Sunday, September 23, 2012

Boosting self-esteem does not lead to better achievement

This post from the Harvard Business Review blog suggests that the seemingly self-evident proposition that boosting one's self-esteem is the key to greater success in school or on the job is, in reality, poppycock.  It turns out that the research doesn't support what most of us have taken at face value concerning the relationship between self-esteem and achievement. Instead, the studies suggest that "self-compassion," a willingness to look at one's own mistakes and shortcomings with kindness and understanding, is what vaults us to greater achievement.

To Succeed, Forget Self-Esteem

[S]self-esteem is, at least in Western cultures, considered the bedrock of individual success. You can't possibly get ahead in life, the logic goes, unless you believe you are perfectly awesome.

And of course you must be perfectly awesome in order to keep believing that you are — so you live in quiet terror of making mistakes, and feel devastated when you do. Your only defense is to refocus your attention on all the things you do well, mentally stroking your own ego until it has forgotten this horrible episode of unawesomeness and moved on to something more satisfying.

When you think about it, this doesn't exactly sound like a recipe for success, does it? Indeed, recent reviews of the research on high self-esteem have come to the troubling conclusion that it's not all it's cracked up to be. High self-esteem does not predict better performance or greater success. And though people with high self-esteem do think they're more successful, objectively, they are not. High self-esteem does not make you a more effective leader, a more appealing lover, more likely to lead a healthy lifestyle, or more attractive and compelling in an interview. But if Stuart Smalley is wrong, and high self-esteem (along with daily affirmations of your own terrificness) is not the answer to all your problems, then what is?

A growing body of research, including new studies by Berkeley's Juliana Breines and Serena Chen, suggest that self-compassion, rather than self-esteem, may be the key to unlocking your true potential for greatness.

Continue reading here.


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This is an intriguing post. There is a fine line between self-compassion and self esteem -- though if you can have both, it's great!

Posted by: how to be popular | Nov 19, 2012 6:25:12 PM

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