It has been brought to my attention that I am sometimes too full of myself. I will stipulate that this is true. And it made me curious: Is the opposite approach to life - cultivating low self-esteem - working out well for its many practitioners?

A lot of people tell me I need to lower my self-esteem in the service of modesty, credibility, and protecting the sensibilities of those around me. I would like to heed that advice and be a team player, but I'm also plagued with bouts of rationality that are keeping me from making this improvement to my character.

Before I do anything drastic in life, such as evolving into a person who thinks less of himself for the well-being of others, I like to do a pros and cons list. I'll start with the advantages of thinking too much of myself.
  1. It feels great! All the time!
  2. It boosts my testosterone.
  3. It improves my performance at most things. Science agrees.
  4. Higher testosterone makes muscle growth easier.
  5. I take more risks. (This is admittedly a mixed bag.)
  6. I rarely feel embarrassment even when I should. (Such as now, for example.)
  7. I am emotionally immune from criticism.
  8. Cockiness has an aphrodisiac effect on some. (You know who you are.)
Now for the downside of thinking too much of myself...
  1. I take more risks than I probably should.
  2. People call me a dick in every online comments board on the Internet.
  3. Higher testosterone increases cancer risks.
 Advantage: cockiness (until I get cancer anyway)

I see my inflated sense of self-worth as more of a strategy for happiness than a flaw. And by that I mean I know how to dial-back my self-esteem but I choose not to. Just moments ago I was reading the five-star reviews for my new book (How to Fail...) for no other reason than boosting my morning energy. I manipulate my self-esteem the same way I manage my intake of coffee. When I need a jolt of feel-good, I spend some time dwelling on whatever has gone well recently. And when my mind wanders to the graveyard of my many failures, I change the mental channel as quickly as I can.

There's no such thing as the right level of self-esteem. Everyone who interacts with you will have a different idea of how much is too much for you. So I intentionally err on the side of too much. The benefits simply outweigh the costs.

Keep in mind that I have succeeded in several fields in which I had no identifiable talent before starting, including cartooning, the speaking circuit, and writing books. Had I cultivated a more socially acceptable level of self-esteem I wouldn't have tried any of those challenges.

I have failed in my personal life and in my career about ten times more often than I have succeeded, but my artificially high sense of self-esteem allows me to quickly bounce back and keep punching until something lucky happens.

Some of you will be quick to point out the difference between quiet inner-confidence and being an arrogant dick all over the Internet. But if you think high self-esteem can be masked, you probably don't understand what it is. The moment you feel high self-esteem, you lose the filter. In other words, if you feel you need to hide your high self-esteem, you don't have high self-esteem. That's how self-esteem works.

So I ask the following question in all seriousness: If you think I'm too full of myself (which I am), how is the alternative strategy working out for you? Are there some additional benefits of low-to-moderate self-esteem that are not obvious to me?

How to Fail at almost Everything and Still Win Big

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Jan 6, 2014
Of course I think you're perfect just the way you are, but in theory, having TOO much self-esteem can cause problems. Take Charlie Sheen during his Tiger phase for example:

1. People dislike someone with a God complex, which can lead to the loss of a spouse, friends, customers, and jobs
2. Too much self-esteem can be the sign of an actual mental illness
3. If you value your own opinion too highly, you might ignore good advice from others

The 'solution' for having too much self-esteem isn't swinging the pendulum to having low self-esteem, it's just dialing it down a notch to simply having high self-esteem. You're completely open to the idea that you don't know everything and aren't God, so you're in that sweet-spot.
Jan 6, 2014
Sorry about the double post, but I had another thought.

There is a certain type of pride that is negative, but I don't see much evidence of that type of pride in Scott. It is the type that blinds us to our own weakness.

Not that it is healthy to dwell on one's weaknesses, but when we are aware of them, we are less vulnerable to them, and through dedication we can even turn weakness into strength. This is what humility means. I think Scott has a healthy dose of it.
Jan 6, 2014
I find it an odd criticism that someone 'thinks too much of themselves'. I think the best people I have ever met think pretty well of themselves. The difference between someone with high self esteem and a jerk is what they think of other people.

High self esteem does not preclude humility. The biggest fish in the pond can feel good about being the biggest fish, and yet still be humble if he acknowledges that there are other ponds, and other fish that may be bigger in those ponds.

I think Scott has a pretty good balance, all things considered. He is very successful, which naturally leads to a healthy self-esteem. But he also has a certain self-deprecating humour (stemming from a deep inferiority complex maybe?) that shows he hasn't quite yet 'drunk his own kool-aid'.
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Jan 6, 2014
Miserable people want to bring everyone down to their level. Don't listen to them.
Jan 6, 2014
This depends on how self-esteem is defined. Nathaniel Branden (credentials here: http://nathanielbranden.com/about) defines it as:

"Self-esteem is the disposition to experience oneself as competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and as worthy of happiness."

Here are the components he identified in his book “The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem”:

"1. The practice of living consciously
2. The practice of self-acceptance
3. The practice of self-responsibility
4. The practice of self-assertiveness
5. The practice of living purposefully
6. The practice of personal integrity"

The benefits of low self-esteem are false ones that do more damage over time than good (escaping from reality, repressing feelings, and more). True high self-esteem is not affected by the statements/actions of others.

It amazes (and frustrates) me that Dr. Branden’s work is not more widely recognized. It a documentary waiting to made. His ideas, if practiced more widely, would improve the world more quickly and substantially than any other I’ve come across. I point out too, that there seems to be no substantial criticism of his work. He seems to have been generally ignored. I wonder why.
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