Wednesday, May 30, 2007

You're not good enough, you're not smart enough...

...and gosh darn it, people don't like you.

I am absolutely sick and tired of the very phrase "Self Esteem"; embodying as it does the concept that one should have warm fuzzy feelings about one's self for no adequately explained reason whatsoever, as though by simply existing, one was doing something inherently good rather than merely converting oxygen into greenhouse gas. With "Self Esteem" came the notion that we were to go to any extent to avoid things that may damage it in our little tricycle motors, even if it meant dumbing down grades and no longer keeping score at kiddie sporting events. All this seems to ensure is that we're producing whiners who will expect the real world to be as careful of their self esteem as the artificial environment of William Golding Memorial Elementary School was, and who will proceed to vote for anyone who promises to make it that way.

Whatever happened to self respect? The idea that one should have some sort of internal code and judge one's self based on how well one lives up to it? Or would that reveal that so many people are worth very little esteem at all?


Ambulance Driver said...

"William Golding Memorial Elementary School..."

Heh. Good one.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to Grandma Pelosi and Aunt Clinton's nanny state. Enjoy your stay!


Anonymous said...

"William Golding Memorial Elementary School..."

Now that's funny.

Bonnie said...

I submitted work to a journal earlier this year where prizes were to be awarded. In the art competition, I won by default because no one else entered. But in writing, I was told that I *would* have won, but they didn't want me "sweeping" the journal, so they gave it to someone else.

Uh, I'm sorry - I thought "contest" mean that the best won.

Nate said...

I've thought for years that kids these days have way more self esteem than they have earned.

Anonymous said...

This over-emphasis on "self-esteem" is a direct result of the Depression era's generation's over-compensation for the privations it faced, including WWII.

In English:

The Boomers were raised to be brats. And they have raised their kids the same. This has become institutionalized. Hence, the mess.

I don't know which is worse, starving because they haven't reproduced or putting up with their get.

Anonymous said...

Part of military training is to break down the sense of entitlement and privilege with which many of our young people learned growing up.

The good news, they aren't completely worthless, after all they volunteered.

The bad news, the rest of "gen y" doesn't get the drill sergeant attitude adjustment.

Anonymous said...

The really ironic thing is that since it's not based on anything that you can put an internal measuring stick against, self-esteem is infinitely more fragile than self-respect.

I don't know, I think there's a real subset of the population that sincerely believes that the Judgment Fairy will descend on their offspring on their eighteenth birthday and bestow all the coping skills that they've worked so hard to make sure the kid never needs while still a kid.

BobG said...

When I was growing up, no one would have known what you were referring to with the term "self-esteem"; we were raised, however, that self-respect was important, and without it you could not succeed in life.

NotClauswitz said...

Labrat hit the nail, self esteem is as fragile as an internet bubble and it's cheaply for-sale at any mall where the latest fashion and style is sold - but at least for those who desperately need it, they actually can buy it at the mall.

trainer said...

Part of military training is to break down the sense of entitlement and privilege with which many of our young people learned growing up.

Oh Yeah. It was hard to have self-esteem when you were exhausted, bald, dirty, confused, had lost your time sense, dressed identical to the other idiots, and beat to mush - and that was just the first day of boot-camp.

Self-respect, however, came with the gig.

Mark said...

I think you've mislabelled this one, Tam - I don't see anything mysanthropic about your comment.

"Self-esteem" is pandering supplied from without. Self-respect is something nobody can give you, and nobody can take away from you. It comes from within (modulo being taught how to acheive and recognise it).

Billy Beck said...

A reading:

"Self-esteem is reliance on one's power to think. It cannot be replaced by one's power to deceive. The self-confidence of a scientist and the self-confidence of a con man are not interchangable states, and to not come from the same psychological universe. The success of a man who deals with reality augments his self-confidence. The success of a con man augments his panic."

(Ayn Rand -- "The Age of Envy", 1971)

To finger the worst silliness of our time would be an extremely difficult task. What's been glaring to me over the past thirty years or so, however, is the constant broadscale assault on "selfishness" (look around you and pay attention) concurrent with this panicked (yup) harping on "self-esteem". I sometimes wonder whether the crashing ethical, existential, contradiction of all that will dawn on the morons who pitch it, but I never wonder seriously: I am convinced that they are too stupid or too evil to grasp the facts.

Matt G said...

A friend chastized me for using the word "stupid" in front of their 4 year old child. "We don't use that mean word around here." (I was referring to a hypothetical concept, suggested by no one present.)

"Tracy, is your daughter there smart?" I asked.

"Oh, yes-- she can write all of her ABCs, and she can spell some words, and..."

"You're right-- she is a bright girl, just like her parents," I said sincerely. (Though it's the dad, my old college roomie, who's the brilliant one in that family.)

