Living for the Glory of God ~ Vivir para la Gloria de Dios

Self-Esteem: The Concealed Consequences

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As expertise is undermined (see a book about the subject here) acceptance or rejection is no longer based upon facts but on perceptions. Regrettably, this means that consequences often go unchecked or unchallenged. Periodically, I have taken the opportunity to examine some of the consequences of the modern psychological movement, especially the failure of the concept of self-esteem (1).
In the middle of the twentieth century, a transition began in which anything negative was relabeled as something positive. The result was almost instant acceptance. The concept of self-esteem gained traction during this era as it replaced concepts such as arrogance, egoism, and self-importance and was relabeled as self-respect or confidence, considering them to be necessary for human dignity. While motives may have been genuine, the ramifications have created cultural complications that must be considered.

Destructive Consequences
Despite a massive study by the State of California in the 1980’s and subsequent studies thereafter attempting to show otherwise, there is no proven substantive relationship between expected societal outcomes and self-esteem (see the previous article listed below). Admittedly, I have not done personal in-depth research on this, and perhaps that automatically nullifies everything I am about to say. However, I don’t think so, because the consequences of the self-esteem movement prove to be observable and offer an additional input factor into the current status of our society. Therefore, consider three outcomes of the self-esteem principles that add to the devolution of society.

Affirms Narcissism
With the formalization of diagnoses, what is considered narcissism must be very stringent definitions for today’s standards. However, simply redefining something does not change what it is. In this case, in an effort to build up ‘self-esteem’ behaviors of narcissism have been permitted under the presupposition that they are necessary for a person to ‘feel good’ about himself or herself. Arrogance is defined as confidence, pride is part of dignity, and self-importance is justified.

Asserts False Confidence
Additionally, self-esteem generates false confidence. Under the auspices of self-esteem, negative comments are not permitted for fear of damaging a person’s self-worth. Instead, only positive comments can be utilized which either directly affirm or give the appearance of affirming someone without addressing any areas of growth. The result is a confidence, where none should exist.

Achieves Mediocrity
Finally, overconfidence generates mediocrity. With little accountability, a person becomes convinced of one of two outcomes: (1) That his or her best is simply good enough and others must accept that, or (2) by giving a false confidence he or she is convinced that the work is above sufficient. The result is ongoing mediocrity.

Perhaps some of this analysis sounds heartless and inconsiderate. There is no desire to belittle a person, create unnecessary conflict, or not give appropriate honor as one created in God’s image. Unfortunately, the concept of self-esteem is one that achieves destructive consequences, and instead, we need a system that achieves constructive consequences. Such a system would affirm a person’s efforts while also acknowledging true ability and outcomes. This means recognizing God’s authority in giving gifts and guiding a person to the employment of those gifts while providing adequate support for weaknesses. Such a system then, cannot be built upon individuality but on mutuality in which each person supports one another.
There is much that could be defined, but all other points are meaningless until a foundation is set. The foundation for self-esteem, confidence, and worth are not found in man’s opinion, but man’s origin. These aspects are defined by who we are in God through Christ. The Psalmist declares that God is mindful of man and finds wonder at that reality, not merely because man is so special, but God has specially chosen man. This is where our confidence should be found and thus we must have a system that is not man-oriented, but God-oriented.

(1) You can read previous articles in this series by clicking the links below:

Photo “Orange Mood” courtesy of user Stefano Corso and Flickr.

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