Are Efforts to Improve SelfEsteem Misguided? Allison Zink Haley Drayer Introduction • 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 Evidence • 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 popular.” • Also there are no results that say that a high self-esteem does boost job performance Evidence • 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 violently. • 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 performance. – 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 substantially.” 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 them. 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 violence.” 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.” Sex • 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. Drugs • 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 inconclusive. 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 drugs. – They are 80 percent less likely to have an unwanted pregnancy. – They are three times more likely to graduate from high school. Aggression • 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 children. – 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 sex. • It fails to improve academic or job performance. • 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 happiness. • 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.