Impression Management


Self-Esteem and Impression Management




Self-Esteem and Impression Management

Social perception is how people form impressions and make inferences about other people. This is something at the top of mind for most people and first impressions of those encountered influence the perception others have. These perceptions play an integral part in the formation of self-perception or self-esteem. Self-esteem refers to the confidence in one’s value as a person which is imperative to psychological health and overall life health. It’s used to describe a person’s sense of self-worth or value. Self-esteem can include a variety of beliefs of self, based on appearance, religious beliefs, emotions and behaviors. While genetic factors may help shape a person’s personality, environmental factors and experiences are thought to be the basis of overall self-esteem. Negative or critical experiences will likely result in low self-esteem, conversely individuals who experience positive, uplifting interactions typically present higher self-esteem (Reiss, 2012). Experiences and interactions throughout one’s life are influenced and impacted by family, friends, and the many different individuals encountered. There are many theories utilized to influence and affect self-esteem. These include impression management, social tuning, social comparisons, and intrinsic/extrinsic motivation that help shape our self- perception and affect our self-esteem. Included are illustrations of each of these items: impression management, social tuning, social comparisons, and intrinsic/extrinsic motivations.

Impression Management

Impression management is a conscious or subconscious process in which people attempt to influence the perceptions of other people about a person, object or event (Rosenberg & Egbert (2011). First impressions are formed within moments, thus the desire of making good first impressions as well as strong, favorable impression is very important. This is accomplished by regulating and attempting to control the information in social interactions. Trying to present our best self by controlling our external appearance when meeting new people for the first time is described as impression management (Branscombe & Baron, 2017). While there are many techniques used to boost self-image, most fall under two categories: self-enhancement (efforts to increase appeal to others) and other-enhancement (efforts to make the other person feel good). Self-enhancement utilizes specific efforts to highlight one’s physical or professional appearance. Other-enhancement efforts focus on generating positive attitudes or reactions in others through flattery, doing favors or expressing agreement with them (Branscombe & Baron, 2017).

I attempt to present myself in a positive light in nearly every situation, as I understand first impressions are very difficult to change. Presenting myself in a positive light includes physical appearance, personal hygiene, the words I utilize whether written or verbal, and body language. Our culture and society today have two main sources for impressions, the first is face to face and the second is via social media which would be considered written. I was late to joining social media but have joined this form of communication and relationship building. When we meet someone face to face, we examine what they are wearing, the facial expression, how they sound when they speak, whether their body language is open or closed, as well as the reaction others have to them. This is very different when on social media because we are judging someone by the way they appear in a picture, the types of things they post and the word choice in the posts. Personally, I have encountered people I’ve only met via social media and I found that my first impression was incorrect. At times they didn’t look anything like they presented, other times they speak very well and are very positive on social media but in person this is not the case. I believe we do control the perception people have of us more when we hide behind technology, this can be for our benefit or detriment.

Social Tuning

Our sense of self-perception is largely influenced by the people involved in our lives. The desire to be accepted by other people or to fit within a group can create an individual to amend or alter attitudes to mirror other individual. Adopting or “tuning” one’s beliefs or attitudes to mirror those around them to aid in developing relationships, is referred to as social tuning (Sinclair, Lowery, Hardin, & Colangelo, 2005). Social tuning can influence and impact our personal views and beliefs in many areas, some positively and others negatively. This is becoming increasingly more prevalent with the popularity of social media and the increased use of technology amongst our younger population (Valdesolo & DeSteno, 2011). Children are easily influenced as it is the desire of all human beings to be part of a group and to be accepted. In turn, teens are being steered in many ways by the influences presented online and via gaming communities.

