shallow focus photography of two boys doing wacky faces
Parenting,  Special Topics

The Self Esteem Scam

On horse

Maybe I’m too grumpy to write this right now but most of you have been with me for a long time.  I trust you’ll forgive me should that become necessary.  And if not?  I wish you well.  I mean no offense.


I’m sick of self esteem.  I’m tired of talking about it. Hearing about it. Worrying about it. Building it. Protecting it.  Blah, blah, blah.

[Tweet “I’m sick of self-esteem. How about you?”]

How can a woman who has been an advocate for kids and families for decades make such an inflammatory statement?

That’s simple: I think our collective obsession with self-esteem may actually be hurting kids.  It’s a term that gets thrown about as a well-meaning but lazy mental shortcut.  Self-esteem has become the holy grail of parenting.

[Tweet “Self-esteem has become the holy grail of parenting.”]

On the other hand, when I’m not frustrated and ranting, I’m able to hear those statements for what they are: love, concern and a laudable desire to protect.

Here’s the fundamental problem: we can’t give self-esteem to anyone.  It’s an inside job.

As parents, teachers and coaches the best we can hope for is to create conditions that allow our kids to have the experiences they need to discover and embrace their own innate beauty and worth.  Try, fail, try again, succeed.  Hug, kiss.  Praise, scold.  Love the hell out of ’em. Trust the process.  Rinse, lather, repeat.

Let’s connect on social media.


  • The Ed

    Ha! But it’s easier (and quicker) to TELL kids they should have it than create the conditions for it! That would take time, conscious, mindful thinking and activity, switching off that TV, restricting poisonous magazines and internet tosh, speaking to one another, doing things together! 😯

  • Peggy

    i hear ya sister! For me it’s the goddess stuff but it’s because I don’t relate to it. I wrote about yesterday, too.

  • Laurie Seymour

    It is indeed an inside job, Andrea (you know how I preach this. :-)). parents do have the opportunity to create a good foundation. And yes, love, love, limits, love. Trust the process. Yep.

  • Sheila Callaham

    Love it, Andrea. You are so right, we can’t give self esteem, we can only hope to teach our children to love and accept themselves as they are (while doing their best, of course!). 🙂

    Try, fail, try again, succeed. Hug, kiss. Praise, scold. Love the hell out of ’em. Trust the process. Rinse, lather, repeat.

    Can’t get any better then that!!

  • Peggy

    Finally. Not everyone wins. Not everyone scores a goal. We don’t get trophies for participating or showing up. In an effort to give our children self-esteem, we’ve created a generation of gimme’s. “gimme this. gimme that.” Entitlement is the result of trying to give our children self-esteem.

    Best thing I learned was that I could give my children the space to experiment – try, fail, try, fail, try, succeed, try….rinse and repeat. The four most important words I could say to them “I believe in you.”

    And that was enough to get them to try again.

  • Dana Leigh Lyons

    This is great, Andrea!

    There’s something about repeating a phrase over and over and over…whereby connection with and noticing of it’s true meaning slips away. Beautiful reminder that we can’t give self-esteem to anyone. We can contribute to the context…but truly is an “inside job.”

  • Terri Dean

    Me, too! And not just for kids.Self esteem grows from the inside out and outside in (thoughts, actions) and rests on a foundation we must indeed create day by day moment by moment. The paradox is that we can only stay the course if we can find a way to love ourselves with all our flaws, failings, and misdirections.
    Anyhow, I didn’t mind your rant at all. Keep it up.