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Saturday's Serious Sapience: Self Esteem

Discussion in 'The Pub' at netrider.net.au started by robsalvv, Jul 7, 2007.

  1. Due to circumstances beyond my control, Wednesday's fortnightly Weighty went by the way side... so here's my make up (hopefully) thought provoking post.


    In the late 90's there was a shift in the self-help world - the self esteem train took off. Books and books and books were written about the topic - and are still being written. School curriculae were changed. Parents were made to feel guilty if they didn't bring up kids with solid rock self esteems. It's created people who are riddled with insecurities because they've failed to measure up if not feeling good about themselves... and it's created people who are so confident they believe they're the centre of the universe.

    This "feel better about yourself and reach your potential" philosophy has been cashed in on by the late night Tony Robbin's type advertorials and there are no end of packages, courses and retreats you can buy, all promising a better life...

    The theory is that if we don't think highly enough of ourselves, we'll be unsuccessful and unfulfilled.

    Personally, I subscribe to the ideal of liking yourself and feeling comfortable in your own skin is a good thing, but have we lost our way??

    The evidence is in and it's not so rosy... there's been a skew in the "force" and kids aren't growing up happy in their own skin, successful and well adjusted - they instead are growing up full of themselves.

    October 8 Time magazine reported an American study that showed that self esteem is as high in presidents, high performing successful business people, politicians, fire fighters etc etc as it is in gangsters, crims, drunk drivers, racists, thugs, school bullies etc etc.

    Has the self esteem at all costs philosophy created generations of narcissistic humans? Has it actually created a better society where people are more comfy in their own skin than ever before? Is it just a symptom of the comfort of excesses that western society is currently enjoying? What's the difference between a solid self esteem and arrogance? Is feeling good about yourself the holy grail or holed out grate? Is self esteem without humility a result of western lifestyle??

    Is the ideal of a solid self esteem still worth striving for and instilling into ourselves and our kids???

    Have a ponder and please discuss (you just never know who needs to read what you have to say).


  2. The most dangerous thing in the world is a person with confidence, but without the ability to back it up IMO. Never been a big fan of the whole "self-esteem" bullshite for the simple reason that it often turned simply to a means of people avoiding confronting real issues. Self-esteem is supposed to be a product and reward of doing well, usually as a result of a lot of hard work.

    Self esteem courses/classes however are often used simply by people trying to skip the hard part and overlook the real problems. Take the recent trend of obesity in the US. Rather than people taking the time and effort to solve their weight problem they're instead attending courses to make them "feel good about their weight". Why? You can feel as comfortable and happy as you want it's not going to prevent diabetes, heart-disease etc. caused by the fact they're still fat.

    Likewise someone who lacks the ability to do their job well is hardly going to do any better simply because they now think they're doing well. In reality all it's really likely to achieve is to simply make it that much harder for them if they get sacked. To answer one of the questions the difference between self-esteem and arrogance is that true self-esteem is knowing you can do something, arrogance is telling everyone, including yourself, that you can do something. So in summary self-esteem is a good thing, but it's something that has to be earned, not learned - and this is a problem in the current Western society mentality of people wanting everything now :) .
  3. YES!! And it's one huge factor in the growing hatred of the West by militant Islam.....
  4. The religion thread is over there ------>

    But just to be clear, which question are you answering yes to? And what aspect of self esteem have militant islamic folk railed against?

    You should have unique experiences to share in regards to your counselling/pastoring. How has the lack of or overubundance of self esteem demonstrated itself in your experience? Are the plusses of instilling postive self esteem greater than the possible negatives??
  5. Abundant self-esteem is the enemy of evangelism. We live in a world where people are being taught to be self-sufficient, and God therefore has no place. Money buys security, and the self-esteem doctrine quietens the nagging of conscience.

    I have seen this as an increasing trend. (And it's hard to divorce my Christian position from this matter, as you'd guess.) Jesus told the story of the prodigal and his brother. The older brother had heaps of self-esteem, but no compassion. The younger brother had none, feeding pigs. So he rose and went home with nothing in his hands, and cast himself on the mercy of his father, who, of course, forgave him and welcomed him back into the family, much to the older brother's disgust.

    I was agreeing with all of the questions you posed in that paragraph. And the 'comfort of excesses' that you highlight is one of the frequent 'sins' of the west that clerics and suicide bombers quote as justification for their actions.

