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The Trouble With Self-Esteem
NY Times ^ | February 3, 2002 | Lauren Slater

Posted on 02/03/2002 10:24:15 PM PST by Ultima Thule

The Trouble With Self-Esteem


Take this test:

1. On the whole I am satisfied with myself.

2. At times I think that I am no good at all.

3. I feel that I have a number of good qualities.

4. I am able to do things as well as most other people.

5. I feel I do not have much to be proud of.

6. I certainly feel useless at times.

7. I feel that I am a person of worth, at least the equal of others.

8. I wish I could have more respect for myself.

9. All in all, I am inclined to feel that I am a failure.

10. I take a positive attitude toward myself.

Devised by the sociologist Morris Rosenberg, this questionnaire is one of the most widely used self-esteem assessment scales in the United States. If your answers demonstrate solid self-regard, the wisdom of the social sciences predicts that you are well adjusted, clean and sober, basically lucid, without criminal record and with some kind of college cum laude under your high-end belt. If your answers, on the other hand, reveal some inner shame, then it is obvious: you were, or are, a teenage mother; you are prone to social deviance; and if you don't drink, it is because the illicit drugs are bountiful and robust.

It has not been much disputed, until recently, that high self-esteem -- defined quite simply as liking yourself a lot, holding a positive opinion of your actions and capacities -- is essential to well-being and that its opposite is responsible for crime and substance abuse and prostitution and murder and rape and even terrorism. Thousands of papers in psychiatric and social-science literature suggest this, papers with names like ''Characteristics of Abusive Parents: A Look At Self-Esteem'' and ''Low Adolescent Self-Esteem Leads to Multiple Interpersonal Problems.'' In 1990, David Long published ''The Anatomy of Terrorism,'' in which he found that hijackers and suicide bombers suffer from feelings of worthlessness and that their violent, fluorescent acts are desperate attempts to bring some inner flair to a flat mindscape.

This all makes so much sense that we have not thought to question it. The less confidence you have, the worse you do; the more confidence you have, the better you do; and so the luminous loop goes round. Based on our beliefs, we have created self-esteem programs in schools in which the main objective is, as Jennifer Coon-Wallman, a psychotherapist based in Boston, says, ''to dole out huge heapings of praise, regardless of actual accomplishment.'' We have a National Association for Self-Esteem with about a thousand members, and in 1986, the State Legislature of California founded the ''California Task Force to Promote Self-Esteem and Personal and Social Responsibility.'' It was galvanized by Assemblyman John Vasconcellos, who fervently believed that by raising his citizens' self-concepts, he could divert drug abuse and all sorts of other social ills.

It didn't work.

In fact, crime rates and substance abuse rates are formidable, right along with our self-assessment scores on paper-and-pencil tests. (Whether these tests are valid and reliable indicators of self-esteem is a subject worthy of inquiry itself, but in the parlance of social-science writing, it goes ''beyond the scope of this paper.'') In part, the discrepancy between high self-esteem scores and poor social skills and academic acumen led researchers like Nicholas Emler of the London School of Economics and Roy Baumeister of Case Western Reserve University to consider the unexpected notion that self-esteem is overrated and to suggest that it may even be a culprit, not a cure.

''There is absolutely no evidence that low self-esteem is particularly harmful,'' Emler says. ''It's not at all a cause of poor academic performance; people with low self-esteem seem to do just as well in life as people with high self-esteem. In fact, they may do better, because they often try harder.'' Baumeister takes Emler's findings a bit further, claiming not only that low self-esteem is in most cases a socially benign if not beneficent condition but also that its opposite, high self-regard, can maim and even kill. Baumeister conducted a study that found that some people with favorable views of themselves were more likely to administer loud blasts of ear-piercing noise to a subject than those more tepid, timid folks who held back the horn. An earlier experiment found that men with high self-esteem were more willing to put down victims to whom they had administered electric shocks than were their low-level counterparts.

Last year alone there were three withering studies of self-esteem released in the United States, all of which had the same central message: people with high self-esteem pose a greater threat to those around them than people with low self-esteem and feeling bad about yourself is not the cause of our country's biggest, most expensive social problems. The research is original and compelling and lays the groundwork for a new, important kind of narrative about what makes life worth living -- if we choose to listen, which might be hard. One of this country's most central tenets, after all, is the pursuit of happiness, which has been strangely joined to the pursuit of self-worth. Shifting a paradigm is never easy. More than 2,000 books offering the attainment of self-esteem have been published; educational programs in schools designed to cultivate self-esteem continue to proliferate, as do rehabilitation programs for substance abusers that focus on cognitive realignment with self-affirming statements like, ''Today I will accept myself for who I am, not who I wish I were.'' I have seen therapists tell their sociopathic patients to say ''I adore myself'' every day or to post reminder notes on their kitchen cabinets and above their toilet-paper dispensers, self-affirmations set side by side with waste.

