TalkBack To Vicki Jardine

A TalkBack on Parenting Issues

Healthy Self-Esteem vs. Unhealthy Self-Esteem January 15, 2009

Healthy Self-Esteem!
Healthy Self-Esteem!

The following is a quote from a magazine and it really caught my eye.  It was part of a list of 10 things your child will not learn at school.  It states:

The world won’t care about your self- esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.


How do you feel about that statement?


I am sure it was written a little ‘tongue-in-cheek’, however I feel that the statement seems to somehow imply that a child should only possess self-esteem if and when they have accomplished something.


This is the complete antitheses of what I believe. 

I believe deep-seated self-esteem is only achieved when a child knows that he is valued just for ‘being’ and his/her value is not dependent on anything that he/she does.  It is unconditional.  It supersedes behaviours and accomplishments. 

In fact, I propose that in order for our children to achieve, they must first possess self-esteem.  A child needs to feel good about themselves in order to accomplish things, especially things that the world would notice.

If we look at famous achievers like Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan, just to name a few in the sporting world, we know that it must feel very good to win as they do.  They must feel very good about themselves. 

However, what we see when we look at them is humility and confidence. 

And while it is true, that your child may not attract the kind of acclaim and applause that Lance, Tiger and Michael do,  there is little benefit to your child to inform them of that fact.   

Obviously I am referring to ‘healthy self-esteem’ here.  There is such a thing as ‘unhealthy self-esteem’.  Parents can recognize one from the other very easily.  Simply ask, does my child’s self-esteem motivate him/her to achieve or does it prevent him/her from achieving?  If it is ‘big head’ and no action, then it is un-healthy self-esteem.

I would like to re-word that statement above to read:

The world will not reward you for having unhealthy self-esteem.  What the world respects is healthy self-esteem which is evidenced by your wonderful achievements.

What do you think about the statement now? 

Do you agree with either statement? 


Have your say about this very ‘hot’ topic. 


Talkback to me Now.  Leave a comment on this post.


Warmest Wishes

Vicki Jardine





3 Responses to “Healthy Self-Esteem vs. Unhealthy Self-Esteem”

  1. Hi there Vicki,
    I understand what you mean. Our children’s worth is inherent– they exist, they are valued. And if we look at how children’s sense of self develops, it is from those first months of life and onward that when they make sounds, cry, make faces, these experiences are mirrored and contained by loving people around.

    The other part of self esteem I think is that children’s contributions matter (please don’t read this as their grades). When we ask a child’s opinion, include them in family chores, notice and get involved in their interests, these are all ways that children know they matter and see for themselves that they have an impact.

    This is one of the issues that I discuss in my new book, Freeing Your Child from Negative Thinking: Powerful, Practical Strategies to Build a Lifetime of Resilience, Flexibility and Happiness. There is a chapter there about helping children identify their strengths, as well as a chapter that discusses our obsession with (and narrow definitions for) success and how detrimental that is to kids but also to the progression of the culture.

    In any case, it sounds like you’re on the same page, but if you’re interested in checking out the book, you may want to check out an excerpt at

    Thanks for this thought-provoking post. These are the issues that matter!

    All best,
    Tamar Chansky

    • vickijardine Says:

      Oh Tamar
      We are most certainly on the same page.

      My organization is called Highly Successful Kids and I have to agree with you about the importance of having a wider set of definitions for what ‘success’ is and that it is detrimental to children’s development to restrict a child’s view of themselves to a limited set of characteristics or accomplishments.

      Children’s identity is one of the most vital aspects of the development of self-esteem.

      All adults can make a valuable contribution to the self-esteem of all of the children with whom they come in contact. But I also hold that parents and caregivers establish within a child, deep-seated messages that either build the child up, or tear the child down. If a child is built up enough by a parent or caregiver, then the positive messages from other adults will find a home within their developing identiy. However, if the overall messages a child gets about him/herself at home are tearing them down, then they are more likely to miss the positive messages from others and pick up on the negative messages and impossible comparisons that can also fill a child’s day.

      It is so important that parents and other adults begin to think more seriously about the impact of their words and actions on individual children.

      Thanks so much for your comment and I will definitely check out your book.

  2. Mike K Says:

    Hey Vicki,

    What a refreshing post. As someone who has spoken with many many high school students I see this distinction between healthy & unhealthy self-esteem very often. As you point out, there is a difference. Healthy self-esteem, something that is lacking not only in children but also in many adults, is one of the most important assets a human being can develop. As you said, healthy self-esteem requires no prerequisites. It exists because we exist. It is only a rediscovery of this truth within that is required because it is there waiting. Maybe it’s the fact that, as the quote in your post attests, the world demands us to show our achievements before we can feel confident and this is the reason why many young people look to put on a facade to the world and therefore develop unhealthy self-esteem in the process. How we can teach our youth that they are entitled to complete self-esteem just because they “are” is a question we must look to answer. Your post provides the first most important step….awareness. Bless you.

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