    I know it sounds harsh, but generally in ministry we find that people only call on you when their self-esteem has shown itself to have been an empty shell of rhetoric, and incapable of meeting the real demands of life.
  6. great topic rob and really well discussed in your first post.

    my understanding, without consulting a dictionary, is that self-esteem is a function of holding oneself in esteem, having an intrinsic sense of self-worth or self-regard, regardless of the esteem of others eg a kid in school who likes herself and is comfortable in her own skin whether the 'cool' kids think she's cool or not.

    i see the 'self-esteem' movement of the 80s and 90s as being in reaction to people recognising they often had low self-esteem despite achieving lots in their life. One of my clients who is a Partner in a major law firm puts it beautifully. He says professional services firms are all run by "insecure overachievers"!

    In the same vein I'm reading a book on meditation at the moment by one of my favourite buddhist monks, Ajahn Brahm. In talking about the hindrances to good meditation he highlights, as the second hindrance of 5, 'Ill Will'. Specifically he says "The second hindrance, ill will, is also a major obstacle to deep meditation, especially for Western meditators. The usual understanding of this second hindrance is anger toward another person. But that is not the full extent of ill will, because it is more likely to be toward yourself .... Ill will toward yourself can manifest as not allowing yourself to bliss out, become peaceful, or become successful in meditation. There are many people who have very deep guilt complexes. This is mostly a Western trait because of the way that many of us have been brought up." He doesn't elaborate on this but moves on to the solution. None-the-less, i suspect he's referring to this 'insecure overachiever' complex that my client was referring to.

    clearly, in the name of achieving self-esteem you can either go too far or tackle the wrong issue as you and JD have already highlighted. In Alcoholics Anonymous, we often talk about being people with "high egos and low self-esteem". These two invariably go hand in hand. In order to compensate for the low self-esteem, it's easy to inflate our ego as a defence mechanism, considering ourselves better than, or less than, others - both equally egotistical responses to the same underlying fears. In other words, many people who say they have high esteem, or think they're worth millions despite contributing very little, actually just have high egos as opposed to high self-esteem.

    personally my self-esteem has risen substantially over the years not because i've achieved more - in fact possibly now i achieve less - but simply because i figure i'm fundamentally a good person, i try my best each day and it's either good karma or good luck that's landed me in the lucky position of being born in the West in the late 20th century, with its peace and great abundance and not something i need to feel guilty or ashamed about. it's certainly an opportunity to meditate more and give more, but not something to feel intrinsically bad about despite 99% of the world being worse off and 99% of history and my ancestors having been worse off.

    thanks rob. i always look forward to these though some i have more thoughts about than others. lotsaluv, c x
  7. there is nothing wrong with being taught to be self sufficient. Our forefathers did it here - living weeks away from civilisation.

    The big problem is an inflated self worth, not self sufficiency.

    Those in the work force will deal with Gen-Y's who think that working for less than 60k as a basic wage for a fresh out of uni person is beneath them.

    Or that they value themselves so highly that they cannot see how much of a selfish little sh1t they really are.

    Now, to put this into context, I was raised in a background of domestic violence and abhor the needless use of violence.

    But sometimes I wonder..... Maybe a good kick up the bum, some dealing with "consequence for action" earlier in life instead of the excessive praise that parents seem to give children wouldnt be more beneficial than the positive reinforcement stuff.

    Of course, some of you may not wish to listen to me since I'm a "self help book hater"
  8. Where to start?

    Quite simply I see no separation between old-school religion and modern self-help programs. The underlying theme is the same. They prey on individuals who are lost, and offer up hope for something better down the road, provided some certain guidelines are followed.

    That's all it is. "Selling hope". The only real difference between religion and self-help though is this. One targets hope for better things after you're dead, the other targets hope for better things before you're dead. That seems to pretty much be the dividing line between the two in a nutshell.

    People want something to believe in, and there are those in the world who are more than happy to sell it to you, whether through buying books and videos, or through a collection plate that gets passed around.

    As for blaming Islam's hatred of the west on self-help, that's just asinine. The west has been engineering conflict in the middle-east for the last 40 years to keep the region off-balance to prevent any one faction rising to dominance and gaining control over the majority of the world's oil supplies. The west can't afford that to happen, and happily switches sides and intervenes to keep the balances of power in the region roughly even. Most middle-eastern people with a fraction of a brain realise this, and it is this which is the real root-cause of their hatred for the West. It wouldn't really matter if they were Islamic, Taoist, or Christian. Screw around in some region's politics for long enough and you're going to generate hatred, no matter their religion. Self-help trash is just yet one more minor thing to hate the West for.

    Back to the topic at hand. History repeats itself in cycles. We see the rise and falls of trends all the time, the resultant fallout, the lessons learned, and more social engineering as an after-thought. What I find quite intriguing is the meteoric rise of "hero" entertainment in modern times. Then again, if we look back to the 30's, it happened then too. Patterns and cycles. People feel helpless and uncertain in a time of global instability and the threat of terror. This is not too different to the despairing for the future of the Great Depression that spawned the first wave of hero entertainment.

