Are Efforts to Improve Self-Esteem Misguided?

Are Efforts to Improve SelfEsteem Misguided?
Allison Zink
Haley Drayer
• Statement of Position:
– Remember when you were young and people read the book “The
Engine That Could” to you? That book is about a little train engine that
believe in itself and had a positive self esteem and in the end it made it
up the hill. That book and the story behind it reflect our lives today,
especially when we are young. When children are young they are like
sponges and they retain and soak up information. People are very
inspirational and important to them. These positive self views need to
begin at a young age and need to be instilled in children. I am going to
talk about how efforts to improve self esteem are not misguided. There
has been research stating that people who have positive self views of
themselves and high self esteem have improvements in their daily life.
Introduction Cont’d
• Statement of Position 2:
– I am going to speak about how efforts to improve self-esteem are
misguided. Some people think that the root of individual and societal
problems is low self-esteem. Due to this, many efforts to improve selfesteem have been put into affect. The real focus should be on external
factors. Also, having a low self-esteem may cause a person problems,
but a high self-esteem can also cause a person problems. As of today,
there is no real sensible way to measure the self-esteem of a person.
There is convincing evidence that people with high self-esteem are
happier, as well as more likely to undertake difficult tasks and persevere
in the face of failure. Other studies have failed to confirm the virtues of
high self-esteem. Moreover self-esteem efforts may not only try to
make a person happier about themselves, but these efforts may
encourage self-centerdness.
Self-Esteem: You May Have It and
Not Know It
• Ellen Barish says that everyone is born
with self confidence, and sometimes in life
you may need a “refresher” course on selfesteem.
• Some of the most influential people in the
world need a “refresher” course on selfesteem.
Over coming obstacles
• “Beethoven was told by his teacher that he
would be hopeless as a composer.”
• “British Prime Minister Winston Churchill failed
the sixth grade.”
• “Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper for not
having any ideas.”
• “Thomas Edison was told he was too stupid to
learn anything.”
• “Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times, but he also
hit 714 home runs.”
From the article Self-Esteem: You May Have It and Not Know It
• Constant attention to self-validation is not a road to good
mental health. Dr. Michael Miller, editor in chief of the
Harvard Mental Health Letter, says, "It's more likely that
self-esteem will come as a result of accurate selfunderstanding, appreciation of one's genuine skills, and
the satisfaction of helping others.“
• A quote by Socrates states, “This amount of arrogance,
the sheer impardonable pretension, is bound to be
• Also there are no results that say that a high self-esteem
does boost job performance
• Those with high self-esteem on self-ratings aren't more
likely to have satisfying relationships, assume leadership
positions or avoid depression.
• Nor does it prevent children and teenagers from using
tobacco, alcohol or other drugs, having sex or behaving
• Schoolyard bullies, as well as those who stand up to
them, frequently report high self esteem.
• Individuals' high self-esteem, whether present from early
childhood or induced by education programs, generally
doesn't lead to improved school or job performance.
– All according to an issue in, “Psychological Science in
the Public Interest.”
Efforts to Improve Self-Esteem
– The way you treat your own body and the way
you treat others
– Working out
– Eating healthy
– Forgiving yourself and others
– Taking responsibility for your own choices
Efforts to Improve Self-Esteem
• There are so many efforts to improve self-esteem.
• Artificially boosting self-esteem may actually lower
– Some may remember getting an “E” for effort as young children.
– Also, when a sports team doesn’t have cuts and “everyone gets
to play” it gives some children a sense of hope or satisfaction
when really that satisfaction is not due.
– Sheila M. Pottebaum and colleagues tested 23,000 high school
students in 10th grade and then again in 12th grade.
• Evidence from this test was that raising self-esteem does not
offer students much benefit.
The Rise and Fall of Self-Esteem
• “Kids with better grades go on to have
higher senses of self-esteem. In a 1990
study of 600 Norwegian third-and sixthgraders, researches tested kids who made
good grades in a given school year. They
found that, in the following year, those
children’s self-esteem had risen
School Daze
• Duane P. Buhrmester conducted an
investigation within college students.
– They claimed that college students with high
levels of self-regard claimed to be better at
initiating relationships, disclosing things about
themselves, asserting themselves in response
to objectionable behaviors by others,
providing emotional support, and even
managing interpersonal conflicts.
– Their roommates, told a different story……
School Daze
• The five interpersonal skills investigated
had little to no correlation with self-esteem.
– Obviously these college students thought
higher of themselves than the people around
Happy Hour
• “If children could be made to feel better
about themselves, they would be less
inclined toward violence and drugs and
more likely to do well in school.”
• “Kids who like themselves tend to do
better academically.”
