Common Beliefs on Low
Self-Esteem Are Myths
LONDON (Reuters) - Many of the most
commonly held beliefs about low self-esteem are myths without
reliable evidence to support them, says a study published on Wednesday.
Low self-esteem has become one of the most frequently cited explanations
for social and personal problems, ranging from young people's
involvement in violent crime to adult failures in business, and
the US state of California has gone so far as to invest significant
public funds in trying to raise the self-esteem of its citizens.
But Nicholas Emler, a social psychologist who conducted the study,
said his research showed that people with a high opinion of themselves
could pose a far greater threat to others than those with a low
sense of self-worth.
``People with low self-esteem tend to injure themselves rather
than other people. Those with high self-esteem tend to damage
other people, either because they are reckless and dangerous or
because they're unpleasant,'' he told Reuters.
Young people with very high self-esteem are more likely than
others to hold racist attitudes, reject social pressures from
adults and peers and engage in physically risky pursuits such
as drinking and driving or driving too fast, the study found.
``Widespread belief in 'raising self-esteem' as an all-purpose
cure for social problems has created a huge market for self-help
manuals and educational programs that is threatening to become
the psychotherapeutic equivalent of snake oil,'' said Emler, a
professor at the London School of Economics.
Emler's study, commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation,
the UK's largest independent social research and development charity,
found that relatively low self-esteem was not a risk factor for
delinquency, violence, drug use, alcohol abuse, educational under-attainment
It was, however, a risk factor for attempting suicide, depression,
teenage pregnancy and being victimized by bullies, he said in
the study, which followed the fortunes of children and young people
Relatively low childhood self-esteem also seemed to be associated
with adolescent eating disorders. Among young adult males it seemed
linked with low earnings and job problems.
Emler said the most important influence on young people's self-esteem
was their parents, ``partly as a result of genetic inheritance
and partly through the degree of love, concern, acceptance and
interest that they show to their children.''
He said his study, which took a year to complete, reviewed research
worldwide from the 19th century onwards, much of it from the United
Reference Source 89