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Self-esteem is such a commonly used term you probably already know what it is: thinking highly of yourself. You have probably heard self-esteem mentioned on talk shows, in magazine articles, and even in popular songs (the song “The Greatest Love of All” is about loving yourself, and there's a song by the band The Offspring called “Self-Esteem.”) But social psychology research has discovered a lot of things about self-esteem that have not yet made it to popular culture, and this research might surprise you.

Academic psychologists recognize two types of self-esteem. The first is general self-esteem, often measured using the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (which includes items such as “I take a positive attitude toward myself”). The second type of self-esteem is specific, often measuring self-esteem in ...

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