Emotional Wellbeing


Mandy Kloppers

When praise isn’t a good thing

mother and teenager photo

Photo by x1klima

When praise isn’t a good thing

We all like to give and receive praise but positive feedback can have a detrimental effect when it is unwarranted and not earned. For the purposes of this post, it is important to make a distinction between praise for a person and praise for a person’s behaviour. This post is related to a person’s behaviour.

Positive feedback for a person requires less filtering than positive feedback for a person’s behaviour does.

When a person performs poorly at a specific task and they are encouraged to view themselves as outstandingly good,  problems can arise. In a study, 13 year olds in 6 countries (USA, UK, Canada, Ireland, Korea and Spain) were given a standardized maths test. They were also asked to rate the statement, “I am good at mathematics”. The Americans judged their abilities the most highly (68% agreed with the statement). But in the actual test, they came last.

High self esteem can involve self-delusion. It’s NOT true that people who feel good about themselves always perform better. In fact, it’s quite cruel to convey a false message to someone that they are infinitely better than they really are at performing a task. Performing well is closely related to high frustration tolerance  -the ability to cope serenely with setbacks and difficulties.

It may not do too much damage for someone to be slightly delusional about their capabilities but if their self esteem is tied up in this ability it could have devastating consequences.

Your successes and failures aren’t you

Modern society has conditioned us to gain our self worth from our position in society, how much status and power we have and how wealthy we are. Self esteem is closely linked to achievement and this link can create a dangerous mix, filled with stress and ineffective goals.

It is possible to feel good about achievements without dragging your whole self into the equation. Keep behaviour/achievement separate from the person you are. If you insist on rating your performance and linking this with your worth as a person, your thinking will become self centered rather than problem centered. Self rating also causes people to compare themselves unnecessarily. STOP SELF RATING.  Self rating works as long as we are receiving praise but the moment this stops, it can affects us far more dramatically than is necessary if we are linking our self worth as a person to our abilities to perform well. They should always be viewed as SEPARATE.

Instead of self rating, learn to accept yourself as you are – your strengths and weaknesses.  We are all fallible human beings who can still enjoy life even if we perform poorly or receive disapproval from others. Build a core foundation for yourself where you engage in positive self talk and like who you are irrespective of your performance/achievements.

Mandy X