IC Journey

Has the Pursuit of Healthy Self-Esteem Ruined Excellence?

Posted in Uncategorized by LJ Johnson on April 27, 2010

At first I was so proud of my son’s answers when his step-mother sent various questions about self-esteem. Granted, I knew part of his lack of concern was his boy-ness. Boys are really not all that touchy-feely to start with. When he rated perfection as lowest when given a choice of three things (abilities, appearance or perfection, I believe were the choices) I was very pleased with his values. However, when I looked at it in the greater context, including our continuing challenge regarding his grades, I wondered about it a little more.

In truth, kids are no longer encouraged to be “best,” because only one can be best. They’re told if they ‘tried’ it was good enough. That sounds really nice, but the truth is that a kid who isn’t interested in school work, etc., in any real way, or is easily discouraged when they don’t do well, will put decreasing effort into something they aren’t good at because they never feel good about their accomplishment (they aren’t one of the better ones) so there is no reason to really put too much work into it because when they don’t excel, they are still assured, “It’s okay because you tried. What a good job!”

What a struggle – I was raised by parents who ONLY wanted the best, and the rare times I was given a compliment or told that they loved me I often had to run upstairs because of the tears that would come to my eyes. Every point missed was a condemnation, because I could have done better. It made me miserable, because I never felt loved – there was too much pressure to perform and not enough assurance that I was loved regardless of and not because of accomplishment.

My son is certain he is loved, and that is something that was especially important to me because of my childhood. That being said, I struggle constantly to find anything to encourage his interest in things that are vital for his future success as an adult (education, chores to build good work ethic, saving money instead of spending it, etc.), and usually fail. Somehow the pendulum has to swing back a little bit from the “everyone wins” attitude in our lives. Self-esteem is useless. It is better, instead, to teach our children healthy self-worth. They have intrinsic value in who they ARE, that is true. However, they build their own feelings of confidence and worth every time they succeed at a goal, and goal setting and achievement are necessary for our children to grow up to be healthy, successful and mature adults.


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