“Even though you were in last place, here’s a ribbon for your participation. That makes you a winner too.” “You got a 68 in the class? That’s almost passing, great job!” “You didn’t get all-state for band because your instrument was out of tune. It wasn’t your fault; they don’t know what a great horn player they missed out on.”
In today’s society, encouragements like these are much more common than direct honesty. These self-esteem boosters are meant to build kids up. However, there is a question if false esteem helps or hurts kids.
There is a fine line between complementing kids and giving them false esteem. If a kid has a genuine talent at something, then they need to know that so they can live up to their potential. However, kids should not be told they are good at something if they aren’t. Everyone has different talents and no one is going to be really good at every aspect in life, and kids need to understand this.
After the self-esteem movement, everyone felt like kids needed to be given all the confidence in themselves possible. Parents thought that this would make kids more successful.
An article written by John Rosemond, a mental health professional, explains the idea behind the self-esteem movement. He explains that it was not actually proven but something psychologically created by parents.
“The supposed merits of high self esteem were sold on the basis of rhetoric, not evidence. The evidence, however belated, is now in. People with high self regard, says the evidence, possess low regard for others,” said Rosemond. “Instead of seeking opportunities to serve others, they seek to manipulate others. Furthermore, people with high self regard tend to antisocial behavior. People incarcerated in maximum security prisons have very high self regard, for example”
By giving us this true evidence that counteracts the beliefs of the self esteem movement, Rosemond shows that this tactic seems great when kids are younger. However, it can lead to terrible social behaviors later on because of the narcissistic behavior instilled in them at a young age.
The idea behind the self esteem movement, in theory, makes sense to me. Their thinking behind the movement is that if kids feel good about themselves, then they are more confident in their ability to succeed. How many insecure high achievers do you know?
However, false esteem can lead to a false sense of success. If kids grow up thinking that they are significantly better than everyone else, then it sets them up for disappointment later in life. When reality kicks in and kids who have turned into adults see that they aren’t as good as everyone always told them they were, it makes them question all the reasons they felt good about themselves.
Rosemond wrote another article, discouraging high self esteem versus modesty. The main point this article preached was the person with high self esteem will have a fear of failure. This fear of failure will make them be unwilling to try new things and stick to what they know they can do well. It can also have the reverse effect by making the person go into things without trying hard at all because they think they are so good that they don’t have to try.
“If you don’t give people a reality about things early in life, then later when they realize they’re not that good at it they’ll [wonder] why people didn’t tell them it earlier,” said Rachel Langley, sophomore. “[If] they think they’re really good at something and someone tells them that they’re not they [won’t understand] because they heard their whole life that they were good at it, even if they weren’t.”
So, even though giving kids false esteem may seem like the easy and effective way to give kids confidence, it can be detrimental to their ego later on. Nobody wants to have to see a kid fail or lose, but using a communist tactic by making everyone seem equal is not the answer.