Will we give these challenges to our notions about self-esteem their due or will the research go the way of the waste? ''Research like that is seriously flawed,'' says Stephen Keane, a therapist who practices in Newburyport, Mass. ''First, it's defining self-esteem according to very conventional and problematic masculine ideas. Second, it's clear to me that many violent men, in particular, have this inner shame; they find out early in life they're not going to measure up, and they compensate for it with fists. We need, as men, to get to the place where we can really honor and expand our natural human grace.''

Keane's comment is rooted in a history that goes back hundreds of years, and it is this history that in part prevents us from really tussling with the insights of scientists like Baumeister and Emler. We have long held in this country the Byronic belief that human nature is essentially good or graceful, that behind the sheath of skin is a little globe of glow to be harnessed for creative uses. Benjamin Franklin, we believe, got that glow, as did Joseph Pulitzer and scads of other, lesser, folks who eagerly caught on to what was called, in the 19th century, ''mind cure.''

Mind cure augurs New Age healing, so that when we lift and look at the roots, New Age is not new at all. In the 19th century, people fervently believed that you were what you thought. Sound familiar? Post it above your toilet paper. You are what you think. What you think. What you think. In the 1920's, a French psychologist, Emile Coue, became all the rage in this country; he proposed the technique of autosuggestion and before long had many citizens repeating, ''Day by day in every way I am getting better and better.''

But as John Hewitt says in his book criticizing self-esteem, it was maybe Ralph Waldo Emerson more than anyone else who gave the modern self-esteem movement its most eloquent words and suasive philosophy. Emerson died more than a century ago, but you can visit his house in Concord, Mass., and see his bedroom slippers cordoned off behind plush velvet ropes and his eyeglasses, surprisingly frail, the frames of thin gold, the ovals of shine, perched on a beautiful desk. It was in this house that Emerson wrote his famous transcendentalist essays like ''On Self-Reliance,'' which posits that the individual has something fresh and authentic within and that it is up to him to discover it and nurture it apart from the corrupting pressures of social influence. Emerson never mentions ''self-esteem'' in his essay, but his every word echoes with the self-esteem movement of today, with its romantic, sometimes silly and clearly humane belief that we are special, from head to toe.

Self-esteem, as a construct, as a quasi religion, is woven into a tradition that both defines and confines us as Americans. If we were to deconstruct self-esteem, to question its value, we would be, in a sense, questioning who we are, nationally and individually. We would be threatening our self-esteem. This is probably why we cannot really assimilate research like Baumeister's or Emler's; it goes too close to the bone and then threatens to break it. Imagine if you heard your child's teacher say, ''Don't think so much of yourself.'' Imagine your spouse saying to you, ''You know, you're really not so good at what you do.'' We have developed a discourse of affirmation, and to deviate from that would be to enter another arena, linguistically and grammatically, so that what came out of our mouths would be impolite at best, unintelligible at worst.

Is there a way to talk about the self without measuring its worth? Why, as a culture, have we so conflated the two quite separate notions -- a) self and b) worth? This may have as much to do with our entrepreneurial history as Americans, in which everything exists to be improved, as it does, again, with the power of language to shape beliefs. How would we story the self if not triumphantly, redemptively, enhanced from the inside out? A quick glance at titles containing the word ''self'' shows that a hefty percentage also have -improvement or -enhancement tucked into them, oftentimes with numbers -- something like 101 ways to improve your self-esteem or 503 ways to better your outlook in 60 days or 604 ways to overcome negative self-talk. You could say that these titles are a product of a culture, or you could say that these titles and the contents they sheathe shape the culture. It is the old argument: do we make language or does language make us? In the case of self-esteem, it is probably something in between, a synergistic loop-the-loop.

