Pat 'em on the Back or Kick 'em in the Face?

03/10/2008
I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and gosh darn it, people fear being mauled by me.
This self esteem shop doesn't look like it should have much.
My grandfather, tart as he was, always used to preach, “Study hard son, and you will find success.” My mother, bemused as she was, simply said, “You’re the greatest.” I naturally, preferred the latter. This in mind, it’s no wonder that when I met the kryptonite of the true world, the unyielding blue suit and silky red cape were quickly replaced by the tutu of reality.

I was reading an article in the USA TODAY regarding the self esteem initiative that has been popular for the last several decades. The piece, written a couple of years ago, gives a brief overview of the movement to raise well adjusted children by boosting their self esteem. The article was naturally written “media” style, and the writer has that” he said/she said” mode of organization that leaves it a little dry. However, it brings up several good points, and includes some research statistics that although not elaborate, make several pertinent arguments.

The research makes a case that self-esteem may not have as many benefits as originally thought. The most striking example was presented by Roy Baumeister, a psychology professor from Florida State University. Professor Baumeister, having studied self esteem for over thirty years, reviewed over eighteen thousand articles written in Psychological Science in the Public Interest. His final conclusion was that there wasn’t a wide range of benefits from self esteem. He called it one the most disappointing moments of his career. This in mind, I think we need to evaluate the effects of this emotional coddling.

Although the fine details of the study were omitted, I personally feel that the research is valid, at least in my own personal experience. There is a very fine line between good self esteem and a false sense of reality. In my case, I firmly believe it pushed me to underachieve. I grew up being quite the musician. I studied classical piano for fifteen years, many of them at a supposed “prestigious” school. I had the leads in all the musicals, went through all the honors programs, and have received gobs of awards and recognitions. As I reached adulthood, this constant barrage of success, and more importantly praise, truly left me with an invincible attitude.

What the self esteem movement failed to accomplish was preparing me for the trials of the real world. No one ever told me that when I reached adulthood, there were going to be plenty of people just as good at what I did, much less, some that would be better. Soon after figuring out that I hadn’t achieved the elitism I held in my mind, I really just ceased to try. Preferring to pursue avenues in which I would be considered the cream of the crop, I really sold myself short on the “what might have been” portion of the equation.

To close, I don't really buy into the whole feel good equals do good theory. Kids are fragile and impressionable. To fill their heads with unrealistic expectations while failing to inform them on how society functions, can be harmful. I expect that other research has reported this same false sense of worth in which I consider myself to be a living example. There was a time in my life I thought I was Mozart, the reality was I had just begun the journey.
fry6beeu9.jpgJeremy - 8968 Posts
03/11/2008 @ 12:14:59 AM
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There you go, now quit yer belly aching. Welcome to Nutcan, here's a participation trophy. trophy.gif Ding!
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Jeremy messed with this 2 times, last at 03/11/2008 12:16:14 am
2887.gifAlex - Who controls the past now controls the future
03/11/2008 @ 01:02:57 PM
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I've always been a big fan of reality and I tend to err on the side of kick em in the face. People saying things like "You can do anything you want if you put your mind to it" always make me angry.
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jeremy.jpgJeremy - 8968 Posts
03/11/2008 @ 01:49:06 PM
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It depends on how you look at that statement. Very few people who "put their mind to" being in the NFL or being President will in fact make it there. Everyone who made it there had to "put their mind to it" (Except for Gerald Ford)

I don't think it's a great thing that we're stopping score keeping at kid's games so no one "loses" and those kinds of things, but I don't think we need to bash kids over the head with the reality pipe either.
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fry6beeu9.jpgJeremy - The pig says "My wife is a slut?"
03/11/2008 @ 02:02:05 PM
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Also, I think it's important to point out that one of the best case studies for this self esteem phenomenon ever assembled is American Idol. Tone deaf people come on, make fools of themselves, get told they suck, and just can't accept that. You know that that person is surrounded by parents and grandparents who have been telling them, for their entire lives, they have such a beautiful singing voice. Now, in the real no-one-cares-about-your-feelings world, they don't know what to do with themselves. Of course, some people on that show are just from another planet altogether.
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Jeremy messed with this at 03/11/2008 2:05:54 pm
flower .jpgPackOne - 1528 Posts
03/11/2008 @ 04:58:29 PM
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Jeremy Wrote - 03/11/2008 @ 12:14:59 AM
There you go, now quit yer belly aching. Welcome to Nutcan, here's a participation trophy. trophy.gif Ding!


Aww ... I think I have to cry now. Since I'm new to the family can the Ombudsman be my godfather?

EDIT: I just saw the category.
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PackOne messed with this at 03/11/2008 4:58:56 pm
fry6beeu9.jpgJeremy - The pig says "My wife is a slut?"
03/11/2008 @ 05:02:48 PM
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I didn't really know what to put for the cat. Generally anything with a personal angle gets put there.
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avatar2345.jpgPackOne - Take your shirt off, twist it 'round yo' hand...spin it like a helicopter.
03/11/2008 @ 06:36:04 PM
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I'll take it, the barrier has been broken. I can go harass someone else now.
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newalex.jpgAlex - 3618 Posts
03/11/2008 @ 07:26:27 PM
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Jeremy Wrote - 03/11/2008 @ 01:49:06 PM
It depends on how you look at that statement. Very few people who "put their mind to" being in the NFL or being President will in fact make it there. Everyone who made it there had to "put their mind to it" (Except for Gerald Ford)


Well if you read it the way it's written, it's stupid. If you re-word it to, "In order to achieve your goal, you have to put your mind to it" then that's totally different and I'm down with it.
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Alex perfected this at 03/11/2008 8:21:02 pm
avatar2345.jpgPackOne - Yeah, and you don't stop, 'caus its 1-8-7 on a ...
03/11/2008 @ 07:44:52 PM
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I think you order to achieve your goal, you must first realize it's achievable. Anyone who tells their kid they can be President, without using the word lucky anywhere, is just stupid.
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scott.jpgScott - Ma'am, can you make sure your computer is turned on?
03/13/2008 @ 07:55:12 PM
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Although, it's amazing what someone can do when they don't know what they can't do. There's some truth to the self-fulfilling prophecy. Although it surely doesn't apply to all circumstances.
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vignette.bmpCarlos44ec - You had me at "Hello"
03/16/2008 @ 06:48:19 PM
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its easier to ask forgiveness. Smack first, ask questions later.
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