False Self Esteem is BAD


As kids go through school and play sports, for those under the age of about 15, they are often told how awesome they are and how good they are at said activity.  They are made to believe that they are the best there has even been.  I was at a little league tournament 10-11 year olds where EVERYBODY got a trophy… even last place…

This is horrible for kids.

Let me be clear, I am not talking about when a 3 year old learns to blow bubbles in their milk for the first time and they show you.  You should shower praise upon them like never before because they figured out how to do that shit on their own and its amazing.  I am talking about when that same kid is 7 and still getting praise for blowing milk bubbles.

I saw a thing on Tumblr that says “being told i was smart and above average from a young age was probably one of the worst things to happen to me because now i have a complex and question my entire existence when i don’t excel at something right away

And its true.

There is nothing wrong with praise.  But instead of making a big deal out of the fact your 10 year old can hit a ball in the general direction of the outfield (if they have played more than that year) or that your 11 year old has memorized their 5’s multiplication table why not press them do to better?  Yes, praise them the first time and maybe even the second time if its a more difficult task, but if they come back a 3rd, 4th, and 5th time still looking for praise either be a fucking parent/adult and find out WHY they are seeking praise (there are some legit reasons for this) or nod your head and ask them what is next.

Also parents or guardians you need to be perceptive.   If your son or daughter REALLY wants to play soccer and they are not that good at it make sure you praise them for trying and give them kudos for applying effort.  But never ever ever make them believe they are the next David Beckham or Mia Hamm because they play the sport on a mediocre level.  Instead maybe help them find something they are the “next best thing” at.

And Pro Tip:  You help them find something by listening to what their interests are and making those tasks available to them NOT by encouraging them to try every activity YOU wish you were good at.

I realize this is a bit old for some of the folks who follow this blog but every single one of you has the potential to be a parent one day so please don’t poison another generation with false high self esteem.



One comment

  1. It seems like you’re forgetting about that good-old psychological phenomena, The Superiority Illusion (aka, the Lake Woebegone Effect).

    Just read a great Neurotic Thought blog about it, btw, which is a great tumblr that takes the latest findings in psych and neuroscience and puts them in non-academic terms.

    Summed up, it’s this: 95% of people overestimate their own ability at any given task. ANY. They rate themselves as above average or highly skilled, especially on tasks that are work-related or ones they are enthusiastic about (like an art hobby). In your example, this is sports.

    And studies show that this illusion is actually BENEFICIAL for a person’s psychology, to a surprising degree. In fact, a person can have the superiority illusion to quite an extent before it becomes classified as a delusional (detrimental) behavior or mindset.

    How does it benefit people? People who have the Superiority Illusion are more willing to try again at tasks that they fail at the first time, often many times. In fact, a study of children showed that children who consistently overestimated their ability to do well on a verbal quiz (even after being given the results of the previous quiz) were willing to take the quiz again TEN TIMES, whereas students who estimated how they did on the quiz accurately only tried the quiz once or twice.

    Some scientists believe this is because they don’t take it personally when they fail. They “bounce back,” assuming to a degree that failures are the result of external factors that will adjust themselves to meet their own high expectations of success.

    People with the Superiority Illusion are statistically much less likely to suffer from depression, OCD or GAD.

    And remember, the majority of people experience this illusion to a degree. The 5% of people who do not have huge rates of depressive mental illnesses and risks of suicide.

    Thus, what you’re calling “false self-esteem” is actually a fairly normal psychological phenomena that benefits children, rather than being destructive towards them.

    Science > Anecdotal Evidence


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