Tuesday, February 27, 2007

To Hell with Self-Esteem

You could smell this coming for years, what with the silly-ass "Pumsy the Dragon" efforts to teach self-esteem in the early 1990s. Sure enough, researchers at San Diego State University are reporting unprecedented levels of narcissism among college students. This study falls into the "Well, duh" category.

When self-esteem is leavened with social responsibility, you end up with autonomous, strong individuals who recognize a shared need to help others. When "It's all about me" is repeated as a mantra, you end up with a self-obsessed society that pays no attention to true news on foreign affairs, environment, politics, economics, but instead twiddles over minutae regarding celebrities. (And thank you, Saturday Night Live, for the enlightening skit on Wolf Blitzer and Anna Nicole Smith Feb. 24.)

Don't even get me started on social-networking sites. There is a great grassroots component to MySpace and YouTube, encouraging those with talent to share music and video without a mediator. But when the dominant personality on such a site is a person that simply wants to be famous, without seeing the need for actually doing anything to be famous, you end up with the worship of the superficial. Lakshmi Chaudry told us where this might lead in an essay in The Nation.

To the vain, preening peacocks that make up most of modern society, a challenge: try making it through a whole day, discussing societal news and trends, without making a single self-referential statement. No matter what Time magazine said in its Person of the Year issue, it really isn't all about you.


Brian said...

Here's an article from New York Magazine on how the self-esteem movement appears to be backfiring. Po Bronson on praising your kids. I found it fascinating.


Loring Wirbel said...

Po has done a lot of interesting Wired articles in the past.

jessie said...

praise externalizes that which should be built internally