On the subject of language, one could, of course, fault Baumeister and Emler for using ''self-esteem'' far too unidimensionally, so that it blurs and blends with simple smugness. Baumeister, in an attempt at nuance, has tried to shade the issue by referring to two previously defined types: high unstable self-esteem and high well-grounded self-esteem. As a psychologist, I remember once treating a murderer, who said, ''The problem with me, Lauren, is that I'm the biggest piece of [expletive] the world revolves around.'' He would have scored high on a self-esteem inventory, but does he really ''feel good'' about himself? And if he doesn't really feel good about himself, then does it not follow that his hidden low, not his high, self-esteem leads to violence? And yet as Baumeister points out, research has shown that people with overt low self-esteem aren't violent, so why would low self-esteem cause violence only when it is hidden? If you follow his train of thinking, you could come up with the sort of silly conclusion that covert low self-esteem causes aggression, but overt low self-esteem does not, which means concealment, not cockiness, is the real culprit. That makes little sense.

''The fact is,'' Emler says, ''we've put antisocial men through every self-esteem test we have, and there's no evidence for the old psychodynamic concept that they secretly feel bad about themselves. These men are racist or violent because they don't feel bad enough about themselves.'' Baumeister and his colleagues write: ''People who believe themselves to be among the top 10 percent on any dimension may be insulted and threatened whenever anyone asserts that they are in the 80th or 50th or 25th percentile. In contrast, someone with lower self-esteem who regards himself or herself as being merely in the top 60 percent would only be threatened by the feedback that puts him or her at the 25th percentile. . . . In short, the more favorable one's view of oneself, the greater the range of external feedback that will be perceived as unacceptably low.''

Perhaps, as these researchers are saying, pride really is dangerous, and too few of us know how to be humble. But that is most likely not the entire reason why we are ignoring flares that say, ''Look, sometimes self-esteem can be bad for your health.'' There are, as always, market forces, and they are formidable. The psychotherapy industry, for instance, would take a huge hit were self-esteem to be re-examined. After all, psychology and psychiatry are predicated upon the notion of the self, and its enhancement is the primary purpose of treatment. I am by no means saying mental health professionals have any conscious desire to perpetuate a perhaps simplistic view of self-esteem, but they are, we are (for I am one of them, I confess), the ''cultural retailers'' of the self-esteem concept, and were the concept to falter, so would our pocketbooks.

Really, who would come to treatment to be taken down a notch? How would we get our clients to pay to be, if not insulted, at least uncomfortably challenged? There is a profound tension here between psychotherapy as a business that needs to retain its customers and psychotherapy as a practice that has the health of its patients at heart. Mental health is not necessarily a comfortable thing. Because we want to protect our patients and our pocketbooks, we don't always say this. The drug companies that underwrite us never say this. Pills take you up or level you out, but I have yet to see an advertisement for a drug of deflation.

If you look at psychotherapy in other cultures, you get a glimpse into the obsessions of our own. You also see what a marketing fiasco we would have on our hands were we to dial down our self-esteem beliefs. In Japan, there is a popular form of psychotherapy that does not focus on the self and its worth. This psychotherapeutic treatment, called Morita, holds as its central premise that neurotic suffering comes, quite literally, from extreme self-awareness. ''The most miserable people I know have been self-focused,'' says David Reynolds, a Morita practitioner in Oregon. Reynolds writes, ''Cure is not defined by the alleviation of discomfort or the attainment of some ideal state (which is impossible) but by taking constructive action in one's life which helps one to live a full and meaningful existence and not be ruled by one's emotional state.''

Morita therapy, which emphasizes action over reflection, might have some trouble catching on here, especially in the middle-class West, where folks would be hard pressed to garden away the 50-minute hour. That's what Morita patients do; they plant petunias and practice patience as they wait for them to bloom.

Like any belief system, Morita has its limitations. To detach from feelings carries with it the risk of detaching from their significant signals, which carry important information about how to act: reach out, recoil. But the current research on self-esteem does suggest that we might benefit, if not fiscally than at least spiritually, from a few petunias on the Blue Cross bill. And the fact that we continue, in the vernacular, to use the word ''shrink'' to refer to treatment means that perhaps unconsciously we know we sometimes need to be taken down a peg.

Down to . . . what? Maybe self-control should replace self-esteem as a primary peg to reach for. I don't mean to sound Puritanical, but there is something to be said for discipline, which comes from the word ''disciple,'' which actually means to comprehend. Ultimately, self-control need not be seen as a constriction; restored to its original meaning, it might be experienced as the kind of practiced prowess an athlete or an artist demonstrates, muscles not tamed but trained, so that the leaps are powerful, the spine supple and the energy harnessed and shaped.

