem and various aspects of the performance of students in foreign languages. The following issues are reviewed: the relationship between self-esteem and writing strategy, the relationship between self-esteem and speaking in English, the relationship between self-esteem and reading in English and the relationship between self-esteem and listening.

On the relation between self-esteem and writing strategies

Many studies on global self-esteem, can be show relationship between self-esteem and writing along the following three strands:

In language learning, the role of affective variables, especially self-esteem cannot be ignored. The relationship can be positive or negative. He (1996) studied some of the affective factors, especially the self-esteem. The results of a survey of Chinese students are reported: a questionnaire that was intended for language learning was administrated to 31 Chinese immigrants in Southern California and an interview with 21 Chinese students. He found that self-esteem is one of the important factors that affect learning English as a second language.

Similarly, Moritz (1996) conducted a study that self-assessment as a criterion of language skill and a tool used to measure. Factors that may affect the dominance self-assessment of foreign language of students are determined. Participants in this study were 28 college students of French at different levels. Results showed that self-assessment of foreign language impact students’ self-concept.

Anstey (1993) achieved the same results. He studied the relationship between self-esteem and communication potential processes of students in French classes. In this study, the communication potential used for the development of a literature review on the communicative approaches to second language learning. Results showed that students’ self-esteem depends on a process that is selected by the teacher. Factors, which enable the teacher and other colleagues to increase interaction and negotiation enhance students’ self-esteem.

Battle (1981) developed a questionnaire which was called Culture-Free Self-esteem Inventory. This questionnaire consisted of 60 items that were classified into five sub-scales:

General self-esteem,

Social/peer related self-esteem,

Parent/home related self-esteem,

Lie scale,

Indicating defensiveness.

A score for self-esteem are obtained by totaling the number of items, excluding the lie scale items of 10. So, the highest possible score is 50.

On the other hand, Pareek et al. (1976) developed a questionnaire which was called Pre-adolescent Adjustment Scale. This questionnaire consisted of 40 items that included:

Home (nine items),

Peers (eight items),

School (eight items),

Teachers (eight items),

General (seven items).

A score for total adjustment are obtained by totaling of the five areas. In this case, high positive scores indicated high adjustment in the area, while negative scores indicated maladjustment.

Both of these questionnaires, Culture-Free Self-esteem Inventory which developed by Battle (1981) and Pre-adolescent Adjustment Scale which developed by Pareek et al. (1976) were used to assess the self-esteem and adjustment among children.

Moreover, a study was done by the National Foreign Language for students with the purpose of knowing whether their high self-efficacy of the learning strategies they used or not. Participants were in a group of students of French, Japanese and Spanish. Students’ grades were fourth, fifth and sixth. Two questionnaires were presented to them: the Immersion Language Learning Strategies Questionnaire and Immersion Self-efficacy Questionnaire. The results show that students with high self-efficacy and self-confidence were using more learning strategies; these strategies were effective in language learning preference of learners to the extent that it effected on the learners’ self-esteem.

Gordnick (1996) randomly selected 50 students of Union County College and studied the relationship between their self-esteem and writing. He used Coopersmith’s self-esteem test to measure self-esteem and used their writing grades to measure the writing, then took the correlation between them. The results showed that there is no significant correlation between students’ self-esteem and their writing. It is worth mentioning that both Gordnicks’ studies and present study have been about the relationship between self-esteem and writing achievement. It also should be added, participants of this study were students of Saudi Arabia EFL secondary school who formed American students.

Hassan (2001) tried to determine the relationship between self-esteem and quality and quantity of students’ writing. The sample formed 32 Egyptian English major university students. Results showed that there is a negative relationship between students’ self-esteem and their writing. Low concern students have high self-esteem and high concern students have low self-esteem. Low concern students wrote better than high concern students. Hassan’s study investigated the relationship between two variables, one of them was the relationship between fear of writing and self-esteem and the other was a relationship between themselves and writing skills, while the present study examine the relationship between self-esteem and writing strategies. Participants in the Hassan’s study were university students who just studied in the field of English language, however in this study, participants included university students in various fields. Hassan’s study measured participants’ writing skills while this study examined the writing strategies.

Brown (2000) claimed that there is relationship between self-esteem and academic performance however, he posed a question that which one affected the other. Significant changed as the number of researchers (Huang, 1992; Brown, 2000; Lee, 2001) reported. For example, in Huang’s (1992) study, he discussed the relationship between biliteracy and self-esteem of Mexican-American students. Participants included 1034 persons who were Mexican and Mexican-American. Students were classified into three categories: biliterates, proficiency in English and proficiency in Spanish or oral bilingual. A set of 13 questions measured self-esteem. The results showed that Mexican-Americans who knew them as biliterates had higher self-esteem than those in English, Spanish or oral bilingual.

Sled (1993) conducted a study on 25 patients from the University of Texas in order to provide basic writers’ confidence. By creating discussion and motivation in his class, he analyzed the students and it was causing that they can overcome their fear of making mistakes. Results showed that students’ confidence has increased.

Koulourianos and Marienau (2001) conducted a study and in this study they used parent intervention strategies and teacher intervention strategies for the third and fourth grade students in the United States to improve their confidence in writing. The results showed that the strategies have had a positive effect on the students’ writing.

Bardine (1995) proposed the guided strategies that included the use of journals in the adult literacy class which was to improve students’ writing. In this method, the teacher used quotes that increased self-esteem and positive attitude. He taught students from Mia


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