Episode 9: How Do You Really Raise Self-Esteem? The Incredibles vs. American Idol

How do you really raise self esteem? This week we take a look at all the talk about young people, narcissism and the self esteem movement. Then we answer the question: how do you raise self esteem?

Show Notes

Quick Summary of major points:

How self esteem grows:

  1. Doing well (achieving your goals), on
  2. Tasks that you value (are important to you)

How to give effective praise:

  1. Be sincere
  2. Don’t praise too frequently
  3. Be specific – help your child learn what strategies lead to success
  4. Be careful about attributing success to “smarts” – that can backfire. Try to focus on the effort that went into success

Links mentioned in this episode:


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Comments

  1. jesse boyd says:

    wow this episode totally blew my mind. it really explains a lot of american culture currently and some of the problems we are having in staying competitive in a global world. we are not all gifted in the same ways and yes we need real tangible signs when we are ACTUALLY successful. this also can be translated to why affirmative action actually hurts the people it try’s to help. i have been looking for some time to back up my strong feelings that affirmative action is a lose-lose program and this is an excellent observation of society and the impact of certain thought “regimes”.

    thank you mr Britt for your hard work and generous sharing of knowledge in a how do i say, “approachable”, way. :)

  2. Thanks Jesse. People do say that we have a narcissistic culture and that we want to feel good about ourselves no matter what we do. We certainly need to learn to take constructive criticism in order to learn and grow. Glad you’re enjoying the podcast.

  3. Hi Michael,

    I recently discovered your podcast and have been listening to it while I paint. In episode 9, on raising self-esteem, you discuss a study conducted by Carol Dweck on methods of praising children. She states that telling students they’re smart when they accomplish something significant generally ‘backfires,’ while praising them by saying that they must have worked hard results in a more motivated student. As an artist, I’ve often felt my stomach drop at the frequent comment “you’re so talented” or “you’re so gifted.” I’ve realized this was because it disregarded the fact that I had worked very hard over many years to reach my current skill level and it suggested that I made each painting in relative ease (through my supposed gift). The reality is that it is predominantly an exhausting, demanding and discouraging process. I believe the “you’re so talented” praise may be equally paralyzing for students as the comment “you’re so smart,” and was wondering if you’d consider doing a podcast on this subject of something related to the psychological process of creating art (be it writing, music, etc). I also believe this concept of talent, while I’m certain it exists, enables and encourages our country to view art as a leisure activity, rather than an essential component of a progressive culture.

  4. Interesting idea – doing a podcast on this topic. I can certainly identify with frustration about comments like, “You’re so talented”. I’ve spent many years and lots of money in singing lessons and while I appreciate positive feedback, the comment does in a way disregard the many hours spent we’ve spent in practice. I want to do more episodes related to creativity and artistic endeavors. I’ll look into this.

  5. Douglas Eby says:

    In her article What Is Wrong With Feeling Good?, gifted children consultant Elizabeth Mika notes, “Self-esteem needs to be based on your authentic feelings and actions. If who you are and how you behave is way off from who you would like to be (and you are perceptive enough to notice the difference), your self-esteem will undoubtedly ‘suffer.’ But there is a message there letting you know that some extra ­ or perhaps a different sort of effort is required on your part.”

  6. Excellent article Douglas. Thanks for linking to it. I agree with Ms. Mika completely on the issue of authentic self-esteem. Well worth reading. Michael

  7. This podcast was actually very eye opening.
    Thank you for these!

  8. Dee: Glad you liked the episode. Thanks. You might want to read the article that Douglas linked to in the previous comment. Also good stuff on authentic self-esteem.

  9. Hi. I am taking a psychology class this term and my teacher suggested your podcasts and things from your site to better our learning experience.
    What I found interesting about this particular podcast was how to raise self-esteem in yourself and other people. I work at a day care, and this information from your podcast could really help me raise the self-esteem of the preschoolers I work with. Thanks for this!

  10. Ruth, Thanks so much for your comment! I’m glad you found the podcast. There are lots of good interviews with authors of parenting and childcare books here on The Psych Files. You can find them if you click on Developmental in the left navigation area. Thanks again.

  11. Oh that’s really cool! Thank you.

  12. Hey,
    I recently began listening to your podcasts and I must say I’m addicted. I’ve learnt so much and I can see there’s so much more to learn. Thank you so much for doing this.
    I particularly like this episode because it deals with something that I’ve thought a lot about but I could never quite put my finger on what I felt was wrong with the whole self-esteem issue. This episode really helped make some sense of it. Shows like American Idol , the people in them that find it hard to take criticism have sort of thrown my own self-esteem out of whack. Every time I think I’m good at something or that I’ve done something well, I immediately question myself, ‘What if I’m like one of THOSE people who THINK they are good but just can’t see how terrible they actually are in reality.’ They really truly do BELIEVE that they’re…well..awesome. And it’s scary to think that I could be one of those people. Forget awesome, now I have a hard time believing I’m even remotely good at anything even if I’m told so. I can never quite assess myself and I find it hard to trust people’s opinions about me. I’ve always had trouble accepting compliments and I used to think this was because there was something wrong with me but now I realize it’s because of people like those you talk about who although good intentioned, throw people’s sense of self out of balance by only worrying about their self-esteem. Like someone commented before, this was really eye-opening.

  13. Would it be possible to provide some citations supporting the hypothesis that self esteem grows by 1) Doing well (achieving your goals), on 2) Tasks that you value (are important to you)? As a clinical psychologist, I try to help people living with serious mental illness learn the skills it takes to get out of psychiatric hospitals and successfully navigate life in the community. My colleagues and I often disagree about where to start with treatment. Many of my peers emphasize building self-esteem directly through noncontingent praise, while some of us believe that contingent praise facilitates skill development that will, in turn, foster enduring self-esteem. It would be wonderful to have some research to inform our debate. Thanks again, it’s wonderful to have accessible but thought-provoking provoking presentations on these subjects.

  14. Quinton, here’s a summary of a soon to be released article on self esteem: http://www.healthcanal.com/mental-health-behavior/14792-Popular-psychology-theories-self-esteem-not-backed-serious-research.html

    I’ll try to get ahold of the article itself. Might be an interesting article to do another episode on.

  15. More research on self-esteem:

    Crocker, J., & Park, L. E. (2004). The costly pursuit of self-esteem. Psychological Bulletin, 130 (3), 392-414.

  16. jonathan martinez says:

    I have read Po Bronson’s article in my writing class in the previous semester but i am still appreciative your work in posting this because as you can tell in reading the “how not to talk to kids” it is prevalent in the world in how we instinctively praise kids.

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