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Change lives. Change organizations. Change the world.
For three decades, I and many other psychologists viewed self-esteem as our profession’s Holy Grail: a psychological trait that would soothe most of individuals’ and society’s woes. We thought that high self-esteem would impart not only success, health, happiness, and prosperity to the people who possessed it, but also stronger marriages, higher employment, and greater educational attainment in the communities that supported it.
Psychologists have not been alone in their faith in self-esteem. Organizations ranging from the Girl Scouts to the Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks, from the Southern Baptist Convention to the Jewish Community Center Association sponsor programs to increase self-esteem. Public initiatives like the California Task Force to Promote Self-Esteem and Personal and Social Responsibility deployed widespread interventions to improve citizens’ self-regard.
From Little League coaches to legislators, many Americans are convinced that success – whether defined as raising