2013-01-30 / Columns

Jim Hite

“Easy success is self-defeating”

Viewed a very interesting program on ESPN a couple of weeks ago concerning the athlete of today, or rather the athlete of today vis-a-vis his/her coach.

Obviously, an hour-long program can’t be discussed and commented upon within a few hundred words. But the gist of the program had to do with the large number of athletes who do not take instructions, correction, or criticism well. Several clips showed players called to the sidelines after making costly mistakes and then arguing and even shoving coaches when their mistakes were pointed out.

Not that this is new to this decade. I submit that this has been a growing phenomenon for the past 40-50 years. I also submit it has a good bit to do with parenting or the lack thereof.

Educators and parents have been on a self-esteem “kick” for the same many decades. Over and over, classroom teachers have been instructed to make sure a student’s self-esteem is not damaged, that he/she is not “permanently harmed” by failure, that he/she must succeed so he/she can feel good about him/ herself.

However, research strongly suggests it doesn’t work. Far too often, those with high self-regard have correspondingly low regard for others, leading to antisocial behavior, including bullying, and even to depression.

Moreover, high self-esteem is also associated with fear of failure. Indiscriminate praise and approval leads to avoidance of challenge and an overestimation of abilities which often end in failure.

If a person has not been allowed to fail, if he/she has always succeeded, then failure can be devastating and often can lead to depression. Constant praise does not necessarily lead to better performance, but rather to a belief that anything done is worthy of reward, whether it is or not.

Educators, parents, teachers: Take note. Whether in sports or in the classroom, easy success is self-defeating. While opportunity should be equal, talent is not. There is nothing wrong with failure unless that’s where it ends.

Growing up is tough. Easy success does not help. Everyone getting a trophy does not help. Everyone getting high grades does not help.

Life itself, this gift from our Creator, is too wonderful to be easy!

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