Moving on from Self-Esteem

Self-esteem

Dictionary.com: a favorable impression of oneself

1828 Webster dictionary: “self-esteem” had not been discovered

Self-esteem is a completely modern- and somewhat neurotic – individual trend.  “The trouble with most of us,” stated Norman Vincent Peale, “is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.”

We have been a society completely obsessed with self esteem, a fruitless pursuit that serves to numb our very hunger for God.  An unknown author pointed out that “our dependence makes slaves out of us, especially if this dependency is a dependency of our self-esteem.  If you need encouragement, praise, pats on the back from everyone, then you make everybody your judge.”

In almost every college course I took back in the 1970’s, I was taught Maslow’s hierarchy, which even in the private so called Chirstian college I attended, was considered more foundational than the Bible itself.  (His theories, which do have some validity, continue to be taught as a primary foundational truth in most education and social science courses today) Along with my generation of college students, I grew to assume that emotional and spiritual health,  was only possible when the essential core of the person was fundamentally accepted, loved and respected by others; that the ability to reach goals was impossible without one first achieving self actualization.  My college majors (Psychology and Education) were all about Maslov’s theories on self actualization. My generation fully embraced this movement, making the development of self esteem in our children the highest aim, doing and say whatever we could to somehow grow it.  Now as a grandmother, I look back and see how Maslov’s ideals readily promote the deception that our aim is to become the actual vine and not merely the branch. (John 15:5)   Yet, we were created to be fruit bearing branches that cling tightly to the vine.  As a grandmother I now promote the “un-actualization of self” as the means for reaching one’s true potential!

As parents we sincerely want to see our kids perform well- to reach their full potential.  However, we need to move on from self esteem for this to occur because very little correlation exists between a high self-esteem and better performance. In 2003, the Association for Psychological Science asked Dr. Roy Baumeister , then a leading proponent of self-esteem, to review over 15,000 scholarly articles written on the topic. His team discovered that  self-esteem was indeed polluted with flawed science.  Baumeister was quoted as saying that his findings were “the biggest disappointment of my career,” concluding that high self-esteem didn’t improve grades or career achievement, or reduce alcohol usage, nor lower any kind of violence.”

It’s time to move on and think of something more real and inspirational to hang our parenting and educational philosophies on.  I read a well written article this week that cemented my decision to be done with self esteem.  I highly encourage you to read “How Not to Talk to Your Kids” by Po Bronson .To whet your appetite, I have included a few points from this article below:

“Giving kids the label of  ‘smart’ does not prevent them from underperforming.  It might actually be causing it.”

“Emphasizing effort gives a child a variable that they can control. ….Emphasizing natural intelligence takes it out of the child’s control, and it provides a no good recipe for responding to a failure.”

“A person who grows up getting too frequent rewards will not have persistence, because they’ll quit when the rewards disappear.”

As Christian parents and educators, we need to replace self esteem with an understanding of how God sees us; that we are created in His image to reflect His character in a unique and purposeful way, and not our own. We must replace societal values about self worth with godly values.  This begins by gaining a lofty view of who God truly is.

We need to fully “actualize” God in our lives.

The Bible does tells us to love ourselves (love your neighbor as yourself) but a healthy love for self grows out of true wisdom and understanding about who God is and who He made each of us to become.

He who gets wisdom, loves his own soul;

He who keeps understanding will find good.

Proverbs 19:8

Next week’s blog:  Teaching kids to exercise their brains and work to their potential.

I’m excited to announce that Family Wings, LLC now offers a variety of services for families and parents including in-home parent consulting and educational consulting.

Check out our services page or call us at (512)262-6026 for more information.

3 Comments

  1. Wow! This first 2 quotes are STAGGERING! Also, what a moving blog that cuts to the heart of our generation’s veiled idolatry. This couldn’t have been better worded!

    Also, I love the redemptive action step: LET’S ACTUALIZE GOD TO HIS PROPER PLACE!

    This is so needed, for we too often “esteem ourselves” too highly, while Paul warns, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” (Romans 12:3 ESV)

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  2. Awesome blog mom, thinking about this this week has made me realize how many ways I have bought into the whole “self-esteem” trend with myself and as a parent to my daughter.

    Reply
  3. I didn’t grow up in this country, and when I came over here, I did think that this ‘over-praising of children’ was a bit too much, and it went right along with other ‘exaggerating things Americans do’.
    Now, as a mother myself, I do like to praise them when they do something exceptional, but thank God, I have not fallen into the overpraising pit, yet.
    And I really liked this sentence: “We must replace societal values about self worth with godly values.” It really hits that nail!
    Thank you for this article.

    Reply

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