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The Harm of Self-Esteem

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One of the most common beliefs we are told in modern society is, “you can do anything you put your mind to.” When children are six years old and they walk up to their parents with a picture of Kate Middleton in their hands and say, ‘one day I’ll be a princess too!’ you don’t hear mothers tell them to go and find a more realistic career to pursue, you hear them say, ‘and you’ll be just as pretty walking down the aisle!’ We live in an age where self-esteem has become more important then resilience, determination and realism. Whilst as children this attitude enables us to experience life without hardship and therefore without sorrow, the question arises when reality meets innocence, ‘what happens when things go wrong?’

My entire life everything I’ve wanted has practically been handed to me on a silver platter. Age 8: I had a fight with my best friend and wanted to change schools, the following Monday I did. Age 12: I want to go to boarding school, it was as simple as sitting an interview and answering a few questions. Age 14: I’m sick of my old boarding school and want a new one, I pick it out from a list and within three weeks am living half way across the country. Age 16: I want an adventure, my parents pack up our family and decide to move to Vanuatu for two months.

When everything happens the way you want it to, it stops becoming a lucky day and starts becoming normal. I, and many others like me, are used to getting what we want. It is second nature, and often we don’t even have to work for it. You hear kids everyday complaining about their homework and how much they have to do to get a passing grade. I can honestly say that until recently I’d never picked up a book for non-recreational reading in my life and yet I’m still classified to be in the top 1% of the world academically. I’ve never taken a singing lesson; yet win competitions all the time. I’m terrible at sport and never do any if I can help it, yet win meddles in skiing. When society teaches us to believe that anything is possible, when our egos are built up and up as trophy after certificate after prize are won, are we setting ourselves up to fail?

My cousin was like me, brilliant in everything she did. She was elevated beyond her years and at my age was already completing high school. She was awarded a scholarship for excellence and would have gone on to do great things at one of the best universities in the world had her coin not flipped. When her long-term boyfriend broke up with her she was not equipped to handle it. Her entire life, everything had turned out the exact way she planned, she had not built up resilience to the cruel world. She killed herself the day before she graduated.

Despite what we are told, things do not go according to plan. Not all of us get to be a princess, or an astronaut, or the prime minister. Society’s worship of self-esteem does not set us up in life to succeed time and time again, but instead insures that ultimately we will all fail.



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