Self Esteem: High Enough or Too High?

Two recent news items give us food for thought with respect to the development of a young person’s self-esteem. Yesterday’s New York Times features an article found here about Joel Baumann, a young African-American sophomore on the University of Minnesota’s wrestling team who is also an aspiring singer and rapper. His latest video, “One’s in the Sky”, which urges people to pursue their dreams, can be seen on YouTube and purchased on ITunes. He wants to inspire people through his music, and he proudly claims to live his life by his two mottos: “I Will Inspire” and “I Will Impact”.

The N.C.A.A. is not inspired by or impressed with his budding musical career. They have ruled him ineligible for the remainder of this wrestling season, claiming that he violated an N.C.A.A. bylaw prohibiting student-athletes from using their name, image or status as an athlete to promote the sale of a commercial product. While Bauman says he wants to continue wrestling, he does not want to give up his music. He refused to remove his name and likeness from the videos on line, and refused to use an alias to promote his music, even after being told that this would enable him to regain his eligibility. He explains, “I’m Joel Bauman. My message is: I will inspire, and I will impact. I am not going to hide behind an alias to do that, because that’s my message. I can own up to that message.” Bauman is now on partial athletic scholarship, which he will lose next year if he remains ineligible. But he remains undaunted in his quest to be a musician-athlete. “I have a plan to figure this whole thing out, to be able to do both [music and wrestling],” he said. “But my message is more important than my eligibility in the long run. So if I can’t, then so be it.”

Putting aside any thoughts about this ridiculous application of the N.C.A.A. rule, GCP readers, what do you think about Bauman’s perspective and plan? I’m all for inspiration, and it is great to see a young man who at 21 already feels as if he can make a big impact on the world, but I hope he will be able to stay in school without an athletic scholarship. Rappers with big dreams who aspire to make an impact with their message are looking at NBA draft-like odds of making it to the big time. Is he right to pursue his dreams, or is his strong self-esteem getting the best of him? What would you advise your son to do your son were he in this position?

Those of us with younger children who wonder how we should go about building their self esteem can take a look a video from the Wall Street Journal online, found here. This video discusses a recent study’s findings that praising and encouraging your child too much can ultimately be harmful to him as he matures, because, among other things, it renders him unable to deal with life’s setbacks. The study suggests that parents should encourage their children to be positive but realistic about their capabilities, and they should strive for that middle ground between making their children feel they can do no wrong and having them feel depressed about areas in which they are not excelling. In my experience this middle ground can be tough to find, and it tends to shift regularly. But it is good to be mindful of the potential dangers of overpraising, especially when children are in their younger years. GCP readers, your thoughts?

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Filed under Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, Ages 5-7, Ages 8-12, Parents

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