Self-esteem is under attack.
Sociologists and psychologists are now telling us that efforts by parents to boost their kids’ self worth is a bad thing. That parents are wrong to try to instill confidence in their children.
Family psychologist and author John Rosemond has railed against self-esteem suggesting in a recent syndicated column that
People with high self-regard…possess low regard for others. Instead of seeking opportunities to serve others, they seek to manipulate others. Furthermore, people with high self-regard tend toward antisocial behavior.
He went on to point out that people incarcerated in maximum security prisons have very high self-regard.
The Random House Dictionary defines self-esteem as “respect for or a favorable impression of one’s self” and as “a desirable form of self-love”. Synonyms include “self-respect” and “self-confidence”.
Surely, one isn’t going to argue that self-respect is a bad thing, right?
A lack of self-respect leads to all kinds of negative behavior, doesn’t it?
So is self-esteem, as defined, really a bad thing?
Rosemond thinks so.
He wrote: “Would you rather be employed by, work alongside, be close friends with, be married to a person with high self-esteem or a person who is humble and modest?”
He argued that it isn’t possible to have high self-esteem and a high level of respect for others — that high self-esteem and humility can not co-exist.
Don’t believe it!
The opposite of self-esteem is “self-loathing”.
Do you really believe that kids who think poorly of themselves have a proper appreciation and respect for people? That they will love, respect and value others if they view themselves as worthless?
It’s all a matter of degree and proportion.
You can take any positive attribute and make it negative. Honesty, taken to an extreme, could lead a person to be rude, disrespectful and cruel.
Self-esteem, used negatively, or taken to an extreme, can also produce antisocial behavior.
That doesn’t mean that boosting ones’ self-respect automatically leads to losing regard for the rights and feelings of others.
Like honesty, self-esteem that manifests itself in a positive way, is an admirable trait.
As parents and coaches, we should provide positive reinforcement. When done honestly, it is both healthy and productive.
“Catch your kids doing something right” is a good way to encourage desirable behavior. We want children to feel good about themselves when they “do the right thing.” We want them to be confident enough to be willing to take on life’s challenges, not shy away from them. We want the Little Leaguer to hope the ball is hit to him or her, not pray that it is hit to another fielder.
This doesn’t mean that kids should be insulated from disappointment and defeat or that every child should get a trophy so they “feel good about themselves.”
That too, is taking it to an extreme.
Kids need to know that effort and attitude matter and that it’s ok to fail. That trying and failing is better than not trying at all.
So let’s not put the blame on “self-esteem” for the youth culture issues we face today.
In proper balance, self-esteem is a plus, not a minus.
Founder & Executive Director
Chuck Wilson is an award-winning host, interviewer, and commentator. He was an original host on ESPN Radio and was with the network for close to 17-years. In 2007, Wilson was named one of the 100 Most Influential Sports Educators in America by the Institute for International Sport. He is the founder of Even Field.