Feeling good about yourself allegedly goes hand in hand with getting ahead--the more confidence you have, the idea goes, the more you'll take healthy risks, reach out to others and persevere even when the going's tough. Don't be worried if your self-esteem is a little cracked at the moment, though, because psychologists say it's going to improve.
As outlined by Abigail Fagan in Psychology Today, researchers from the University of Bern did an extensive review of studies related to self-esteem. After combing through the 331 studies, which involved more than 164,000 people between 4 and 94 years old, they were able to formulate a basic line chart that demonstrates the typical pattern of self-esteem growth over the lifespan.
As you might expect, the teen years are a little turbulent, with self-esteem leveling off for a bit as people figure out how to navigate socially. But after that, self-esteem shoots up through the late 20s. It continues to rise, although a little more slowly, through the mid 40s. Growth starts to level out, but it doesn't actually peak until around age 60.
That's right. You'll probably feel your very best well after you've established your career and have started to notice gray hairs in the mirror.
While the researchers acknowledge that there's some individual variance, they point out that the typical self-esteem trajectory is much more positive than psychologists and scientists had thought before.
But why is the time around age 60 so great? The research isn't clear. But it might be that, through their careers, people build successes and become increasingly able to look back on their skills and accomplishments. They also usually know more people who can offer support and honest feedback, and they've often built themselves up in areas like finance so that they feel stable. At the same time, they're close enough to retirement that they can positively anticipate a new, relaxing phase of life, and they're often still physically capable of participating in activities that bring them happiness. The later decline of self-esteem, particularly the sharp drop off in the late 80s, might be because isolation and ailment increases while the ability to remember, share skills or information and contribute goes down.
For you as a professional, take these results and recognize that there are going to be a lot of people around you who are just as weighted down with confusion and doubt as you might be. Don't make the mistake of thinking that everyone has it totally together or has a crystal clear concept of what they're supposed to do or where they're meant to be. Share what you've learned and encourage those below you, and at the same time, never be ashamed to seek guidance yourself from more seasoned individuals who have been around the block. Don't be discouraged, because the best is yet to come.