    I'm digressing though, but my point was that there are cycles. What we're seeing is just a temporary sign of the times. No more, no less, and nothing we can do about it but watch.

    The thing is, is that for as bad as some things are, I still see hope and sense amongst the majority of individuals. It's just the nutcases that make a lot of noise and generate a lot of attention, and lead people to think that the world is going to crap. It isn't though. There is still a vast commonsense largely silent majority out there, and they form the backbone of modern society, and they are the ones that pick up the pieces of the fallout from shallow quick self-help schemes, and it's only once the lost come back into the fold that they start to realise that they'd been turning their backs on what they needed the entire time. Yes - somewhat like the prodigal son story if the religious want to play that card.
  9. Thinking highly of oneself imho is quite a different proposition from having healthy self esteem - I firmly believe that unless one has a basic level of self worth one would never feel successful and fulfilled no matter how many 'achievements' one has in life. However, if the only important goal was to 'think highly of ourselves', it could easily lead to self delusion and arrogance.

    I'm not convinced that there are more people who are more comfy in their own skins than ever before. Today's society seems to be one of excessive consumerism and self aggrandizement , which seems indicative of the need to fill a gaping void in the psyche of everyman. Hardly an image of a society that is comprised of well balanced and content individuals.

    Solid self esteem comes from an inner peace and acceptance of one's self, a belief that one is worth as much as the next person - equality if you will. It is compatible with humility. Arrogance is characterized by the belief that one is worth more than everyone else, or that one has a greater value as such. Having solid self esteem does not necessitate arrogance.

    YES. Not as a discrete goal separate from having a balanced and fulfilled life, but as a by product of knowing oneself and being (or striving to become) the kind of person you can be proud of.
  10. ^^^ :applause: :applause: :applause: well said sophie!
  11. I believe self esteem starts with family and ends with you. Your family should provide the support and faith in you as your grow up until you're ready to face the world with your own. If that's lacking, the kid's gonna have issues!

    Yep. We're losing our patience. We have too much information to deal with these days. We can contact anyone almost instantly with mobiles, send emails etc. We no longer have to wait for things like we did 10 - 20 years ago at least. Life is moving at a much faster pace these days. A lot of people aren't spending time reflecting on things, and just acting. This leads to a lot of other issues. Mental Health is going to be a booming industry! (I think it should become a compulsory subject taught to kids in primary school! The earlier we make kids aware of what problems they could face, the better equipped they'll be to deal with them. It could really help with future generations. Especially if they're not getting that help and support from home)

    I think it's more to do with 2 cultures which are too different. Our culture isn't theirs, and vice versa. Trying to impose your will on a society which is not suited to it will lead to problems. Take to indigenous cultures. People don't realise that a lot of them are genetically different to westerners. So lot of them cannot function in a western society, because it isn't a lifestyle they're designed for. It is that simple. Just cause it works for you, does not mean it works for others. You can't fix some problems with western rules and values. I wish the politicians would realise that.

    That's why i don't take things to heart anymore, if someone has a go at me. I see it as anger not directed at me personally, i'm just the outlet at the time. We've done it ourselves. That should be easy to accept from others.

    I am a product of how true that statement is. I went from basically having a lifetime of poor self-esteem to total acceptance and belief in myself in a very short time, once i realised what the problem was. At the same time i've never considered my worth compared to the next person, because I really don't care how I compare. I know what I can and cant do. And I'm happy with that.

    I'd say arrogance can mask poor self esteem, and it could also be an outlet for someones frustration. If you have great self esteem but still enjoy making others feel small, it could be a sign of a megalomaniac or whatever the term is. But that's just me speculating.

    Self esteem reminds me of the saying "I am my own worst enemy" Because we are more self critical of ourselves, than anyone else ever could be.
  12. Self-esteem, to be more than inane delusion, must be based on some facts reasonably capable of supporting the view. The vast majority of the population do not possess such attributes, and do not leave such lives, as to support high self-esteem.

    You are misusing the two words.

    If the esteem in which one holds oneself is merely that others are no better, that is not a particularly high esteem at all. One can only be arrogant in believing oneself to be worth more than others where that belief is unwarranted. It is quite possible to deal contumeliously with others without being arrogant. It might be impolite, but if the difference between the two individuals is so great, it is not arrogance.

    *crooks an eyebrow* Whereas you offer much, much more.
  13. Rob.... :applause: :applause::applause:
    truly a beautiful opening post with Saturdays being a great idea also :wink:

    now to get back to reading so that I may or may not have something to contribute :)
  14. Wow fascinating discussion.

