FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Is Self-Esteem a Myth?

For at least a decade now, educators, psychologists and others have been preoccupied with boosting self-esteem and self-worth in individuals, particularly in young people, believing that it is the key to personal success. However, new research finds little correlation between individual levels of self-esteem and academic performance, happiness, career success or relationships.

Some of these studies have found, for instance, that self-perceptions often do not match perceptions held by others. Others suggest that high self-esteem may simply be a form of denial, naivetee or overconfidence, and that methods of measuring it are flawed. In teens, the conventional wisdom is that teenagers with a positive self-image are less likely to engage in sex and substance abuse. Though the findings remain inconclusive, some studies indicate just the opposite; kids with high self-esteem have more active social lives, which are more likely to put them in sexual situations and environments where drug and alcohol abuse occur. In other words, these are the "cool kids" who have lots of friends, get invited to parties and go out on dates.

In other realms, high self-esteem can have the unintended consequence of morphing into self-centerdness, causing selfish and even antisocial behavior. Obviously, this doesn't bode well for professional, romantic or any other type of adult relationship.

Clearly, this research has a way to go, and there's no reason to suspect that high self-esteem is a bad thing. However, future findings in this area could help determine the way we eventually approach a number of fields, from parenting to education to career counseling to psychological therapy.

Source: Scientific American