Researchers have recently questioned the benefits associated with having high self-esteem. The authors propose that the importance of self-esteem lies more in how people strive for it rather than whether it is high or low. They argue that in domains in which their self-worth is invested, people adopt the goal to validate their abilities and qualities, and hence their self-worth. When people have self-validation goals, they react to threats in these domains in ways that undermine learning; relatedness; autonomy and self-regulation; and over time, mental and physical health. The short-term emotional benefits of pursuing self-esteem are often outweighed by long-term costs. Previous research on self-esteem is reinterpreted in terms of self-esteem striving. Cultural roots of the pursuit of self-esteem are considered. Finally, the alternatives to pursuing self-esteem, and ways of avoiding its costs, are discussed.
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