"Nothing profits more than self-esteem, grounded on what is just and right."

John Milton

"Nothing builds self-esteem and self-confidence like accomplishment."

Thomas Carlyle

Are youngsters hooked on ‘self-esteem’?

I was recently reminded of a very interesting study. The research question focused on “whether the so-called generation of baby boomers has spawned a nation of self-absorbed young people hooked on their own self-esteem”. The inflated sense of self in students, they argue, could lead to trouble in the world of work and in personal relationships.

Recent books like “The Narcissism Epidemic”, by Jean M Twenge and W Keith Campbell, have described a trend toward increasing levels of self-esteem and narcissism in young people. The idea is not without controversy, as other psychologists have questioned whether young people today are any more self-absorbed than earlier generations. Some believe that the maturation process is simply more protracted, and the delays are misinterpreted as selfishness.

It’s an interesting question to ponder. I have some ideas of how we can take Key Steps to ensure that we…

                                             Identify and maintain ‘HEALTHY’ levels of esteem and optimism

  1. What is a ‘healthy’ level? At what point do optimism and confidence become toxic? Psychologists argue that many, if not all, human traits have optimal levels. For example, studies demonstrate that people who report themselves as happy at age 18 will obtain more years of education and earn higher incomes in their 30s than will their less happy 18-year-old peers. But that those who score above the 90% mark in happiness will actually do worse. 

    Furthermore, research on the dark side of self-esteem suggests that too much self-esteem is associated with narcissism, prejudice, bullying and other undesirable characteristics. Finally, there is evidence that the most adaptive type of optimism is a “flexible optimism”. Flexible optimists are able to judge which situations call for optimism and confidence (e.g. when asking someone on a date, trying to sell something or giving a speech), and which call for a more restrained optimism or defensive pessimism (e.g. when studying for a test or entering a negotiation). It is clear that the ideal is to aim for quiet confidence and restrained optimism – and always remember that too much of anything can become a ‘bad’ thing. 

  2. Don’t put the cart before the horse. “Some researchers fault the emphasis placed on building and promoting self-esteem in children among certain schools of parenting and education“. The idea has been that if we build their self-esteem, then they’ll do better in school and in relationships”, said Dr Twenge, the “Narcissism Epidemic“ author. “Well, that puts the cart before the horse. When you break down the research you see that kids who behave well and get high grades develop high self-esteem — not the other way around“. 

    So there’s something for us all to think about and take Key Steps to…

     “be the difference that makes the difference


    To actively work on your listening skills, gain rapport building strategies and learn the secrets of master communicators and negotiators, and build a healthy self esteem, contact Sharon for more information and book one of our public workshops.


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