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The Social Importance of Self Esteem (It's not what you think)

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posted on Oct, 3 2014 @ 09:39 PM
I did a presentation in my sociology of deviance class on the Self Esteem movement, and in doing research for it this paper came to my attention during one of my researching sessions. The Social Importance of Self Esteem was a formal document highlighting the initial results and aims of the California Task Force to Promote Self Esteem (established by a man who singlehandedly lobbied every senator in order to get it established) in 1986. The rationale behind it was that having low self esteem "caused" you to go out and wreck havoc in society. I was only able to skim it, due to having to make the presentation, but a lot of insights could be gleamed from perusing it. Here's a link: link

"It is supposed that those citizens who appreciate themselves will cultivate their own personal responsibility and will attend to the tasks that are necessary for the welfare of the community and the society. It is further supposed that those in society who are burdened with the conviction that they are not worthy will take refuge in behaviors that are unproductive, costly, deviant, and dangerous to society and will, by that measure, contribute disproportionately to serious social problems. Bearing these two propositions in mind, it becomes essential for the leaders of society, first, to establish social conditions that will maximize the development of self-esteem among the population and, second, to establish social arrangements that will rescue and rehabilitate those who have emerged from families and communities with a sense of diminished self-worth. " (emphasis is mine) [page 11, for those interested]

Out of context, that doesn't sound very nefarious at all, and in fact, would be quite the sensible thing to do if both of those propositions were true in their most literal sense. A few more, before any conclusion is presented...

"A Plausible Case for the Link Between Self-Esteem and Social Problems
As an intuitive matter—based on our own personal experiences and our observations of others—we know what it is to experience high self-esteem. It means, fundamentally, that we appreciate ourselves and our inherent worth... [goes on to list other traits] We also know what it means to experience diminished self-esteem; it means the opposite of all those positive elements just described, and it results in self-deprecation, helplessness, powerlessness, and depression. Also as an intuitive matter, we know how we are likely to behave, depending on whether we think well or poorly of ourselves." [page 6]

initially, I was amused by the standards of evidence.

"As for the vicious cycle, we need consider only that dynamic described in this volume by Scheff, Retzinger, and Ryan: one partner in an interpersonal relationship is subtly but tangibly shamed by the other and does not acknowledge this debasement but instead lashes out in a violent rage toward the other person. The violence sets off a frenzy of greater shame and guilt, which can find expression only in another bout of destructiveness.
In this case, the causal link is clear: low self-esteem is the causally prior factor in individuals seeking out kinds of behavior that become social problems. Thus, to work on social problems, we have to work directly on that which deals with the self-esteem of the individuals involved. Or, as we say in the trade, diminished self-esteem stands as a powerful independent variable (condition, cause, factor) in the genesis of major social problems. We all know this to be true, and it is really not necessary to create a special California task force on the subject to convince us. The real problem we must address—and which the contributors to this volume address—is how we can determine that it is scientifically true."

The scientific rigor is a topic for another day. I'm here to discuss, in particular, social control. Even if the foundation on which the idea that low self esteem causes social problems is only partly true, the conclusion can still be true. A few sentences down...

"We know equally well that diminished self-esteem is often the product of something outside the individual, something in one's personal and social environment. If a child is singled out as the family dummy, is the one voted least likely to succeed, or is abused by parents and siblings, that child is a poor candidate for having high self-esteem throughout any part of life." [pages 8]

"We are intuitively aware of what it takes to turn high self-esteem into low, and what it takes to turn low self-esteem into high. In the former instance, constant failures and a constant bombardment with the message that one does not count as a person or with others gradually add up to the feeling that one is a cipher in this world. In the latter case, the first step is acknowledging that one regards oneself as worthless or helpless or in the grips of self-abasement, combined with a sense of personal suffering and a desire to drag oneself out of the hole. When this is linked with a personally meaningful experience—perhaps finding a mate, perhaps getting a new job, perhaps entering psychotherapy, perhaps finding a new social or religious identity—the individual finds a new sense of capability, power, and self-control; a liking for oneself and who one is; and a capacity to get out of the realm of behavior that is damaging to oneself and to others and to reach toward the realm of responsible and pro-social behavior. Moreover, it is this significant turnaround from low to high self-esteem—and its behavioral consequences—that allows the ebbing away of those kinds of behavior that constitute social problems." [pages 6-7]

