Greatness, Part 5: Praise, Smarts, and the Myth of Self-Esteem

I have been told that I have a low self-esteem.

A Holistic Journey

My launching pad is an enlightening New York Magazine article on how praising kids for being smart often backfires, straitjacketing them to fear of failure. It spoke to me not only as a parent of a boy fairly fresh on the path of formal education, but as the studious girl whose achievements were marked by a curious mix of confidence and anxiety. The ten-year string of studies on the effects of praise spearheaded by psychologist Carol Dweck at Columbia (now at Stanford) University also shed light on the aspects of overachieving I have been exploring: persistence, assurance, motivation, talent. Here are some key points on the inverse power of praise.

A sizable portion of gifted students, the very ones who grew up hearing they are smart, lack confidence and will keep to the safer road of doable tasks rather than set out for the hill that promises challenge.

According to a…

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