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Self-worth theory maintains that the ability of a person to achieve something has a direct connection to his or her perception of himself or herself (Crocker & Knight, 2005). This theory shows that the most significant thing to people is the quest for self-acceptance. It is the wish of every person to be valuable and capable of doing tasks successfully. Individuals would satisfy self-worth by pursuing successful experience. The sense of self-worth is a significant emotional reaction and a function of success in careers. According to Crocker & Knight (2005), self-worth involves family support, praise from other people, competition, appearance, religious belief, moral standards, and working performance. An individual creates positive influence on the sense of self-worth depending on the seven factors. Therefore, individuals try to protect their self-worth from damage in order to avoid discouragement in various tasks, such as educational tasks (Crocker & Knight, 2005).
Most people consider protecting their sense of self-value or self-worth irrespective of whether or not it will infringe on the outcome of their accomplishment. The practical significances of self-worth theory can influence everything, including classroom learning and adoption of advanced and new technology (Covington, 1993). Research has shown that self-worth is a universal behavior, but what varies from person to person is the response mechanism. For instance, some people procrastinate, others engage in unsuccessful behaviors, and others challenge their surrounding environment and become wildly successful (Crocker & Knight, 2005). Therefore, self-worth theory shows that people possess different behaviors depending on how they make their own choices in life to protect their self-image (Thompson & Dinnel, 2007). This discussion will consider the direct connection between self-worth and motivation in various contexts, including education and other contexts in the human society.
Self-Worth Theory and Education
Self-worth theory and motivation play a significant role in the student’s academic performance at schools. According to Covington (1993), the self-worth or personal value of students determines how they perform in their academics. The personal value of a person depends on a variety of factors, including motivation. For instance, a student’s ability to perform well in an examination will lead to the development of a high personal value or self-worth, which will make the student continue performing well in the subsequent examination. In the contemporary society, students belong to two different classes for self-worth. One of the two categories includes those students who are success oriented while the other category includes students that are self-doubting and reluctant to succeed. In the first category, parents and teachers reward students for their outstanding performance, but do not punish them once they fail to achieve other tasks (Thompson & Dinnel, 2007). On the contrary, in the second category parents and teachers punish students when they fail to perform well in their academics, but they ignore rewarding the students for the successful tasks. Therefore, the performance of students on the subsequent educational task will depend on the motivation they experience after doing well on the previous educational tasks (Crocker & Knight, 2005).
Students in the success oriented category tend to work extra hard on the tasks that will result in the biggest praise or reward, and reduce their efforts on the less rewarding tasks. These students consider their achievements to result from the ability to finish various tasks successfully, the degree of effort they put forth, as well as how difficult or easy they could accomplish the tasks (Crocker & Knight, 2005). The self-doubting students blame their failures or lack of successes on the insufficient effort that they put forth. Therefore, the failure avoiding or self-doubting students will consider their achievements as resulting from luck, and their failures from the self-perceived insufficiency in their abilities. Students perceive their abilities as the main source for their achievements and the manner in which they behave to achieve the successes. This holds for both failure avoiding and success oriented students because the ability is the main determinant of whether a learner achieves few or many successes. The level of self-worth also depends on the student’s ability as the main source. Ability helps build self-worth of students by contributing praises and rewards for the acquired achievements. In contrast, failures tear down a student’s self-worth, which contributes to insufficiency in ability (Covington, 1993).
According to Covington (1993), self-worth theory shows that motivation enables learners to do well in their academics and succeed at every task they do, depending on the degree of self-worth they possess. Highly motivated students have more self-worth as compared to the lowly motivated students. The students with less self-worth may succeed in their academics, but their own self-perceived ability does not allow them to work hard toward success. Therefore, teachers can employ some strategies, such as praising and rewarding them on the achievements they make as an encouragement. This could increase the students’ self-worth because they will perceive their abilities in a better way than they used to do previously. Teachers should also work toward maintaining the self-worth of the success oriented students by rewarding and praising them upon their accomplishments (Schunk, Pintrich, & Meece, 2008).
Protection of Self-Worth
Some students tend to look for alternatives to protect their self-worth when they realize people may consider them as having low ability due to poor performance in academics. The poorly performing students may attribute the poor performance to bad luck, task difficulty, or teacher capriciousness (Thompson & Dinnel, 2007). However, diminish of the attributable reasons may cause the protection of self-worth to wither, leaving low ability as the only reason for poor academic performance. When the attributable reasons for poor performance diminish, some students withdraw their efforts for an immediate protection of self-worth so that other people can attribute low academic performance to low efforts and not low ability. People associate withdrawal of effort with curious inconsistencies in academic performance of students. Such students may perform extremely well on other occasions. For instance, most women may withdraw their efforts from doing well in mathematics and perform extremely well in languages as a mechanism of protecting their self-worth (Thompson & Dinnel, 2007).
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In some cases, people associate poor performance of women in mathematics and science subjects with a stereotype threat. With the stereotype threat, poor academic performance happens due to autonomic arousal while self-worth involves processes that include intentional low efforts, which put a student at a distance from the requirements of a task and discounting usefulness of a task. Some students also employ anxiety in protecting self-worth or as avoidance (Covington, 1993). Avoidance reduces anxiety by allowing a person to escape situations that involve evaluative threats. Consequently, reduction in anxiety promotes further avoidance. However, when a person encounters another situation in which he or she entertains doubts regarding his or her capability of producing successful outcomes, the anxiety recurs. It is evident that protection of self-worth among students results in poor academic performance because the students tend to put low effort and interest in various tasks that they perceive to be unmanageable (Thompson & Dinnel, 2007).
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Self-worth theory enables individuals to understand that achievements have a direct relationship with people’s perceptions about themselves. Trainers find self-worth theory to be extremely significant in ensuring that trainees do their best during and after training (Covington, 1993). They employ praises and rewards to motivate trainees throughout the course of training. Praises and other materials rewards assure the trainees that they have the capability of doing well in their areas of study (Covington, 1993). However, some individuals who do not perform well try to protect their self-worth from damage. Other people may often refer to these individuals as having inability. Low performers may withdraw their efforts from the tasks in which they perform poorly so that people can associate the performance with low efforts (Schunk, Pintrich, & Meece, 2008).