    Sophie, if I didn't know it wasn't me who made that post, I would have thought it was me who made that post! LOL. :applause:

    I also find myself totally resonating with Carri's post.

    Flux - you're an interesting fella. I enjoy that analytical mind. Well said.

    The concept of low self esteem high ego is an interesting one. That makes a lot of sense and describes a lot of what I see in people who treat others poorly. Ego and arrogance seem to go hand in hand.

    If an upbringing brings up a shattered kid - then true self esteem comes from hard effort and work on accepting yourself, your flaws, taking credit for your victories, learning from your failures and liking yourself anyway. Doing this without developing a chip/ego is tricky but a journey worth taking.

    A kid who grows up balanced and loved and with an innate sense of confidence is a rare beast - but is way ahead of the game. Perhaps this is what the self esteem train was really about - producing these innately confident kids with inherent humility who are comfortable about themselves... that's got to be a parents holy grail don't you think? But is it true self esteem? Don't you need a few failures and picking yourself up from your boot straps to really bed down a sense of self worth??

    The natural enemy of self esteem is insecurity. We all have them. There's an idea that to have a good self esteem you have to be perfect. That's bogus. Imperfect people who make peace with the bad bits and make efforts to work on their insecurities earn themselves a real self respect. Feeling better about yourself is a natural consequence of this effort. Self esteem then flows from this kind of work.

    Sounds like the key is work.


    Too many more points to ponder in the other posts... i'll go away and have a think.

    By the way, Mugen - thank you for expanding my vocab lol "contumeliously" must be the word the week! ="Showing contempt" LOL
  15. I see one comment as optimistic, the other as pessimistic. The first line of thinking is that i'm just as good as everyone else. That's self esteem and faith in ones self. The other is i'm just as bad as everyone else - and that isn't self esteem - it's trying to see everyone in the same negative light that you see yourself.
  16. Self esteem- being happy with who you are and what you do, not being happy with what you have become and what you have to do.......

    Regards, Andrew.
  17. no it isn't :\ It is a perfectly well understood English word.

    remove self- and what are you left with? esteem. what is esteem? estimation, judgment, opinion, and that kind of thing. how, therefore, does self-esteem mean 'being happy with who you are and what you do'? it means 'what you think of yourself'. forming a judgment or opinion, or making estimation of something does not necessarily entail forming a favourable one, or one as specific as being happy.
  18. Self esteem -bullsh!t term invented by people with no idea of what they want in life, what makes them happy or content & therefore no plan or direction on how to get there.
    Most seem to get their idea of success and/or happiness by what is presented in the media -you know, new house, 3 car garage, new car, investment properties etc etc etc. At the end of the day, that counts for zero if you aren't content within yourself. It's a state of mind thing -not a material posession thing.
  19. Just so we don't get derailed into definitions:

    self-es·teem (sělf'ĭ-stēm')
    n. Pride in oneself; self-respect.

    self-es·teem –noun 1. a realistic respect for or favorable impression of oneself; self-respect.

    When people use the word self-esteem, they're generally talking about a positive thing. They aren't using it to say "what one think's of themself".

    When they want to attribute a negative tone to the word, they use a negative before it. e.g. low, negative, lack of etc.

    Can we move on?

    Roarin, I'd love you to expand on your post. It sounds like the tip of the iceberg...
  20. Lets just say that if there where no such term as "self esteem" then one would be classified as either happy/content or sad -to simplify things. I guess what I am trying to say is society in general seems to try & equate happiness/high self esteem to success in aquiring material possessions. If you don't have all the physical signs of success then you must be a failure. If you're a failure then there is no way you can be happy right? And must have low self esteem. How can you have a high self esteem if everyone else has more and better toys than you?
    As someone else has said, parents now seem to be planting this idea in their kids heads at a very early age. Good education, good job=success/happiness.
    Watched some show on the idiot box a while back about parents trying to enroll their kids into some sort of super kindergarten for some obscene amount of money to ensure their child gets a head start on everyone else. How f#cking sad is that? What sort of society is being created where kids can't be kids any more? Where your childhood is consumed in a quest to ensure you are setting yourself up to aquire all the material signs of success.
    Schools don't seem to helping in this regard either. From what I have seen they seem to be steering students away from the traditional areas such as trades & steering them more towards IT & the like. In fact there seems to even be a division in high schools to cater for this. In the area my son attends high school one caters more for the trade/technical side while the other steers more towards computer/science areas. And it's the PARENTS from either side of the "divide" that look down their noses at each other. What hope have the kids got when this sort of attitude rubs off on them? They are percieved as less valuable before they even start :shock: :shock: