Saturday, January 29, 2005

Study - Self Esteem Not So Esteemed

Finally!! A major study by an expert in self esteem commissioned by the American Psychological Society to study the benefits of self-esteem, and the finding is “disappointing.” Professor Roy F. Baumeister of Florida State writes in the Tuesday Opinion Section of the Los Angeles Times:

1. Does not produce better grades
2. Does not produce better work habits or quality
3. Does not result in more friends or better relationships
4. Does not produce better leaders
5. Does not keep people from becoming bullies
6. Does not keep people from cheating, stealing or experimenting with sex or drugs

Other findings suggested that

1. Humility was better predictor for leadership
2. Kids told to suck it up were more likely to get better grades

Some benefits may be that those with self-esteem are happier, bounce back from problems faster, and exhibit more initiative. It is not clear that these benefits can be derived from trying to build self-esteem. It may be that these individuals think well of themselves because they are predisposed to, or that they are actually doing well.

The author suggests discipline and self control are more likely to produce the results that the self-esteem movement only promised, but didn’t deliver.

In an e-mail exchange with the professor, I suggested that unconditional love resulting in feelings of being valued or having worth might also produce the results that the self-esteem folks hoped for. The only source of such unconditional love is God. He responded: “ as for feeling valued rather than esteemed, this is an interesting distinction i had not thought about. boosting self-esteem for its own sake probably contributes to narcissism, and the christians among my friends seem refreshingly immune to becoming narcissistic, so they must be doing something right!”

Once again the Bible of the ages trumps the scientists of our times.


Wittysexkitten said...

Great. I was really hoping I would have the opportunity to tell my offspring on a daily basis they suck without being flogged as some sort of child abuser.

Randy Kirk said...

Your user name suggests that I need to be careful as to how to take your comment. It is pretty witty on its face. Is there more to your commentary?

Wittysexkitten said...

Nope. That's it. I don't think I ever post a comment that isn't a joke so take them as just that.

Nice to meet ya.

Queen_Evenstar said...

Hmmm... thoughtful blog. I respect it, but I'm not quite sure I agree. :S

Consider the other end of the spectrum where self-esteem is not considered at all. Imagine a place where kids are pushed to achieve ahead of their grade levels and physically punished when they don't meet a certain standard. Punished as in beatings by the teacher, approved by their parents, approved by the larger society.

Places like this exists. It's called Japan, Korea, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, etc... They certainly don't teach self-esteem there. I came from such a place. Teachers had cane sticks twice as tall as kids. And what kind of standards do they require? Usually a score of 90% or above on a test. Failing that, a teacher can hit you as many times as your test score lack from 100%. The message was clear to young, impressionable children: be perfect or you're worth nothing. You might ask yourself, surely the classwork can't be that hard, can it? Not if your child is Einstein. We were taught long divisions in the 3rd grade and algebraic equations in the 4th grade. "What's wrong with you? You can't do long division in your head?"

A strict, "suck it up" system may work just fine and dandy when the kids are young. Kids obey. Kids achieve. Kids do what they were told. Fine and dandy if you don't think kids' feelings matter. Fine and dandy if you can ignore the bruises on their arms and on their hearts. But when they get to become adolescents, for some reason, *wonder sarcastically* they keep wanting to kill themselves. Teen suicide rates are among the highest in Japan and Taiwan. Kids killing themselves for lousy grades was common place. Their whole self worth is tied up into what they can achieve. Beyond achievements, they were told that they don't have any worth as a person. That notion had already been beaten into them from an early age.

I was one of the few lucky ones to have survived that environment with my self-esteem intact. I give my loving parents credit. They loved me no matter what I was able to achieve and told me all the time how much they loved me, are proud of me and can be anything I want to be. They spoke kindly, lovingly and rarely passed up an opportunity to show that they were proud of me. This is unconditional love. They weren't Jesus Christ, but they sure gave it. Self-esteem starts in the home.

We can get a society that focuses on achievements and obedience. But Children Pay for That at the Price of their Dignity, Self-Worth and Souls. Willing to pay it? Still think self-esteem is unimportant?

Thank you for listening to my long rant. I hope I didn't offend you. All I wanted to do was share with you the other side of things...

Randy Kirk said...

I wanted to wait a few days before responding to your post to see if others would join in.

I was a big fan of the self-esteem movement in my teens and twenties. As a salesman, I read every book on the subject.

As time went by, however, it became clear to me that telling somebody they're great at something when they are not, or failing to confront in love when they're doing something poorly is not good parenting, teaching, or managing.

Of course, I agree with you, that some systems and cultures take an approach that is potentially debilitating in the other direction. That isn't my cup of tea, either.

Interesting, though, how humans are capable of thriving even when they are in very poor surroundings.

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