"Earlier, I described Shame as the subjective marker of social failure. ... Consistent with this perspective, clinical evidence indicates that interindividual differences in the ease with which Shame is elicited are largely the product of differing life histories (Lewis 1987). Significantly, successes and failures seem to have a cumulative effect -- repeated (and early) failures lower the Shame threshold (Miller 1985). Moreover, both clinical and experimental results indicate that the propensity to experience Shame is negatively correlated with self-esteem (Retzinger 1991; Miller 1985). Self-esteem can be conceptualized as the generalized assessment of self as relatively successful or unsuccessful, a summation of the events which constitute Ego’s self-perceived successes and failures to date. Self-esteem influences whether events are seen as constituting relatively greater or lesser successes or failures, and it is this which determines the ease of elicitation of Shame. In turn, because Shame affects the salience of risk and benefit during decision making, by setting the threshold for experiencing Shame, self-esteem indirectly determines the likelihood that benefit will be maximized or risk will be avoided. Self-esteem thus operates to create a consistent situation-sensitive strategy, linking life experience to immediate decisions."
Daniel M. T. Fessler (2001)