Psychology Myth; Low Self-Esteem=Mental Problems

It is a common belief, especially of self-help guru’s, that self-esteem is significantly correlated to mental health.  It is commonly associated with positive thinking and books like “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne.   It is also commonly held among many parents that self-esteem is a significant factor in the mental health of children.  However, self-esteem is not a significant contributing factor to any mental health problem.

In a meta-analysis by Roy Baumeister with over 15,000 cases, it was found that self-esteem is, at most, minimally related to mental health problems.  Moreover, it was found that although there is a positive correlation with self-esteem and school performance, it is that school performance contributes to high self-esteem, not high self-esteem contributing to school performance.

In addition, we commonly think that self-esteem is a contributing factor to depression.  It almost seems intuitive.  However, the same study (and additional) finds that self-esteem is neither sufficient nor sometimes even relevant to depression.  This aspect truly demonstrates the actual perspective of depression that many people mistake.

While positive psychology has a lot of foundational support and study, self-esteem self-help guru’s are misleading and misrepresenting information and psychology.  You do not suffer mental health issues because of how you view yourself.  It is not your fault that you have problems.  These are attempts to give control and power to the individual but in the wrong light.  Yes, you have power over yourself and you can control how you feel.  However, we can never ignore the important factors of the environment and the need to find strategies to cope with those things that we have no power over.

What do you think…?

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