A while back, some revolutionary thinker in the field of psychology noticed that some people think that they are pretty cool, and others don't. This astonishing revelation was heralded by trumpet fanfare and a new fad sweeping the psychological community (which should tell you something about the average intellectual calibre of that profession).
Today, while the professionals have largely moved on to other, even stupider, things, this concept has lingered on in the popular concept of what psychology is, largely because it is easy to grasp, easy to explain things with, and impossible to predict anything with and thereby be proven wrong. This allows otherwise useless people to feed themselves by writing articles for Cosmo, and people who know nothing about anything to sound smarter than they are during casual conversation.
And where you encounter the words "self-esteem", you almost invariably encounter the word "women".
In fact, aliens reading random samples of earth's modern printed material could be forgiven for mistakenly thinking that "women's self-esteem" was our most precious resource, which we use to catalyze working nuclear fusion reactors, or distill to cure cancer, or something.
In fact, a lot of humans, who live on earth and should know better, seem to believe this as well. It always makes me smile when I am accused by some outraged feminist or tradcon, of "trying to lower women's self-esteem", often with the codicil "so they will be easy prey for men". (At which point she glances backwards to find a soft spot, faints dramatically , smelling salts are fetched, and a good time is had by all.)
Technically, of course, they are absolutely right. What they, and pretty much anyone else, have never thought about, however, is a simple question: What makes everyone so sure that having the highest possible self-esteem is good for you?
No one ever explained that to you, did they? They just took it as their starting point. Obviously a high self-esteem is good, and a higher self-esteem is better, so here's how you go about convincing yourself that you are best thing evaaar.
Well, yes, this is obvious, and like about 50% of obvious things, it's also dead wrong.
If you look at successful and happy people, you'll find they all have high self-esteem. That's why people are tempted to conclude that high self-esteem makes you successful and happy. This, of course, is backwards. Being happy and successful gives you high self-esteem, and it doesn't work the other way at all.
When you start to think about it this way, it becomes clear. This girl obviously thinks she's beautiful, because she has access to a mirror, and her eyes work. But if this ... whatever that is... believes the same thing, will she be happy?
She will persistently wonder why nothing ever seems to work out like she expects.
In practice, self-esteem is not like wealth (more is better), but like insulin: Too little will hurt you, but so will too much.
We live in a society and era where the male ego is systematically starved (and then called "fragile" when it exhibits signs of that starvation), while the female ego is fed, and fed, and then force-fed some more with a tube down its throat as if we were trying to produce foie gras. This means that, while both too much or too little self-worth is bad for both men and women, the most common self-esteem problem that women face is "having too much of it".
This leads women to chronic disappointment, envy of others, and most importantly, to making really bad moves in their efforts to get and keep the best relationship they can.
In my next article here, we'll discuss how to detect low and high self-esteem problems.