Can anyone else see how this would apply to social control? I don't want to just throw out a lot of things and not receive input (anymore than I already have). One way to think of this is what happens with narcissists (people with "situational" self esteem) vs. other people.

If you want to see the surrounding context or read more into it, you can go here for the whole thing (260 pages).
edit on 3/10/2014 by zackli because: (no reason given)

posted on Oct, 3 2014 @ 10:56 PM
There are several relationships that self esteem, in this context, has with religion. Those who have not been raised with one can have difficulty establishing one. Self esteem is fundamentally about a belief that you matter, you control your destiny, you're awesome, and other things that are good about you and the possibilities for both your future and how you will benefit everyone. Unfortunately, until such time passes as those things become true, they are simply feelings and hopes and wishes. Engaging with the real world can, and, indeed, will, impede your ability to ignore that they aren't (yet, if you prefer) real, with the consequence that you may end up even changing your mind about wanting to help others, the beneficence of man, or the idea that you are a unique individual with the ability to positively contribute to the world.

"The logic that intuitively links self-esteem with some kind of outcome does not correspond with the logic that leads us to construct quantitative indices of dispositional qualities such as self-esteem and quantitative indices of actual behavior; thus the link that we all know exists is shrouded in error." - in other words, "Self Esteem works in mysterious ways." (page 17)

"One of the disappointing aspects of every chapter in this volume (at least to those of us who adhere to the intuitively correct models sketched above) is how low the associations between self-esteem and its consequences are in research to date." (Page 15)

edit on 3/10/2014 by zackli because: didn't feel like having a one way conversation with myself

edit on 3/10/2014 by zackli because: (no reason given)

posted on Oct, 3 2014 @ 11:42 PM
a reply to: zackli

It's hard to understate the value of self-esteem as it does play a huge part in how we treat others and how we view the world. It's one of those unavoidable feedback loops that means we generally get treated how we treat others. When we feel confident, our perception of everything is more positive and people appear to interact with us positively.

Nevertheless I wouldn't like to see more political interventions or governments defining what self-esteem actually means. Politically, self-esteem can't even transcend the Left/Right divide so political leaders identify self-esteem in their own voters and lament its absence in the other side.

These movements start with a selected think-tank that reflects the political ideals of those who pay them. They then deliver a program that appeals to their mutual political beliefs and implement it. That isn't self-esteem for society as a whole; it's social control and media manipulation for political gains.

It looks like they have little or no actual influence and haven't earned a news article for years. With mumbo-jumbo, vacuous statements like, 'The experience of being capable of meeting life's challenges and being worthy of happiness,' it's easy to see why. How do you measure real world success and progress on the criteria of a garbage statement like that?

posted on Oct, 4 2014 @ 12:39 AM
a reply to: Kandinsky

How do you measure real world success and progress on the criteria of a garbage statement like that?

With monopoly money.

It's hard to understate the value of self-esteem as it does play a huge part in how we treat others and how we view the world.

Yes, I wasn't debating the merits of self esteem. As vacuous a concept as I've made it out to be in this context, it is the fundamental phenomenon underlying it that matters, not the concept as it's explained by anyone.

as I was saying earlier, the dynamics of a narcissist are interesting under this interpretation. It is 'as if' they are the religious extremists, holding all the tighter to their story that they are good, perfect people while the ones who actually have high self esteem already know they aren't perfect. Feedback becomes a win-win because it highlights where they can improve.
edit on 4/10/2014 by zackli because: removed a terribly redundant word, that was redundant

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