The Case Against Self-Esteem: Alternative Philosophies Toward Self That Would Raise the Probability of Pleasurable and Productive Living


This article discusses two major aspects of the self-esteem movement in public education and psychotherapy to make a strong case that trying to raise or enhance self-esteem in students (as a preventive) or clients (as a treatment) is an unproductive palliative/diversionary intervention that does not lead to emotional health or long-term enjoyment in one's existence. In order to build a case against self-esteem, the two major aspects that will be examined are the following:

1.A clear and precise definition of the self-esteem construct, based on anexhaustive meta-analysis of self-esteem theory/literature in order to evaluateits core philosophical structure.

2.A summary of the research data on self-esteem enhancement, which shows there is no scientific evidence to support even a correlation between higher self-esteem and mental health, productive behaviors, and pleasure inliving.

This article proposes that a philosophy of unconditional self-acceptance (USA), a core construct found in many of the Eastern and Western traditions dealing with productive and pleasurable living, is a desirable philosophy for increasing long-term happiness in one's existence.

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London, T.P. The Case Against Self-Esteem: Alternative Philosophies Toward Self That Would Raise the Probability of Pleasurable and Productive Living. Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy 15, 19–29 (1997).

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  • Mental Health
  • Scientific Evidence
  • Public Education
  • Research Data
  • Precise Definition