Tomorrow's World Viewpoint | Self-Esteem vs Self-Control

February 1, 2017 | Winston Gosse

Do you have good self-esteem? Do you have good self-control? If you were posed the question as to which of the two is most beneficial and most important for success in life, what kind of response would you give?


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If you were posed the question as to which of the two is most beneficial and most important for success in life, what kind of response would you give?

Let's look first at self-esteem by way of definition. Self-esteem is defined as: "confidence in one's own worth and abilities," where self –control is "restraint exercised over one's own impulse, emotions or desires."

It would seem when one simply looks at the definitions, self-esteem appears as positive while self-control on the surface might come across as negative.

A paper titled "The Psychology of Self-Esteem" published by Dr. Nathaniel Branden founder and Executive Director of The Branden Institute for Self-Esteem, strongly supports self-esteem where he states the "feelings about self-esteem were the key to success in life."

But today many people are rethinking the value of self-esteem; especially in our school system coming to the conclusion, that what is even more important is self-control.

In 2008 the National Post published an article by Barbara Kay on the subject of self-esteem She writes: "The self-esteem movement began in the 1970s, when ideology-inspired social engineering -- the aim to "construct" a happy, confident person -- replaced knowledge-based learning as an educators' mandate." She goes on to say: "These students are the product of a decades-long, therapeutic educational culture in which personal self-esteem is privileged over knowledge, coherence of expression and academic integrity." So through social engineering practice a person would be developed and constructed -- one who is happy and self-confident and that in itself would propel one through life.

The idea was to replace the traditional knowledge based learning process of reward for achievement with the thinking that if you just completed the task that was more important than the task itself -- where everyone receives a gold star just for trying or showing up in class and where there are no failures. After all the persons fragile self-esteem was most important, and it needed to be protected and nurtured. At least, that was the thinking of many.

So I ask you again, do you consider yourself to be a good person? What if you are good only half the time? Is it reasonable for you to break some, but not all laws and what kind of judgement would you expect to receive if that was your line of defense in court?

Roy Baumeister psychology professor at Florida State University and one of the leading experts, in comparing self-control to self-esteem stated, "Both have been touted as ways to reduce crime, obesity, school underachievement, teen pregnancy, drug abuse etc." He concluded however "that one prescription is snake oil while the other is as close to penicillin as psychology is going to get."

His takeaway?: "Forget bolstering self-esteem. Concentrate on building self-control. Self-control is good for the person who has it, for the people around him or her and, in fact, for society as a whole." Dr. Baumeister goes on to say that "Self-control resembles intelligence: It is a powerful benefit across a wide range of circumstances. Whatever you do, you're likely to do it better if you're smart and have good self-control."

In contrast, self-esteem overall has proven to be a profound disappointment where many have been persuaded to get off the "self-esteem bandwagon." In one study that was conducted on self-esteem, students who received a C or worse on their midterm exam were selected to receive a weekly "self-esteem boost" for the remainder of the semester. What they discovered was that their grades on the final exam actually went down, since feeling good about themselves led the students to come to the conclusion that they simply didn't need to study and apply themselves as much. Self-control as some might think is not some kind of negative behavior. When self-control is applied in life situations, used wisely and with common sense, it becomes one of the most important and powerful tools for self-improvement and for achieving success."

Self-control as some might think is not some kind of negative behavior. When self-control is applied in life situations, used wisely and with common sense, it becomes one of the most important and powerful tools for self-improvement and for achieving success."

An ancient Proverb written by King Solomon states, "Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down without walls."

So for success in life what has shown to be the most important and most effective? Does self-control trump self-esteem? Many seem to think so!

I'm Winston Gosse for Tomorrow's World Viewpoint.

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