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Pushing oneself to ill health: Competence based self-esteem and physical reactivity
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
2008 (English)In: Work, stress and health conference, 6-9 March 2008, Washington, USA, 2008Conference paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Research indicates that people who have a low basic self-esteem and pursue success and competence in order to validate the self often exceed their limits. They tend to drive themselves hard to the extent that they risk their own health when striving to compensate an impoverished fundamental self-love. This vulnerable cognitive-motivational structure, labeled competence based self-esteem, is associated with wellbeing in general and with burnout in particular. The aim of the present study was to investigate experimentally the effects of Competence based self-esteem (CBSE; Johnson & Blom, 2007) by comparing high and low scorers on the scale regarding different indicators of physiological reactivity in a performance situation. On the basis of current theoretical accounts it follows that high scorers would exhibit more reactivity than low scorers.

Physiological reactivity was measured by three indices of blood pressure and a non-intrusive assessment of response force, indicating momentary exertion, measured by way of a force sensor installed in the computer mouse. As a complementary index of reactivity each individual’s perceived arousal was assessed. The participants were 61 undergraduate students extracted from a pool of 220 students who had responded to a questionnaire with the CBSE scale.

The results showed that high as compared to low scorers in CBSE scale exhibited significantly stronger physiological reactivity and strain/effort indicated by higher general blood pressure and more forceful responses, particularly in the first phase of the performance session. In addition, high scorers reported more perceived frustration, tension and anxiety than low scorers. Generally, the results indicate that individuals with high CBSE, when expected to perform well, strive harder with more tense and frustrated feelings than those with low CBSE. These results are in line with previous research and coincide well with the theoretical formulations behind the CBSE measure. They also suggest that CBSE has behavioral consequences with relevance for work related stress and illness. Further research will address the role of environmental stress factors for CBSE structure, which promises to shed new light on important aspects of occupational health.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
competence based self-esteem, performance, physiological reactivity
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-15584OAI: diva2:182104
Available from: 2008-12-05 Created: 2008-12-05Bibliographically approved

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