Taken from Psychology Today (Harriet Brown January 1, 2012)
“Jennifer Crocker, a psychologist at the University of Michigan, studies “contingent self-esteem,” or feelings of self-worth that depend on outside validation or praise in a particular realm that matters to a person. Scoring a victory in that particular area does raise self-esteem, but the boost doesn’t last. “How does it feel after you pass your dissertation orals?” asks Crocker. “You feel good for a day, but then your worries come back.”
The more a person’s self-esteem is contingent on particular outcomes, the harder she will crash if she fails. Success is not extra sweet for these people—but failure is extra bitter.
Contingent self-esteem is by definition a chimera ( an impossible or foolish fantasy). Even the most accomplished, beautiful, and celebrated human beings don’t get a steady stream of compliments and positive feedback. And chasing the chimera can, paradoxically, lead to self-sabotage. “When people want to boost self-esteem or avoid a drop, they may do things that undermine them as a whole,” says Crocker. Her research shows that those with contingent self-esteem often shy away from situations that might produce even a temporary dip in how they view themselves—which can make them more prone to failure: Imagine a surgeon reluctant to practice new techniques in the operating room because he might not do them perfectly at first—hardly an attitude that would help his career over time.”
Too much time is spent on thinking about ourselves.