Saturday, November 07, 2009

On self-esteem

Perhaps we should re-think our society's emphasis on self-esteem with a bit more skepticism:
"The psychologist Roy Baumeister has conducted more studies on self-esteem than any other researcher I know of. H wrote: 'The enthusiastic claims of the self-esteem movement mostly range from fantasy to hogwash.'

Baumeister found in his research that those with the highest self-esteem were often more likely to be obnoxious, to interrupt, and to lecture people instead of speaking to them with respect...Some of the world's worst villains have had 'high self-esteem." Violent gang leaders usually think highly of themselves, and some of the current rogues in the growing gallery of corporate corruption, who have been strong advocates of self-potentialism and personal power seminars, have recently demonstrated the perils of relentlessly high self-esteem.

The self-help answer to all this is that those who do wrong may appear to have high self esteem but they really suffer from latent low self esteem in need of more elevationg. Again, research does not support this 'fact" (Pearsall, Paul. The Last Self-Help Book You'll Ever Need." New York, Basic Books, 2006, 126-127).
Unlike many of the well-known self-help "experts" (you know the names), Dr. Pearsall is a clinical psychologist, a university professor and an "internationally recognized neuropsychologist. He explains self-esteem much better than this short quote, of course.

I don't think he is attacking the idea of self-esteem as much as he is attacking the cult of self-esteem which, in my opinion, took over our schools and brainwashed an entire generation into a mindset that has resulted in increasingly rude, crude, self-absorbed and even violent behavior. That was never the intention of the movement, of course, but it may well have been an unintended result.

Dr. Pearsall argues that we would do well to stop focusing so much on ourselves and start focusing more on our relationships with others.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've met too many whose high opinion of themselves was not born of achievement. Rather they simply believe that they are better due to attitude alone.

In addition, the essence of human nature is that we are wretched: "... every intent of the thoughts of his [man's] heart was only evil continually." Genesis 6:5.

That's not a good hook on which to hang one's self esteem.