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In defense of self-esteem

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On a recent popular sitcom, the main character lamented about how Americans were not the top students in the world across a variety of disciplines but instead were number one in self-esteem. He seemed to feel that our country had laxed on competition in order that any non-winners feel bad about themselves.

One may conclude then, that self-esteem is dependent upon achievement and is fragile enough to be at the mercy of winning competitions, or getting high grades. Somehow, we shouldn't use grades in schools or have winners in sports for fear of humiliating any kids (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/2610034).

This is not a new discussion. Studies have been done since the mid-1980's. In a study conducted at Penn State in 1984, (extension.psu.edu/.../s2060-cooperation-..), Ames found that the negative consequences of losing outweighed the positive consequences of winning.

The logical conclusion by some, then, would be that competition is not good. Competition ruins people's, especially kids' self-esteem because only a select few can win and most others not just lose the competition, but a piece of themselves as well.

Now, sports for younger kids are eliminating keeping score. Some are even caling for eliminating grades in school. The argument is that they destroy self-esteem and creativity (http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2013/05/the_case_against_...).

The general feeling against grades and scores is that there is a culture of only the bottom line, as it were, not the discovery or the actual achieving. People ar not convened with the process of learning and discovery, or rhe thrill of playing the game, it's all about being on top. And if you're not on top, you're nothing.

Consider some philosophical questions. Certainly there is something to be said about the journey, but isn't reaching the goal, the adrenaline rush of having accomplished something important as well?

Here's the real problem: our society has made self-esteem dependnt on something material. It is a reward for doing something important or doing something better than someone else. If you do well, your reward is you get to fell good about yourself; you do bad, sorry! Carrot and stick.

Consider that society has it backwards. Conside that when people.feel good about themselves, they want to express themselves. They feel good about having performed he activity, know they did their best, and if someone happens to be etter for whatever reaon, that's OK. They will do better in something else.

And when they do lose, well, they're still a good person, they'll learn and do better next time.

So the challenge is how to instill self-esteem in a person during their formative years so that they're desire to achieve is organic and not dependent on performance?

Perhaps the two.answers are respect and regard. People need to be respected for who they are, not what they are. Tandom with this is concern for people as people.

But tantamount is emphasizing the inner, not the outer. We as a.society Ned to shift our focus. Then, people will wanr to succeed all on their own.

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