No question self esteem plays an important part in a person’s life. And acquiring it comes early. Psychologists believe that by the time a child is three years old, self-esteem–either positive or negative–is fairly well established. So it’s important that parents, brothers and sisters, teachers and babysitters show love, kindness, and respect to small children. If you’ve been treated this way, your self-esteem has grown.
When a parent or teacher’s goal is to make self esteem more important than genuine accomplishment, a child becomes egotistic.
Me. Me. Me. Not You.
He or she believes the world is created for them and that he can do no wrong. That leads to narcissism. And narcissism can be deadly. Because we are not here to love and serve ourselves alone, but to love and serve God.
The narcissist is incapable of love because he cannot see another as equal in dignity to himself. What he, or she, loves is a false image he has created of himself, and he needs to see that image reflected in the eyes and approval of others. A narcissist manipulates and uses others for his own personal gain.
Though it may sound harsh, well-meaning parents and school systems who give children the false expectation that they can never fail, can be breeding grounds for narcissistic personalities.
Our education system has practically removed the word “fail” from its vocabulary, believing it is harmful to self esteem. Today, the whole education system seems to be about getting only basic credits, and getting them in any way possible, even to the point of re-designing tests so many students as possible will pass. That way no one really fails.
But what happens? Children become arrogant, hard to correct and can’t deal with the failures that will surely come to them during their lives.
True self-esteem does not come from outside of us–with a trophy for something not so special. It comes from within us–when we have honestly worked to accomplish a task, a job, a talent. Most importantly, it comes from the deep certainty that we are loved by God who created us in His image, and who gives dignity, meaning, and purpose to our lives.
Christ’s own life was filled with sufferings and temptations. But His purpose on earth was before Him, a purpose He accomplished through His own blood, sweat, and tears. And then He was able to rejoice because He had done God’s will.
There will always be peaks and troughs in each of our lives, and in the lives of our children. We should not give them the false expectation that they can never fail. But what we should give them is genuine respect as a child of God, the knowledge that they are loved, and that they are made for more than this world–that they were made for eternity.