[SEWOB] How Self-Esteem Affects Work Output


The Self-Esteem, Work-Output Board (SEWOB) is a chart that shows the relationship between an individual’s valuation of their worth, and the quality of work they produce. A person’s sense of worth has a direct impact on the quality of work they produce and both play cause and effect roles to each other.

On the large spectrum, high self-esteem will lead to high-quality work and low self-esteem will lead to low quality work for several reasons. However, it is not always so. High self-esteem can lead to low quality work and low self-esteem lead to high-quality work. This is what this SEWO board explains.

The SEWO board is made up of four quadrants: high-quality work caused by high self-esteem, high-quality work caused by low self-esteem, low quality work caused by high self-esteem, and low-quality work caused by low self-esteem. The difference in the quality of work each of these four quadrants produces is the mindset of the individuals.

High-Quality Work And High Self-Esteem 

This is the state that is taught for everyone to be in. Here, you have a positive view of yourself, you see yourself as worthy and capable, you expect people to appreciate the things you do because they will be good since you are good. The thought in the mind of the first quadrant individual is quite simple: “I am good, everything I do will be good, I will get to work and bring forth good.”

Both variables (work and sense of worth) play cause-and-effect roles to each other. Because you think you are worthy and capable, you put your best into the things you do, because of that you can do it well, that reinforces the fact that you are worthy and capable and so on.

People in the first quadrant are confident in their worth and their work, they don’t get deterred by failure because, unlike someone who has low self-esteem, if they fail they see that failure as just an event that can be worked on. It doesn’t make them less worthy or capable.

The person in the first quadrant needs no motivation and doesn’t build up upfront pressure (in the name of preparation) before they get things done. They are always up to take up tasks or challenges because of their assurance in themselves.

They have balanced self-esteem: I am good and need to work. However, it can differ from true self-esteem if the individual begins to think that the reason they are worthy is because of the quality work they produce. People with true self-esteem work because they are worthy, not to be worthy.

High-Quality Work And Low Self-Esteem 

The person in this quadrant is the one whose view of themself does not reflect on the work they do. The second quadrant has very little coverage among teachers/researchers of self-esteem simply because it does not seem obvious or logical from a distant look. 

Note that there are two indices on which everyone bases their self-esteem naturally: their worth and their work. Other psychologists call it lovability and capability or worthiness and competence. What this means is that some individuals see themselves as lovable but don’t see themselves as capable. They believe in their worth but not their work. These are those in the third quadrant. 

Individuals in the second quadrant, on the other hand, don’t see themselves as worthy or lovable but believe in their work. They see themselves as capable but not lovable. The kind of thoughts that run in their mind is: “I can do this but people won’t like it because they won’t like me.”

They think people won’t like it although it is good because they (not the work) are not good (lovable). Everything about them/ from them will also not be lovable. This conviction of capability pushes them to work. 

Because they spend much of their life not producing anything, they see several people (from the third quadrant especially) bring forth low-quality work and receive applause. This convinces them even more of their capability and motivates them to work too.

But instead of just putting out their good work, they work on themselves and work all day to compensate for the (perceived) fact that people do not like them. “Because people don’t like me, if I do what everyone else is doing they won’t choose mine so I must put in extra effort to be noticed.”

Individuals on the second quadrant derive their sense of worth from their work. Because every individual desires to feel worthy, they continue to leverage on their “only” strength (quality work) to balance their perceived lack of worth. They are easily shaken by failure and need a lot of preparation, motivation, and buildup of pressure to work.

The way out for them is to understand they are still worthy without their work. They should build true self-esteem

There are other individuals in this quadrant who believe in their work but have very strong worth based low self-esteem and because of that, don’t rise to work. The conviction of their unworthiness is stronger than the conviction of their capability. 

Low-Quality Work And High Self-Esteem 

These individuals have worth-based high self-esteem only. They are so engrossed with the fact that they are worthy and lovable that they don’t care about anything else. This is the reason why it leads to low-quality work. Their high self-esteem is not balanced. 

This quadrant is also similar to true self-esteem that I advocate for, however, the person at quadrant 3 thinks: “since my worth is not determined by my work, I don’t need to work because I am not trying to prove my worth to anyone.”

Even when they get to work, they put in only minimal effort, just enough to get by because they don’t attach any significance to their work. They are also unlike those in quadrant 2 who derive all their significance from their work.

The thought in the mind of one with true self-esteem is: “My worth is not defined by my work, but my work should reveal my worth. I need to work, not to prove my worth to anyone, but because I understand my worth and value.”

Individuals in quadrant 2 are not shaken by failure because it means nothing to them. There are other individuals in this quadrant who bring forth high-quality work because they’re highly talented or skillful. That is, their minimal input still makes a significant difference because of their skill or talent.

However, they would have done even better if they had quadrant 1 self-esteem. What is best for them is to understand that their worth requires work to serve its purpose. They should build true self-esteem.

Low-Quality Work And Low Self-Esteem

Individuals in quadrant 4 bring forth low-quality work because they have low self-esteem. They are neither confident in their worth nor work. They think: “I can’t do this so I won’t try. People don’t like me so I won’t stress still.” They respond very poorly to failure because failure only reinforces what they have always believed (they aren’t capable or lovable). 

Unfortunately, they continue to fail because they put in little effort and that failure continues to reinforce their belief, which makes them put even lesser effort and the cycle continues.

Individuals in this quadrant need great doses of motivation, they usually build up a lot of upfront pressure (in the name of preparation) before they attempt to get anything done but their motivation is short-lived. They soon get back to their shell and sideline themselves.

The quadrant 4 self-esteem is the most studied and incapacitating of all the quadrants. The solution is to get cured of low self-esteem.


Of all the four quadrants, quadrant 1 is the safest but still, it isn’t the best because just building high self-esteem on nothing can still be unhealthy. Building true self-esteem will give you all the benefits of quadrant 1 without any caveat.

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