Fairfield Ledger

Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Apr 20, 2018

Self-esteem indispensable to success

By Jim Turner | Jul 06, 2017

To the editor:

There was a trend toward actively seeking to enhance the self-esteem in children in the early eighties. It got out of control in some ways. One reason is that the effort was to virtually remove what an adult would believe to be any imminent threat to a child’s self esteem.

Going so far as to eliminate any first, second, or third prizes for a pumpkin carving contest. The result was not one child received any prize of distinction and all the children received prizes for participation. Every carving job no matter how bad the result was given a prize.

This happened with team sports when they eliminated cuts and theatrical productions when everyone got a part, with orchestras, committees and projects of every kind. The consequences have been far-reaching in our culture and society. Children grow up with artificially inflated ideas about their real abilities,-their natural talents and gifts.

They base their goals on unrealistic expectations for success, often without a clear and mature understanding of the talent, skill and preparation it takes to even have a chance at success in those fields, much less the luck that is invariably a part of such success. It seemed at one point that every young person wanted to be in the film or music industry,or become the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs.

Parents and teachers have an important role in encouraging self-esteem in a child. Encouragement and confidence in a child’s potential are very important. But so is honesty. It is harmful to a child’s self-esteem to give them unrealistic ideas of what their true abilities are, making them think they are either exceptionally talented or have the potential of the most exceptional students in any given field of endeavor. To encourage them to start down such a path will lead to disappointment, anger and disillusionment, not to mention a great waste of valuable time.

It is vitally important to give students, in the most tactful way possible, a very real assessment of their talents, abilities and especially their potential. Potential can be discerned rather early-and many students’ potential is determined as much by their motivation and persistence as by any other factors,-but the basic skill or talent has to be there first in some degree. To tell a students he can sing or run fast or catch a ball when he can’t is not going to help his self esteem. It is going to damage it eventually.

Self-esteem, then, is a process that is greatly enhanced when a child begins to believe in and have real confidence in their natural skills and abilities,-and every child has at least one thing they do well and can excel at.

The next step is to help them accept and appreciate that what generally sets one apart from other talented individuals is a commitment to learn, improve and then strive for excellence in their chosen field. Easy to say, not easy to do but ever so worth the effort.


-Jim Turner, Fairfield

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