SOURCE: Vision Media Productions
January 29, 2008 03:00 ET
The Self-Esteem Debate
New Ideas About Success, Failure and Self-Esteem Have Not Stemmed the Rising Tide of Depression and Unhappiness
PASADENA, CA--(Marketwire - January 29, 2008) - Almost 10 percent of American adults suffer
from depression and, according to statistics from a Harvard University
study reported in "Harvard Mental Health Newsletter," the number of
children under 18 who are depressed rises by 23 percent every year, and
pre-schoolers are the fastest growing market for anti-depressants. It would
appear that the current vogue for concentrating on 'feeling good' rather
than doing well is not producing healthy kids with a strong sense of
personal value. Vision.org, a web site focusing on personal development
among many other social issues, has just tackled this issue head on in a
recent article in the series on personal
development and self-esteem.
A child's self-esteem has always been important; education has been
addressing it from at least as far back as 1890. But while it has been
agreed that a child must have positive morale and must feel worthy, over
the last 30 years a concentration on simply "feeling good" has become
predominant as parents and educators have seemingly dismissed what was
obviously causing that "good feeling" in the first place.
Children's self-esteem problems have been addressed in some peculiar ways
of late. As Vision points out, "In the summer of 2005 Liz Beattie, a
retired British school teacher, proposed to her union that the word failure
should be banned from classrooms and replaced with the more palatable
phrase deferred success so as not to discourage students from continuing
efforts to achieve." At about the same time in the United States, various
bans on red ink gained momentum as teachers assumed that the color was
causing undue stress in children.
It is very obvious that a fight for morale is being waged. But will morale
really be restored with empty words and gestures? It would seem not.
Current methods do not appear to be working, as incidences of depression in
children are more prevalent than ever. It could be that something basic has
been overlooked. Harvard psychologist Henry James posed the following, as
far back as the last decade of the 19th century: "Our self-feeling in this
world depends entirely on what we back ourselves to be and do. It is
determined by the ratio of our actualities to our supposed potentialities."
In an attempt to quantify this concept, he interpreted this ratio as a
Much more recently, in 1995, psychologist Martin Seligman noted, "Armies of
American teachers, along with American parents, are straining to bolster
self-esteem." He then went on to say, "By emphasizing how a child
feels, at the expense of what the child does -- mastery, persistence,
overcoming frustration and boredom, and meeting challenges -- parents and
teachers are making this generation of children more vulnerable to
It would appear that there is no avoiding failure -- and then overcoming it
-- on the way to the achievement of success. A child knows when he or she
has actually succeeded, and false praise in an effort to make a child "feel
better" can make a child mistrust even honest praise.
You can read the entire text of the article here.
Vision.org is a Web site that challenges readers to examine the historical
and philosophical origins of today's issues. Vision.org brings insight into
the complex social, moral and philosophical questions -- including those of
personal development and self-esteem -- that confront society and culture
by examining them through the moral values and wisdom of an ancient source,