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Crazy-Makers: Dealing with Passive-Aggressive People

Why Are People Mean? Don't Take It Personally!

When You Have Been Betrayed

Struggling to Forgive: An Inability to Grieve

Happy Habits: 50 Suggestions

The Secret of Happiness: Let It Find You (But Make the Effort)

Excellence vs. Perfection

Depression is Not Sadness

Conflict in the Workplace

Motivation: Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic

20 Steps to Better Self-Esteem

7 Rules and 8 Methods for Responding to Passive-aggressive People

Promoting Healthy Behavior Change

10 Common Errors in CBT

What to Do When Your Jealousy Threatens to Destroy Your Marriage

Rejection Sensitivity, Irrational Jealousy and Impact on Relationships

For Women Only: How to Have the Relationship of Your Dreams

What to Do When Your Partner's Jealousy Threatens to Destroy Your Relationship

Making Attributions for a Healthier Attitude

Happiness is An Attitude

Thinking Your Way to a Healthy Weight

Guide to How to Set Achieveable Goals

The Effectiveness of Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment for Anxiety Disorders

Co-Dependency: An Issue of Control

The Pillars of the Self-Concept: Self-Esteem and Self-Efficacy

Catastrophe? Or Inconvenience?


Panic Assistance

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Relaxation for Children

Change Yourself--Don't Wait for the World to Change

Loving Kindness Meditation

Self-Esteem Exercise

Meadow Relaxation

Rainy Autumn Morning

Energizing Audios

Quick Stress Relief

Thinking Your Way to a Healthy Weight

Lies You Were Told

Choosing Happiness

Lotus Flower Relaxation

Audio Version of Article: Crazy-Makers: Passive-Aggressive People

Audio Version of Article: Why Are People Mean? Don't Take It Personally!

Audio Version of Article: Happiness Is An Attitude

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Kindle Books by Dr. Monica Frank


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A Brief Primer On the Biology of Stress and How CBT Can Help

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Coping With Change: Psychological Flexibility

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PsychNotes February 2016

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February 2, 2016       

The Purpose of “Normal” Low Self-Esteem

by Monica A. Frank, Ph.D.
Where did the self-esteem movement go wrong? Why does artificially trying to inflate childrens' self-esteem (giving every child a trophy) cause entitlement and laziness? If children feel better about themselves, shouldn't they be more motivated to succeed, not less?

The problem is that the self-esteem movement took a concept that was meant to help people with abnormally low self-esteem that interfered with life functioning and applied it to normally functioning people. Their idea was that if low self-esteem is associated with depression, then it must be bad and the opposite must be good: we need to get rid of low self-esteem wherever we find it.

This is the problem with extreme thinking—it assumes that the opposite of bad must be good when the opposite of bad is sometimes also bad. In this case, low self-esteem under normal circumstances may have a purpose—when people feel bad about themselves they are more likely to identify the problem and determine how to change it. In other words, low self-esteem can lead to self-assessment and be motivating for self-improvement (Crocker and Park, 2004). However, low self-esteem is different for people who are depressed and feeling hopeless—low self-esteem just contributes to the hopelessness in that situation.

Therefore, people with abnormally low self-esteem that causes problems in their lives do need to improve their self-concept. But for others, improving self-esteem can lead to the problem of inflated self-esteem in which they feel deserving just because they exist and do not need to exert any effort to receive reward. In other words, they do not need to consider their impact on others and their reasons for failure never have anything to do with their own behavior.

Self-esteem needs to have a healthy balance in which a person can look objectively at him or herself. By doing so, a person is more like to successfully navigate life's challenges.

Crocker, J. and Park, L.E. (2004). The Costly Pursuit of Self-Esteem. Psychological Bulletin, 130, 392–414. DOI: 10.1037/0033-2909.130.3.392


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