People with high self-esteem feel good about themselves, but don’t necessarily do any better than everyone else, writes psychologist Roy Baumeister in the LA Times.
High self- esteem in schoolchildren does not produce better grades. (Actually, kids with high self-esteem do have slightly better grades in most studies, but that’s because getting good grades leads to higher self-esteem, not the other way around.) In fact, according to a study by Donald Forsyth at Virginia Commonwealth University, college students with mediocre grades who got regular self-esteem strokes from their professors ended up doing worse on final exams than students who were told to suck it up and try harder.
Violent people think quite well of themselves. Bullies — and people who intervene to protect victims of bullies — tend to have high self-esteem; victims have low self-esteem.
High self-esteem doesn’t prevent youngsters from cheating or stealing or experimenting with drugs and sex. (If anything, kids with high self-esteem may be more willing to try these things at a young age.)
Self-esteem does promote initiative, which usually is good. And it makes people feel good. Otherwise, it’s overrated, Baumeister writes. “Forget about self-esteem and concentrate more on self-control and self-discipline,” he recommends.