Self-Esteem v. Self-Respect

Margaret L. Snyder
September 17, 2003

When American students are compared to students of other countries the only category in which they come out on top is…self-esteem. In other words, they don't know nearly as much as they think they do. If you went to school more than 25 or 30 years ago, you probably never heard about self-esteem at the time. Nobody was worried about your self-esteem. They were too busy educating you.

In the process they, along with your parents, were teaching you self-respect. Before you learned to respect yourself, even before you had learned to read, you had already learned to respect others, especially those older than you, such as your parents, their friends and your teachers.

Having learned respect, you were able to have respect for yourself as well. You could respect yourself because you had been taught certain behaviors that were worthy of respect. Such as kindness, honesty, a sense of duty or faithfulness, and following rules.

Children raised to feel good about themselves "just because" or even just because God made them, tend to continue to regard themselves as the center of the universe and due special treatment whenever they feel like it because, after all, they are so special. Somehow the idea that everyone else is just as special and God made them too just isn't part of the message.

A child who aspires to be kind, honest and dutiful, even though he or she often fails, is a happier child than one who is told to look in the mirror to see the most special person in the world. Everyone around them is happier too.

Psychologist Dr. John Rosemond and his wife realized early in his career that a three-year-old tyrant was running their home. Dr. Rosemond had the courage to face the fact that most of what he had learned about child rearing was so much wishful thinking. He has been on a campaign ever since-for about the past thirty years-to urge parents to stop paying attention to child-rearing "experts" and go back to the way their parents had raised them.

Of course, this worked for him only for a while, because the self-esteem movement has been with us for so long that those raising children today are the second generation of the self-esteem society. They don't even have the example of their own parents to draw on.

In any case, Rosemond, in several excellent books and a syndicated column, points out that human beings enter the world with plenty of self-esteem. In fact, they literally think they ARE the universe, not just the center of it. Child rearing used to consist of lovingly but firmly removing children from the center of the universe, and teaching kindness, consideration, and respect. Persons so raised have self-respect.

Self-respect is greatly to be preferred over self-esteem. Self-respect is part of a world-view that includes respect for others and a sense of responsibility and of duty, whereas self-esteem is unconnected to any socially beneficial attitudes. Self-esteem is what we find in people who are self-absorbed and unprepared to share the world with others on anything like an equal basis. It should surprise no one that the segment of society that exhibits the most anti-social behavior also has the highest self-esteem: young black males. What they and the rest of our children and young people need is self-respect.

Margaret L. Snyder teaches Spanish at a college in Eastern Pennsylvania and recently took to writing about current affairs.
Copyright © Margaret L. Snyder

BACK Education

Search TYSK

TYSK eagle

News Depts Articles Library
Lite Stuff Links Credits Home


18 sep 2003