May 30, 2017

"How the Self-Esteem Craze Took Over America."

By Jesse Singal in New York Magazine. Excerpt.
The self-esteem craze changed how countless organizations were run, how an entire generation — millen[n]ials — was educated, and how that generation went on to perceive itself (quite favorably). As it turned out, the central claim underlying the trend, that there’s a causal relationship between self-esteem and various positive outcomes, was almost certainly inaccurate. But that didn’t matter: For millions of people, this was just too good and satisfying a story to check, and that’s part of the reason the national focus on self-esteem never fully abated. Many people still believe that fostering a sense of self-esteem is just about the most important thing one can do, mental health–wise....

34 comments:

Comanche Voter said...

If you are never allowed to fall down (or fail) you will never learn how to get up. A lot of life is rolling with the punches that will inevitably come your way.

readering said...

It beats Scientology

wild chicken said...

I got a millennial stepson. He does have a lot of self esteem, and a good sense of humor. He just can't do anything.

He did manage to get married and she gets SSI so there's that.

whswhs said...

I think that self-esteem is a good thing, less harmful than self-disesteem by far. But self-esteem is worth what you pay for it. You can't give other people self-esteem by telling them how wonderful they are. That sort of empty praise used to be called "flattery" and regarded as a vice.

Nathaniel Branden, one of the first people to talk about self-esteem in a big way (his book The Psychology of Self-Esteem came out in 1969, shortly after his split with Ayn Rand), seems to have understood the difference between earned self-esteem and the illusion of self-esteem, at least when he started out. But the idea got vulgarized by the movement that resulted.

Achilles said...

High self esteem, i.e. I am a good person, have low/negative correlations to academic and job success.

Self affective ratings, i.e. I am good/bad at math, have high correlations with success/failure.

Achilles said...

There are 2 occupations for people with high self esteem coupled with no useful skills: protester and criminal.

glenn said...

This is why you hire that 22 year old chock full of self esteem and find out he can't do column addition. With a calculator.

Rob said...

I remember a story on network news in which they interviewed a felon who was serving his sentence for robbery. He was the father of several children born out of wedlock, and he'd never held an honest job. However, through the kind offices of the prison system, he'd learned self-esteem. "The important thing," he said, "is that I feel good about myself." Because, I suppose, he had a lot to be proud of.

Oso Negro said...

Whatever you are, feel good about it.

Birkel said...

Everything suffers diminishing marginal returns.

Virtually Unknown said...

Cargo cult psychology. Cargo cults are everywhere.

mockturtle said...

Coping skills can't be developed unless there is some adversity with which to cope.

Paddy O said...

bathroom-wise

Yancey Ward said...

Nearly every advance I made in life came on the heels of failures and near disasters, none of which made me feel high self-esteem....really the complete opposite. People with high self-esteem are rarely strivers in real life is my informed opinion.

That millenials feel high self-esteem is hardly surprising to me considering the statistics on their professions, incomes, and living status.

mockturtle said...

The fact is, real self-esteem comes from accomplishment. We can't expect that from the generation of low expectations and high self-regard.

wild chicken said...

I hate to say it, but the most lasting lessons I everlearned happened when someone suddenly crapped all over me about some mistake.

Awful moments, humiliating, but you never forget them.


Otto said...

Started with Dr Spock back in the 50s.

David said...

I spend a fair amount of time distinctly unpleased with myself. My guess is that the self esteemers do too but have trained themselves to ignore whatever message self dissatisfaction is sending. That does not seem a positive to me. Most of my displeasure is quite rational and completely earned. The most displeasure comes when it is clear that I did not act on the lesson of prior mistakes.

traditionalguy said...

Brainwashing works some good, until it meets reality and is destroyed.

The Judeo Christian scripture is still the antidote.

Big Mike said...

The people who move the needle are the people who always think that they could do better.

mockturtle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mockturtle said...

You're right, Big Mike. It's one reason why so many self-made successful men have lazy, underachieving children. Or maybe, like my BIL, who saw what his father's life was like and didn't want any part of it.

openidname said...

readering said...

It beats Scientology


But I doubt that it beats Mormonism. Or Orthodox Judaism.

I believe TraditionalGuy is onto something with his remark about the Judaeo-Christian scriptures, but if you were to lump all Christians (of all denominations) together with all Jews (ditto), I doubt that you'd find much difference in overall outcomes in that group when measured against any other similarly large group.

Amadeus 48 said...

There are traps everywhere.

Do justly; love mercy; and walk humbly with your God.

Love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.

n.n said...

Self-esteem without achievement nurtures arrogance and pride.

sparrow said...

Introspection and self discipline is what's really needed: self esteem is simply pride and when divorced from reality it quickly becomes dangerous. PC is built on this self congratulatory nonsense.

mockturtle said...

"Pride goeth before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall".

Jeff Teal said...

Read a study more than a decade ago by a criminologist studying incarcerated persons.She posited that the hardest core of convicts had the highest unearned self esteem.

Richard said...

Jeff Teal. Yeah, that's been common knowledge for a long time. But it doesn't do much for those marketing the mooshy.
Excessive self-esteem may not be in the shrinks' manual but its effects could well mimic a diagnosed mental illness.

The Kids at college certainly think they know a lot for certain. To tell a bunch of protestors that they don't know jack and have no right to expect, you know, grownups to pay them any attention might cause some heads to explode. That would be fun to watch, but I don't think the survivors would have changed much.

Leigh said...

This explains the success of the "Global Warming" movement, and Trump Derangement Syndrome quite well: no one thinks any more.

Submit an appealing, virtue-signaling premise (a premise so appealing and virtuous that anyone who questions it will be loathed and socially ostracized), bask in the crowd's adulation, repeat the premise, report its broad acceptance, and repeat it again. Lather, rinse and repeat, as needed, and watch the premise become fact. Here's the quote re-worked; only the fill-in-the-blanks have been changed:

"As it turned out, the central claim underlying the violent antifa trend, that there’s a causal relationship between Trump and fascism, was almost certainly inaccurate. But that didn’t matter: For millions of people, this was just too good and satisfying a story to check, and that’s part of the reason the national focus on Trump as an evil, tyrannical, free-speech hating, vote-suppressing, anti-woman, xenophobic racist, never fully abated."

If the premise has emotional appeal and validates a person's own feelings, the premise will become fact. That it is demonstrably specious doesn't matter. No one thinks any more.

William Chadwick said...

Not endorsing every single thing about the self-esteem movement; but if you grew up with an authoritarian and probably mentally ill parent who undercut your self-esteem practically from the day you came out of the womb, you'd understand why repairing and increasing our self-esteem was possibly the most important thing we could have done before going on to other stuff.

mockturtle said...

If the premise has emotional appeal and validates a person's own feelings, the premise will become fact. That it is demonstrably specious doesn't matter. No one thinks any more.

Well said, Leigh!

Unknown said...

True confidence comes from accomplishments. When I go for a drive I am confident because I can read maps and can change a tire. Thinking you are wonderful but can't even wipe your own nose would be comical if it wasn't so sad. I prefer the term confidence to self-esteem for this reason. Of course confidence can be misplaced as well.

funsize said...

I don't have particularly high opinions of myself (and could be called a millennial) because I have a realistic gauge of my skills. Some are alright, some are not great. I used to think I was very good at a number of things, because the pool I had to compare to (school, before social media) was smaller. (In some respects, I was better, because I didn't have to go to work every day and be an adult so I could devote a lot more time to say, practicing an instrument).

Unfortunately, as in many things, confidence begets confidence. If you don't have much, its hard to develop more.