"Now, I ask you-- how can someone be objectively 'smart,' if no one is 'stupid?' Forgive me-- I've said the word again. I would say 'dumb,' but that actually means something else entirely. But that's the issue-- if you think of them as simple objective measurements of inteligence, then they are merely descriptive, and not in any way mean, any more than if you said my hair is brown and my eyes are blue."

"I'll have to think about that," she said.

In other words, she was automatically disallowing the word because its use could be harmful to self esteem. In so doing, she demeaned the value of the praiseful word "smart." One supposes that her time would have been better spent teaching her kid tact, knowing when not to use words like "dumb," and "stupid."

Matt G said...

...speaking of which, it's stupid that I can't edit my typos, dangit....

Misspellings are hard on my self-esteem.

brbiswrite said...

I may be too old or too tired to respond to this post and all the comments with any clarity , but here goes.

I think I went to the William Golding Memorial Elementary School, if by that you mean it was divided into the savages and the conch holders. We had to fight for our identities in those days.

Ulises said "The Boomers were raised to be brats. And they have raised their kids the same. This has become institutionalized. Hence, the mess." This sort of specious, ill thought out generalization seeks to place blame for society's ills, but adds nothing to any understanding of human behavior.

I was certainly not raised to be a brat. We certainly did not raise our kids to be irresponsible. We raised them to think for themselves.

Which brings me to to this: Have any of you commenters raised any children; are you raising any now; do you plan to raise any?

It's funny how a dose of reality will change one's perspective. There are good parents and lousy parents, good schools and bad schools, but ultimatly the responsibility for who you are is your own. There's no sense in blaming the "Nanny State," or not keeping score, or use or definition of self esteem.

BRB is tired and will stop now. One last thought about Golding. I always thought he had a pretty poor opinion of humanity. I got nothing from the Lord of the Flies or The Magus but his cynicism and sneering attitude of humanity.

Anonymous said...

"Any sufficiently accurate perception is indistinguishable from cynicism."
--with apologies to Mr. Clarke

Anonymous said...

Expand. Elaborate.

You have the germ of a seed that needs watering and nuturing.

Go girl, GO !


Anonymous said...

The really amusing thing is that self-esteem is apparently inversely proportional to most folks' ability to make accurate assessments about their own skill level in any given area.

Put another way, the worse you are at something, the more likely you are to think you're pretty good at that thing. And the better you become at that thing, the more likely you are to realize that you don't actually know it all.

For an academic explanation of how this works, see Unskilled and Unaware of It, a research paper which won the Ig Nobel Prize back in the year 2000. A reasonably funny read for those who like that sort of thing.

Anonymous said...

billy beck, thanks for the reminder of where this phrase came from. I hold it against Nathaniel Branden that he turned it into a buzzword, to be misappropriated by "the opposition."

Ulises, stop being an age-ist. There are angels and assholes in every generation. Which boomers do you mean? Born in 52, I was taught that I was too young to be a baby-boomer: those were the first-borns of returned WWII vets. Now the damn phrase has been expanded to, what, 1964? There are at least 3 generations in that time span, and I won't cop to being at one with any of them. Too easy an excuse, and no explanation at all. Morris Massey BS.

Tam's point is tough, though. Acculturation and self-development are not supposed to happen in school, or in "organized youth activities." Allowing this calls always to the lowest denominator, happy talk and coziness. That's what keeps the millage rolling in. No one thinks he is raising a child to be a conformist or an irresponsible brat. But when you turn your jungens over to agents of the state to raise, it's bound to happen.

brbiswrite said...

I had William Golding writing The Magus. My bad; it was written by John Fowles. I read them about the same time and after 40 years, memories fade, but impressions last.

princewally said...

I've been saying it for years. Real self-esteem stems directly from self-respect, and you can't give someone self-respect.

Billy Beck said...

I don't understand this posed dichotomy between "self-esteem" and "self-respect". The two terms are interchangeable to me, denoting the same concept.

To my mind, the essential problem here is a fraudulent self-respect, which is something that cannot be rote-recited into existence.

Anonymous said...

"The two terms are interchangeable to me, denoting the same concept."

Not to me, though the word "esteem" does indicate respect when used on its own.

The "self-esteem" idea as practiced seems to be about liking yourself. There are lots of people I like but don't really respect and vice versa.

Jonathan said...

.Part of military training is to break down the sense of entitlement and privilege with which many of our young people learned growing up.

not anymore. haven;t you heard of the kinder gentler boot camp?

I ranted a bit about it.

Billy Beck said...

'labrat' -- "The 'self-esteem' idea as practiced..." {whack}

Look, man: as it's "practiced" these days -- to the extent that it is -- thinking could be indicted with the very same logical integrity. The catch is that that's not what people are practicing.

Get it?

Don't throw the V-8 out with the oil-change. "Liking yourself" is a good thing, but that's not where the analysis begins. The more basic question is whether one is worth that or it's delusionary.

'comatus' -- You can blame Branden for this reeking fraud if you want to, but nobody who really knows his work would. You would do a lot better to look further back in history.

Try John Dewey.