“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” –Eleanor Roosevelt.
Self-esteem seems to cause confusion among parents and professionals. Some professionals say it is necessary, others contradict its essential goodness and say that the self-esteem movement has created false positives for young people.
An article in Psychology Today about the downfall of self-esteem by Dr. Jim Taylor argued that “Self-esteem is commonly thought of as how we feel about ourselves, our appraisal of our own self-worth. But real self-esteem is a complex attribute that has become one of the most misunderstood and misused psychological characteristics of the last 40 years.”
Self-esteem is misunderstood because it is more than having a positive feeling about yourself. If the feelings you have are good and a less than good performance doesn’t change your appraisal – are you using facts to make that assessment? When we protect ourselves from feeling less capable, we set up the belief that when we are less than capable – we are bad or wrong. If we hope feeling good will carry our confidence forward without the skills to back it up – we start feeling fear. Confidence comes from being true to self, not from pretending skills exist before they do.
Dr. Taylor goes on to address this problem, “Sometime back in the ’70s when the “self-esteem movement” started, a bunch of parenting experts said that raising well-adjusted children is all about self-esteem. And I couldn’t agree more. This is also when America’s self-esteem problem began because parents and other influences on self-esteem (e.g., teachers and coaches) got the wrong messages about self-esteem from those experts. Instead of creating children with true self-esteem, our country has created a generation of children who, for all the appearances of high self-esteem, actually have little regard for themselves (because they have little on which to base their self-esteem).”
Learning a new skill, practicing it, and enjoying the feeling of being a little more capable is the fuel of self-esteem. Not everyone wins the game, but that doesn’t make the team who lost losers. However, making both teams believe that there is no difference between a win and loss (to protect self-esteem) replaces esteem with a false positive.A faulty equation is: Winning feels good, kids deserve to feel good, so let all the kids win.
The better equation is: Reality is grounding, winning and losing happens but doesn’t change your worth, let kids learn from developing skills which help them win games and handle losses.
On Thing to Do: Don’t attach labels about personal worth to playing a game. Enjoy winning and learn from losing. Achieve a better sense of self for all of your efforts.
Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.