Happy Hour
• “Passaic’s “I Like Me!” program is one of the
newest self-esteem curricula to hit the market. It
was developed seven years ago by a group of
educators working with the Topeka, Kansasbased non-profit group Kindergartners Count
Inc. The 12-week course already reaches a
quarter of a million kindergartners around the
county. The subsidized books and teachers’
guides are billed as “early intervention against
many of the factors contributing to youth
Happy Hour
• “A survey conducted for Kindergartners Count last year
of 160 teachers using the course found a 40 percent
reduction reprimands to students for disciplinary
problems by the end of the 12-week course. “Our
premise is that if we start early enough, we can minimize
the possibility that children’s self concept gets fed by
negative means,” DeMoulin explains. “That comes
through warm homes and warm schools surrounded by a
warm community environment. If you have those things
intact, you minimize the chance that children will take on
violent tendencies.”
Happy Hour
• “Surveys conducted before and after
Kindergartners took the course last year
showed a modest 7 percent improvement
in children’s self concept, Gorin says.
“Giving them an academic tool and
surrounding it with a caring adult, pretty
pictures, and great messages is a bonus.”
• Studies have been done that examine how
self-esteem can influence a teenager’s
sexual activity.
– “Results do not support the idea that low selfesteem predisposes young people to more or
earlier sexual activity.”
– “If anything, those with high self-esteem are
less inhibited, more willing to disregard risks
and more prone to engage in sex,” according
to Roy F. Baumeister et. al.
• Psychologist once believed that boosting one’s selfesteem would prevent problems with substance abuse.
– They thought that people with low self-esteem turn to
alcohol and drugs for comfort and as a getaway, but
data shows that self-esteem does not correlate or
cause alcohol or drug abuse.
– Sheila M. Williams and Rob McGee from the
Dunedin School of Medicine did a large scale study
and found, “no correlation between self-esteem
measured between ages nine and 13 and drinking or
drug use at age 15.”
– When there are findings that correlate drugs and
alcohol abuse to low self-esteem, they are mixed and
Why Do Girls Need Sports?
• “Adolescent girls, much more so than boys,
because very concerned over body image and
how they’re thought of by their peers,” said Judy
Lutter fo the Melpomene Institute, which has
done extensive research on how emotional
health is related to physical activity. “We’ve
seen that physical activity increases self-esteem
and confidence, but we also know that there is a
significant drop-off in the physical activity of girls
once they hit high school.”
Why Do Girls Need Sports?
• “Research by the Women’s Sports Foundation,
and East Meadow, N.Y.-based advocacy group
founded by former tennis pro Billie Jean King,
documents other benefits for young women who
participate in sports:
– They are 92 percent less likely to get involved with
– They are 80 percent less likely to have an unwanted
– They are three times more likely to graduate from
high school.
• Baumeister reviewed several studies that
focused on aggression and low selfesteem.
– Dan Olweus of the University of Bergen
reported that bullies showed less anxiety and
were more sure of themselves than other
– The same applies to violent adults.
Dove Campaign for Real Beauty
• “The Dove Self-Esteem Fund (DSEF) was
established as an agent of change to inspire and
educate girls and young women about a wider
definition of beauty. The DSEF is committed to
help girls build positive self-esteem and a
healthy body image, with a goal of reaching 5
million girls globally by 2010. The DSEF has
already reached 2 million young women. Our
definition of “reaching” a girl is when she has
gone through an educational program that lasts
at least an hour of her life.”
High Self-Esteem=Happiness?
• Many studies have found that having a
higher self-esteem can lead to happiness.
– No research has actually shown this outcome
– It is plausible that occupational, academic or
interpersonal successes cause both
happiness and high self-esteem and that
corresponding failures cause both
unhappiness and low self-esteem.
• The problem is that happiness and self-esteem are
very difficult to measure and figure out which one
causes the other.
Taking Sides: Clashing Views in
Lifespan Development
• William B. Swann Jr. stated “We have encountered
evidence that programs designed to improve self-esteem
improve standarized test scores, reduce school
disciplinary reports, and reduce the use of drugs and
alcohol.” (p. 220)
• Programs to improve self-esteem are aimed at helping
people in the long run, not just helping them at a certain
point in time. These programs aim at improving people’s
self-esteem and that in turn will improve other aspects of
themselves, like their health.
Taking Sides: Clashing Views in
Lifespan Development
• High self-esteem does not lessen a
tendency toward violence.
• It does not protect adolescents from
turning to alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and
• It fails to improve academic or job
• BUT…….
Taking Sides: Clashing Views in
Lifespan Development
• Self-esteem is very important in a person’s life.
• It can help a person be more persistent.
• People with high self-esteem sometimes perform
better in groups.
• All-in-all self-esteem goes hand in hand with
• We must be careful though, because if an
increase in self-worth causes some people to
demand better treatment and to exploit their
fellows, there would be another problem.

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