So It Turns Out Self Esteem Isn't All That Good For You

i-love-myselfNormally I pay little attention to these things but as a parent I've never bought into the idea that 'schools shouldn't fail students' or that everyone should get a trophy just for showing up. It appears that I'm, at least partially, vindicated. According to Scientific American:
"The problem, as it turns out, was an inability to turn my focus outward. In fact, you should just get over yourself, psychologists Jennifer Crocker and Jessica J. Carnevale advise in this issue's cover story, “Self-Esteem Can Be an Ego Trap”. Focusing on the well-being of others may ultimately offer the greater reward, both inside and outside your head. In Head Lines, our writers elaborate on this concept, too—see "Generosity Is Its Own Reward" for the surprising benefits of generosity."

It is not, really, that I think 'self esteem' is a bad thing but 'self esteem' based on the idea that you're good at everything and that the entire world thinks you're as gifted as your mom does is just setting you up for a fall. True 'self esteem' is based on self awareness and self awareness includes knowing what you're not good at.  Yes, if you're patient you can learn to be good at some things you're initially bad at but some things you will not excel at no matter how hard you try. Once you are honest with yourself and know where your talents lie it will be difficult to impossible for others to damage your self esteem because you'll know better. You will know whether criticisms are true or not, you will know whether praise is earned or simple flattery.

As a very simple example, I know what I look like. If others like the way I look, that's great. If they don't, that's too bad but neither reaction changes the basic facts so I am neither hurt nor puffed up by people's reactions. Beyond the vain and physical, I know where my skills are and where I fall short. If someone says I'm bad at something I know I'm bad at, I can simply smile and say 'that's true'.

One more bit of unsolicited advice: Don't get caught in the trap of trying to figure out 'who you really are, deep down'. I've met people who have been stuck in an endless loop of 'self exploration and discovery' since the 60s, they will probably not have an answer in their lifetime. Who you are is subject to change anyway. Find out where your talents lie, find out what you enjoy and then figure out who you would like to be. Wake up in the morning and do your best to be that person. If you fail, wake up the next morning and try again. Don't waste time worrying about things you cannot change (which generally includes things that happened yesterday).

And with that I'll stop and will return to steering clear of personal advice, though if there is sufficient demand I'll consider actually writing my self-help manifesto tentatively entitled 'Suck It Up Princess'.
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