Is building self-esteem a counseling goal or a by-product of mastery and competence?
California (of course) created the California Task Force to Promote Self Esteem and Personal and Social Responsibility. Who doesn't like self-esteem?
But in his book, the Optimistic Child, Martin Seligman describes self-esteem as a result of being good at something (i.e., mastery, competence or achievement) and not counseling. Emmy Werner echoes this in her suggestion to focus on reading skills for resiliency over "self-esteem" counseling.
No matter what counseling curriculum is used to promote self-esteem, what is Juanito going to believe when he goes back to class and he knows he can't read?
One of Seligman's criticisms is that "the self esteem movement cares more for feeling good than for doing well." He also connects self-esteem to feeling worthless, helpless and passive when depressed. (try googling Martin Seligman and self-esteem)
This makes me think about how core beliefs about self are influenced by level of attachment security. Those early caregiving relationships instill internal working models (or core beliefs) that shape expectations about the helpfulness of others, our ability to rally support and our worthiness to receive help.
Core beliefs about self can also be changed by exposure to trauma. Temporarily feeling helpless in a traumatic event can lead to a generalized belief that "I am incompetent."
Is it time to shift our emphasis to produce lasting effects on self-esteem?