We have often talked about the major role that self-esteem plays in our children's education. Children with high self-esteem are more ready to overcome difficult situations and are constantly prepared for success. Sometimes however, too much self-esteem...hurts.
It has been noted as a general human bias that every individual sees the world in relation to himself, invests himself with more qualities that he actually possesses and tries to build up a comfortable self-image. Dave Barry observes this phenomenon in a variety of situations:
· nine out of ten managers consider themselves better than the other managers' average
· nine out of ten teachers assess themselves as being better than their peers' average
· most of the drivers – even those who were hospitalized after an accident – consider they have better driving skills than the drivers' average.
This phenomenon occurs in a whole range of situations (as Smith and Mackie point out, 2007): thus, 70% of the students who were questionned for a study considered themselves to have better leading skills than average and 60% of the students stated the same thing about their athletic skills. But this is impossible to be true! The authors appeal to a metaphor to emphasize this issue we are currently facing; quoting the humorist Garrison Keillor, they state: „All the children are above average!”
1. for some of the subjects the feedback was positive; they were told that the ʽpartner'sʼ appreciation was ʽAn excellent essay!ʼ
2. the other subjects received a negative feedback: ʽThe worst essay I have ever read!ʼ
Subsequently the participants were given the chance to punish their partners, within a competitive game, by giving forth an unpleasant noise whose level they were free to establish according to their own will: conclusions showed that the participants with a high level of narcissism (even those who had received a positive feedback) proved themselves even more agressive than those with a low level of narcissism who had received a negative feedback.
One final comment: the first time you tell your child / student that he is the best, remember to do so only after an appropriate behaviour. If such a praise occurs too often and is unjustified, you risk doing more harm than good!