We all know that self-esteem (sometimes referred to as self-worth or self-respect) can be an important part of success. Too little self-esteem can leave people feeling defeated or depressed. It can also lead people to make bad choices, fall into destructive relationships, or fail to live up to their full potential.
A grandiose sense of self-importance, on the other hand, can be off-putting to others and can even damage personal relationships. It can also be a sign of narcissistic personality disorder, a mental health disorder characterized by an excessive need for admiration and lack of empathy toward other people.
For the longest time, in the United States and elsewhere, educational policy makers bought into the idea of self esteem. Please understand that self esteem is a good thing. Nobody’s disputing that.
However, according to this educational policy philosophy, for students to perform well in life, they need to have their self esteem built up and encouraged early on.
Again, just like the observation that self esteem is a good thing, this seems pretty good on the surface. What’s there to argue about. The problem is if you are going to be building your self esteem based on affirmations and being made to feel good about who you are without any accomplishments or physical results produced by your efforts to back it up. You are building your house on sand. This is precisely what happened with generations of youth fed on the steady diet of self esteem stimulation. That’s really what it is. You just stimulated the formation of self esteem not through actual achievements, accomplishments, sacrifice, hard work and other traditional indicators of success.
Instead, people got self esteem by being respected for showing up. That’s it. That’s all you need to do. You just need to show up and you get a prize for participation. According to this school of thought, your feelings are paramount.
If only things worked that way. Sadly, a lot of people who base their self-esteem on the fact that they happened to show up know deep down inside that their confidence is hollow. They know that this is not the way real life works. They know that the world may have some rude surprises waiting for them. No wonder, many people with supreme self-esteem are very frustrated and confused.
As long as you’re feeling okay about yourself, then there’s really not much difference between what you think and what everybody else thinks. You are entitled to your estimation of yourself, the rightness of your action, so on and so fort.
What this created is self esteem that produced a very hollow self confidence. People definitely can feel that they can do stuff, but they can only do it in theory. When they’re actually given challenges to produce and deliver results, most people, who focus primarily on self esteem without the matching competence, fall apart like a house of cards.
Self-esteem without knowledge and skill is a recipe for failure.
If you’re having a tough time in any area of your life or you feel you’re frustrated or stuck in any area of your life, maybe it’s because of this. Sure, you feel good about yourself and it seems like you have a high estimate of your ability to get things done.
Unfortunately, unless and until that high estimation is based on actual experience and results, you’re just wasting your time. It’s probably going to be very hard for you to overcome challenges. It’s probably very tempting for you to just quit the moment you’re confronted with actual difficulty.
One of the best ways to come out winners in this world is to stop fantasizing about how it should be. Instead, focus on how it actually works. Once we get a clear understanding of how the world really works, then the next step is to figure out how we can make this truly work for us instead of against us.