After considerable examination I came to the conclusion that it was not stress, but was an anxiety based on my perception that I would not do well enough. The anxious worry came from the feeling that I would be inferior when compared to the other students or my own expectations. Because I am a good student, I knew this was an irrational feeling and was due to my own lack of confidence in my abilities. I feel that by raising my intellectual and academic self-esteem I could eliminate this feeling and improve my scores. A healthy self-esteem can be a positive trait while a low self-esteem can be self-destructive. According to Myers, people who have a high feeling of self worth are more persistent at accomplishing complex tasks (613). In addition, a low self-esteem can result in negative attitudes towards others or being excessively critical (Myers 613). This criticism may become self-directed and be a self-defeating mechanism.
These distortions of our self-image come from a variety of sources. They may come from our unrealistic goals, irrational view of the world and people around us, or the unrealistic view that others are closely scrutinizing our actions known as the spotlight effect (Myers 612). They may originate with some underlying event that invades our self-worth and plays a tape in our mind that tells us we are inferior. Pepi, Faria, and Alesi have reported that self-esteem is improved by positive results and appreciation, and it is also a "predictor of academic success" (617). By improving our academic self-esteem we may be entering a self-perpetuating process as we begin to see positive results.
It has been found that people with low self-esteem can be negatively influenced by unfavorable daily events (DeHart and Pelham 158). This theory could predict that if we find ourselves in an awkward or embarrassing situation before a test, we may do more poorly on it. Tice et al. report a phenomena known as ego-depletion. They suggest that self-control depletes our ego and makes it difficult to reassert control or accomplish difficult tasks until it is replenished (379). They reported that by inducing positive emotions, such as watching a favorable video or receiving a small gift, this effect could be overcome (383). Though this may not be directly linked to self-esteem, it may provide some insight for improving academic scores.
Swann, Chang-Schneider, and McClarty have recently presented research that indicates it is possible to elevate our own self-esteem. Despite some criticism, they report that using a program to improve self-esteem can raise student standardized test scores (90). However, they also caution that there may not be a simple solution as has often been offered by fad therapies of the past (84). They contend that, "Instead of focusing exclusively on people's momentary self-esteem, the effective programs emphasize procedures that are also designed to alter the raw materials that provide a basis for healthy, sustainable self-esteem" (90). They state that the program must cultivate behaviors that result in a self-view that is realistic and adaptive (90). Behavior can alter our self-image and our self-image can alter our behavior.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been used successfully to elevate self-esteem with only mild intervention (Oestrich, Austin, and Lykke 3,5). CBT is a method of altering our behavior by changing the way we think about our negative and often irrational thoughts (Myers 680). Meichenbaum suggests using "stress inoculation training", which involves nothing more than saying positive things to yourself (Myers 680). By retraining our thoughts our behavior will