There are therapy programs that teach something like self-control, but predictably they are not great moneymakers and they certainly do not attract the bulk of therapy consumers, the upper middle class. One such program, called Emerge, is run by a psychologist named David Adams in a low-budget building in Cambridge, Mass. Emerge's clients are mostly abusive men, 75 percent of them mandated by the courts. ''I once did an intake on a batterer who had been in psychotherapy for three years, and his violence wasn't getting any better,'' Adams told me. ''I said to him, 'Why do you think you hit your wife?' He said to me, 'My therapist told me it's because I don't feel good about myself inside.''' Adams sighs, then laughs. ''We believe it has nothing to do with how good a man feels about himself. At Emerge, we teach men to evaluate their behaviors honestly and to interact with others using empathy and respect.'' In order to accomplish these goals, men write their entire abuse histories on 12-by-12 sheets of paper, hang the papers on the wall and read them. ''Some of the histories are so long, they go all around the room,'' Adams says. ''But it's a powerful exercise. It gets a guy to really concretely see.'' Other exercises involve having the men act out the abuse with the counselor as the victim. Unlike traditional ''suburban'' therapies, Emerge is under no pressure to keep its customers; the courts do that for them. In return, they are free to pursue a path that has to do with ''balanced confrontation,'' at the heart of which is critical reappraisal and self- -- no, not esteem -- responsibility.

While Emerge is for a specific subgroup of people, it might provide us with a model for how to reconfigure treatment -- and maybe even life -- if we do decide the self is not about how good it feels but how well it does, in work and love. Work and love. That's a phrase fashioned by Freud himself, who once said the successful individual is one who has achieved meaningful work and meaningful love. Note how separate this sentence is from the notion of self. We blame Freud for a lot of things, but we can't blame that cigar-smoking Victorian for this particular cultural obsession. It was Freud, after all, who said that the job of psychotherapy was to turn neurotic suffering into ordinary suffering. Freud never claimed we should be happy, and he never claimed confidence was the key to a life well lived.

I remember the shock I had when I finally read this old analyst in his native tongue. English translations of Freud make him sound maniacal, if not egomaniacal, with his bloated words like id, ego and superego. But in the original German, id means under-I, ego translates into I and superego is not super-duper but, quite simply, over-I. Freud was staking a claim for a part of the mind that watches the mind, that takes the global view in an effort at honesty. Over-I. I can see. And in the seeing, assess, edit, praise and prune. This is self-appraisal, which precedes self-control, for we must first know both where we flail and stumble, and where we are truly strong, before we can make disciplined alterations. Self-appraisal. It has a certain sort of rhythm to it, does it not? Self-appraisal may be what Baumeister and Emler are actually advocating. If our lives are stories in the making, then we must be able to edit as well as advertise the text. Self-appraisal. If we say self-appraisal again and again, 101 times, 503 times, 612 times, maybe we can create it. And learn its complex arts.

Lauren Slater is a psychologist. Her memoir, ''Love Works Like This,'' will be published by Random House in May.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; News/Current Events
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1 posted on 02/03/2002 10:24:15 PM PST by Ultima Thule
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To: Ultima Thule
bump to read later
2 posted on 02/04/2002 3:54:17 AM PST by foolscap
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To: foolscap
3 posted on 02/04/2002 4:01:03 AM PST by Ultima Thule
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To: Ultima Thule
AGood article, but I'm not sure the idea is new. I reckon it was about five years ago or so that John Stossel had an (20/20?) news story about researchers finding remarkably high levels of self-esteem ... in prisons.

Personally I think this PC self esteem push to be pathetic.

"Oh NO!" cry the taxachussets soccer moms, "We must not keep score; Little Johnny may become upset!" Do we actually think the kids don't know who won? There are very important lessons to be learned in victory AND defeat.

Can you picture this one?: Said the PC publicly indoctrinated engineer; "I don't know if calculations I did on the shuttles' SRM O-Rings were right or wrong, but I FELT very good about them!"

My wife and I train our kids to have an ACCURATE assessment of their capabilities, traits, personality, etc. The self esteen push is a natural progression of the idea that our worth as people depends on our actions. This idea that our value is dependent on our capability in any area of life is a lie, and a truly wonderful precursor to infanticide (also known as the "pro choice" position) and euthanasia.

