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Education Bookcast

Sep 20, 2017

Self-esteem is a psychological concept that has penetrated everyday language. In many Western countries, it is generally understood that high self-esteem is essential to health, happiness, and success. Is this really the case? And how did this idea spread?

So much was the excitement about self-esteem in the early 90's that the California state legislature set up a Task Force to Promote Self Esteem and Personal and Social Responsibility, with an annual budget of over $700,000. All it took was some politicians with unusual metaphysical beliefs and flexible interpretations of the words of scientist ("The news most consistently reported is that the association between self-esteem and its expected consequences are mixed, insignificant or absent" was somehow re-interpreted to mean "self-esteem is the social vaccine" and "a giant step for mankind"). Add a media frenzy and the drowned-out voices of dissenters and you have the beginnings of a highly misleading movement.

High self-esteem does not cause what it was expected to, and in fact has some potentially rather nasty side effects, notably narcissism and a fixed mindset. It is not recommended.

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