The example I would utilize for social tuning within my own life is a negative example. It affected my marriage and my family. My ex-husband left my daughter and I when she was 18 months old. We finalized our divorce in 2010, which was a horrible time for me given my belief that the covenant we’d entered into wasn’t just with one another but was also with the Lord. My fear of failing God and my reality of my failure to myself was haunting. I wasn’t raised in church, I found the Lord at 26 years old, right before I met Andy. In that time, I was attending church, volunteering and becoming more dedicated every day to my relationship with Jesus. As our family fell apart, I firmly believed I would never again could be loved or to love within a marriage. I didn’t believe this until I began attending Catalyst Church. I believe social tuning created my belief system as it was being engrained in me that God wouldn’t accept divorce. There were many positive aspects but a few negative that came from being a member at that specific church.

Social Comparison

“Social comparison is an important, if not central, characteristic of human social life. Because of the adaptive value of adequately sizing up one’s competitors, the need to compare oneself with others is phylogenetically very old, biologically very powerful and recognizable in many species” (Dijkstra & Buunk, 2017). Am I brilliant or average? Beautiful or ugly? Funny or uptight? Comparing ourselves to those around us helps us evaluate ourselves. These are basic questions we ask ourselves daily as we assess our value. Within my work life I am incredibly confident and always have been, my father raised me this way. I am aware that I am good at what I do, but question whether it’s what I’m meant to do. In corporate America we are steered toward full comparison to our counterparts. This is done through scorecards, rating scales, eligibility for promotion, etc. Each of these areas are difficult to truly measure the effectiveness of a leader as it does not represent the behavioral aspects of leadership. For example, it does not show attrition or lack thereof, it does not show the number of employees you’ve assisted to promote or explore the career path they desire. This is unfortunate but is the reality of my professional career.

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

Extrensic motivation is the desire or drive to perform behaviors based on potential external rewards. Intrinsic motivation refers to the motivation that stems from internal or personal reward. Both types of motivation are needed for overall productivity and also self-image. These two types of motivation are considered dualistic theory, as it divides motivation into two categories. Reiss (2012) explains intrinsic-extrinsic dualism fails on three counts: construct validity, measurement reliability, and experimental control. In short, it’s very difficult to validate the true source of motivation in most situations. However, when examining self-esteem or self-perception it is very applicable. If an individual finds motivation from external reward and isn’t receiving this, the productivity or positivity in the situation tends to decrease.

An example that illustrates this is my best friend Vickie. She finds her worth or value in the relationship she is in. Vickie needs external validation continuously or she doesn’t feel loved or fulfilled. This has caused many issues in her relationships and has caused her to stray on many relationships because she was getting attention from men outside of the relationship. When we don’t find our worth within ourselves and can’t find value within ourselves, we tend to seek external reward that will make us feel good. This has created terrible heartache for my friend and many others for the same reasons. Our joy comes from the Lord and He places hope and peace in our hearts. When we find this center, we tend to rejoice in that verses seeking it externally.

Each of the above examples is different and each theory affect our lives differently. Yet, they are all very much the same. Each theory plays a role in influencing and affecting self-esteem. These include impression management, social tuning, social comparisons, and intrinsic/extrinsic motivation that help shape our self- perception and affect our self-esteem.



Branscombe, N. R., & Baron, R. A. (2017). Social psychology (14th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson.

Dijkstra, P., & Buunk, A. P. (2017). Social Comparison Processes. Social Psychological Foundations of Clinical Psychology (, 195-211. doi:10.4324/9781351231879-11

Lowery, B. S., Sinclair, S., & Hardin, C. D. (2005). Social tuning of automatic ethnic attitudes: The role of relationship motivation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89(4), 583-592. doi:10.1037/e633942013-095

Reiss, S. (2012). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Teaching of Psychology, 39(2), 152-156. doi: 10.1177/0098628312437704

Rosenberg, J., & Egbert, N. (2011). Online Impression Management: Personality Traits and Concerns for Secondary Goals as Predictors of Self-Presentation Tactics on Facebook. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 17(1), 1-18. doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2011.01560.x

Valdesolo, P., & Desteno, D. (2011). Synchrony and the social tuning of compassion. Emotion, 11(2), 262-266. doi:10.1037/a0021302