In the 1980’s parents became concerned about self esteem. Low self-esteem would mean your child wouldn’t amount to anything and parents would be blamed. The pendulum swung far to the left of children should be seen and not heard and children became the center of our universe.
Is it possible to have too much self-esteem? The same question can be raised about having too much good health. The answer is probably not. At the first sign of any problem, the experts point to low self-esteem under the premise there wasn’t enough self-esteem. Perhaps it isn’t more self-esteem that is needed, but rather the right self-esteem.
William James, the first American psychologist, created a formula in 1890:
Self-esteem = Abilities ÷ Pretensions
Loosely translated, self-esteem equals your abilities (what you can do) divided by your pretensions (your goals, or basically what you want to do). The better you are at things you want to do, the better your self-esteem. If you want your child to have greater self-esteem, figure out ways your child can do better at the things she loves to do. Self-esteem can be defined as being comfortable in our own skin and knowing that we are loved, as they used to say, “warts and all!”
As a result of our attempts to make sure our children had enough self esteem today’s college students are more narcissistic and self-centered than their predecessors, according to a comprehensive new study by five psychologists who worry that the trend could be harmful to personal relationships and American society.
We can’t all be above average
The researchers describe their study as the largest ever of its type and say students’ NPI scores have risen steadily since the current test was introduced in 1982. By 2006, they said, two-thirds of the students had above-average scores, 30 percent more than in 1982.
The role technology plays
Walk on a college campus and you’ll find students listening to their iPods, talking on cellphones and IMing other students rather than engaged in personal interaction; a disconnect doesn’t offset the benefits technology offers. The authors of the study suggest that the names we associate to popular websites such as YouTube and MySpace further fuels the narcissism.
Let Them Be
From the time our children are very little, we put superlative labels on their activities. If they pick up a baseball bat, we envision them in the major leagues. A little girl attends her first dance class, and she is labeled a prima ballerina.
We need to just let them be. We are putting our emphasis on things that honestly don’t matter to our children; half the time they don’t even know the names of the superstars we are comparing them to.
A superlative is the best, brightest, prettiest, smartest, fastest, which is how you are judged by others. I don’t even know how you could possibly measure who is the best at anything. Lasting self-esteem has nothing to do with what other people think of you because it’s something you can’t control.
Where talent is a dwarf, self-esteem is a giant.
- Conceits and Caprices