4 posted on 02/04/2002 4:39:25 AM PST by 70times7
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To: Ultima Thule
bump for later
5 posted on 02/04/2002 5:08:59 AM PST by Ditter
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To: 70times7, ultima thule
I concur with your assessment. What should be disquieting for those who idealize self-esteem is the great contributions of many with self descried low self-esteem.

One classic example would be Marcel Proust. Another would be Soren Kirdegaard. Proust saw suffering and ones response to it as essential in determing both truth and beauty. He wrote his "Rembrance of Things Past" from the sick bed over a period of 14 years. He failed at all major life tasks including love and work, was indordinately attached to his mother, never really supported himself and his homosexuality was marred by an absence of any real (but many imagined) depth or committment. In spite of it all, he remains perhaps the greatest author of the 20th century.

Kierkegaard had an unrequited love, never married, was so depressed and full of self-hatred he sometimes couldn't function, yet he wrote the greatest defence of Christianity and faith by simply pursuing his thesis that there was a "leap of faith" requirement for the religious experience.

I was particularly interested in the Freud quotes which were apt. It is unfortunate Dr. Slater did not mention the self-esteem cult was popularized in the US by Alfred Adler and Rudolph Dreikurs. The latter I knew, and while a great lecturer and persuasive man, he lacked an ineffable something which made one wary.

Thanks Ultima Thule.

6 posted on 02/04/2002 5:18:32 AM PST by shrinkermd
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To: 70times7
Self-esteem - morality = Oprah
7 posted on 02/04/2002 5:30:55 AM PST by moyden
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To: Ultima Thule

I do have a few comments.

I saw recent [last 4 years?] research which seemed to indicate that essential what many held to be self-esteem was nothing more nor less than having several people in one's network who affirmed that you were a person of worth.

That makes a fair amount of sense. Without some sort of consensual affirmation from our primary reference group/individuals, it's pretty easy to feel pretty worthless in a perfectionistic home/culture.

I do think the issue has not been well studied in other than fairly simplistic terms. I think it's more complex than even this great article makes clear.


I'm reminded of research on belief. Liberal commie BILLDO'S used to assert that Christians were the most biggoted, violent, hostile, rigid, destructive people in the universe. Rokeach and others helped make reality clearer.

There became known a couple of overlapping constructs. One was intrinsic/extrinsic. Another was PRO and ANTI.

Intrinsic believers [could include atheists in the sense that they believed in their atheism] were those who earnestly owned their beliefs in their hearts and integrated them into virtually all they did. Extrinsic believers sort of put their beliefs on like a coat for Sunday morning or for business reasons.

Then the PRO and ANTI research found the "indiscrimminantly pro religious," the indiscrimminantly anti-religious and I forget what the other term was but it roughly overlapped the intrinsic group above.

This was very fascinating to me in my dissertation research. I was reading--I think it was "The American Atheist" or some such title by such an organization. I was shocked.

A lot of my research was dealing with Pentecostal and Charismatic Christian groups. And here I was reading this very core doctrinaire atheist publication by the premier atheist organization. And it was reading like a Pentecostal tract. I was shocked.

If I had substituted maybe no more than 4-8 key words, the sentences and paragraphs would have seemed to have come verbatim from a Pentecostal tract or article. It turns out that a number of things tend to have a curvilinear sort of relationship--the ends of the horseshoe are more similar to each other than the middle to either end.

Anyway--it turns out, that many of the liberal commie types were the MOST BIGGOTED, MOST HOSTILE, MOST PRONE TO DESTRUCTIVE VIOLENCE ETC. In the subgroups mentioned above--the INDISCRIMMINANTLY ANTI-RELIGIOUS were the MOST BIGGOTED, MOST HOSTILE, VIOLENT ETC.

Who was least? The intrinsic believer--by a very wide margin--I think between at least 2 and 2.5 standard diviations different.

The indiscrimminantly pro-religious was the sort of person who SOUNDED [often loudly] hyper religious and usually had all the jargon down pat--was ready to spread it on thick at the drop of a hat. But it was mostly a sham. Maybe they wanted to believe, wanted to belong to that group--but somehow it was still more like a coat to put on and off for ulterior reasons. It was far from integrated into the fabric of their being.

I think self-esteem will eventually be seen to be more complex.

It is clear to me that people who feel lower than toe jam on the lowest microbe in the lowest cesspool will likely not have energy enough to do much even to themselves. They are more likely to be catatonic than violent. And, it's probably safe to say that most of the time, those people have suffered either a recent series of horrendous disconfirmations from their reference group/friends--or--they have never had much positive affirmation from anyone. And, probably they have had parental and other pressures to be impossibly perfect without any significant sensitivity teaching them how to improve.

SOME such people can rise above such--even maybe as a result of just ONE caring, affirming comment from ONE teacher in their lifetimes.

I don't think the research nor the article above differentiates much and certainly not well between arrogance and an accurate acceptance of one's own strengths. Arrogance usually seems to be a kind of reaction formation blusteringly trying to demonstrate on the exterior in brash, prickly, sometimes horrendous ways that the arrogant person also has a right to breathe air and take up space in spite of lots of people telling them they were worthless and couldn't walk and chew gum at the same time.

That kind of arrogance is not remotely healthy self-confidence. And it can foster a lot of horrendous behavior of a very destructive nature. In my experience, such individuals did not receive healthy affection, love, affirmation the first 6-8 years of life--much at all or not sufficient for their personality. At their core, they are terrified that they are, indeed, worthless, horrid creatures. And consequently, they seem hell-bent on proving it at every chance.

So they become sort of eternal school-yard bullies going about trying to demand and steal goodies, sense of worth, belonging, etc. that they missed out on and so desperately need.

Interestingly, though, there are perhaps other routes to a sociopathic personality. My adopted sister was one. My mother and step-dad gave her virtually anything she wanted. They praised her and catered to her nausiatingly. It was never enough. I can point to my mother's perfectionism and dismal understanding while insisting she knew everything. I can point to my parents inabilities to really connect with my sister on a heart, emotions, intellectual level that really demonstrated they understood her. Nevertheless, she did not lack for tons of affirming inputs from both of them. Still she became a sociopath on drugs and in and out of prison most of her 40 year life. . . . miserable yet hostile and demanding virtually to the day she did herself in.

She was brilliant--twisting both parents and plenty others around her finger without feeling close to any of them. She had great musical talents. She was arrogant and defiantly so often enough. But self-respect, self-esteem she did NOT have much of.

Prov 23:7 declares that as a man thinks, so is he. I believe that feeding constantly on the notion that one is scum tends to facilitate acting like scum. But it's not always a vividly direct, 1:1 correlation.

In short, I believe parents are neglecting their duties if their kids reach 8 years without KNOWING they are treasures made in God's image. And, sooner or later, at least that child and those close to that child--and probably society will pay for that parental failure. . . often enough, horrendously.

Further, life has plenty of negatives and pain. I doubt any of us are excessively affirming to those closest to us. If my memory serves me right, a marriage [or any close relationship] is at risk if the bottom line of interactions is not at least 4 out of 5 times net positive in terms of the feelings the individuals take away from the interactions. I forget the exact percentage but it's in that ballpark.

Arrogance, selfishness, abuse, perfectionism, sociopathy. I don't know that those are evidence of anything I'd call self-esteem. It hink they are much more associated with the opposite.

Then there are the rabid Christians who get on a theological high horse about "self-confidence." We are to be CONFIDENT IN GOD, not in the sin ridden, fleshy self. Welllll, I can understand their point and agree in a sense. But we are also made in God's image; joint heirs with Jesus Christ; written on the palm of His hand; the apple of His eye; bought with Christ's Blood--the most precious substance in all the universes of all creations.

Does it help to say repeatedly "I'm not perfect AND that's OK!" Maybe. One of my bosses was a retired Navy pilot, Nam wing commander turned psychologist on retirement. He had ejected twice and had walls full of commendations. At one point in his stary career, he had an office next to and reporting to the CNO at the Pentegon. Still, he said he had to post that on his mirror and say it many times a day for--2-3 months before he began to believe it.

Infecting someone with an unassailable sense of humble worth is probably one of the most valuable things parents [and others nearby] can give their kids. Those who give the opposite are asking for trouble and dishing trouble out to society in spades.

8 posted on 02/04/2002 5:59:08 AM PST by Quix
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To: 70times7
The self esteen push is a natural progression of the idea that our worth as people depends on our actions

I agree. Look at all the people who think the whole world revolves around whether they are successful and happy, and when they don't end up being as successful and happy as they think they should be, they lose it (clinical depression, even school and workplace shootings).

Accurate self-knowledge and an inherent sense of dignity and of their own worth are things that far too few children learn these days.

9 posted on 02/04/2002 3:28:33 PM PST by Ultima Thule
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To: shrinkermd
What should be disquieting for those who idealize self-esteem is the great contributions of many with self descried low self-esteem

Do you recall a recent study which showed that the higher the participants rated their ability to perform a task, the worse they did on it, and vice versa?

10 posted on 02/04/2002 3:45:30 PM PST by Ultima Thule
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To: Quix
I do think the issue has not been well studied in other than fairly simplistic terms. I think it's more complex than even this great article makes clear

You're probably right. The profusion of terms (self-esteem, self-regard, self-worth, self-respect, self-concept) and apparent lack of clear and agreed-upon definitions for any of them certainly make this a most perplexing subject.

11 posted on 02/04/2002 3:50:21 PM PST by Ultima Thule
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To: Ultima Thule
Self-esteem training has been watered down from original books on topic by Nathaniel Branden, known as father of the self-esteem movement. As originally stated, self-esteem was based on achievements. But the NEA got hold of it and teach kids that no matter what they do, they're wonderful.

After a riot in Los Angeles, I saw a fellow being arrested on tv after bashing brains out of someone in street. He shouted into camera: "Don't matter what I do, I'm a good person." Thank you, NEA.

I also saw the head of Boys Town in Omaha on tv...he stated that they used to get boys who were angry and had low self-esteem. They were able to give those kids lots of help and turn them into decent citizens. Now, he said, they get kids who are angry but have high self-esteem, and they can do nothing with them. Sociopaths, one and all.

12 posted on 02/04/2002 3:53:29 PM PST by PoisedWoman
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To: Ultima Thule

THANKS for your kind comment.

What has been your personal experience and observations in this subject area?

13 posted on 02/04/2002 4:16:46 PM PST by Quix
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To: PoisedWoman
After a fair amount of observations of my sister. . . plenty of group work and individual and family counseling . . . I'm convinced that sociopaths have a higher than average incidence and amount of demonic influence whether oppression or possession.
14 posted on 02/04/2002 4:19:09 PM PST by Quix
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To: Quix
The people I admire the most are highly principled, have enough self-respect to maintain their principles even under duress, and are too modest to indulge in the extremes either of arrogance or of self-pity.

People with high self-respect and high self-esteem often seem to hold 99% of the rest of the human race in extreme contempt; no matter how virtuous such self-aggrandizing people may actually be, they lack a certain compassionate emotional and spiritual dimension.

Low self-respect + high self-esteem = Bill Clinton.

Low self-respect + low self-esteem = a lifetime of victimhood.

15 posted on 02/04/2002 11:02:51 PM PST by Ultima Thule
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To: Ultima Thule
I think the confusion of terms serves the purposes of those who despise personal responsibility and self-respect.
16 posted on 02/04/2002 11:05:49 PM PST by Judith Anne
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To: PoisedWoman
Interesting...I once heard of a quote by the 19th-century American philosopher William James: "Self-esteem equals accomplishments divided by pretensions." Thus, in order to increase self-esteem, a person would either have to increase their achievements or lower their aspirations.
17 posted on 02/04/2002 11:07:16 PM PST by Ultima Thule
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To: Judith Anne
Could you explain in more detail what purposes and which people you mean?
18 posted on 02/04/2002 11:13:27 PM PST by Ultima Thule
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To: Ultima Thule
Well, probably not very well...but when I took Psych l0l the instructor, in answer to my question, said that there is no real agreed upon terminology, instead there are a number of "schools of thought." My opinion, with which he agreed, was that this variety tended to obscure meanings and make dialogue between the various schools difficult. If the terms can't be defined, you can't have legitimate concensus or disagreement.

Self-respect is a positive view of self that is earned by accomplishment, imho. Personal responsibility means, in awkward terms, that in large part, how I live is how I choose to live, (as an adult). But this is my opinion.

I've left out moral terms, since so little in psychology seems to involve morality...

19 posted on 02/04/2002 11:36:31 PM PST by Judith Anne
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To: Ultima Thule
Thanks for posting this...They were discussing it Monday afternoon on TALK OF THE NATION and I've been meaning to read it ever since.

The comments I, as a teacher, thought were most interesting:

People with high self-esteem were NOT less likely to use drugs or become criminals.

People with higher self-esteem tend to be more prejudiced.

On the whole, black children have higher self-esteem than white children.

20 posted on 02/06/2002 4:26:55 PM PST by Amelia
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