And yet for decades the dominant school of thought has held that low self-esteem is the evil behind a host of sociopath behaviour, as well as most of the bad things in the world including mosquitoes.
So a bunch of psychotherapists and researchers set out to prove it and came out with some surprising results.
''There is absolutely no evidence that low self-esteem is particularly harmful,'' says Nicholas Emler of the London School of Economics.
''It's not at all a cause of poor academic performance; people with low self-esteem seem to do just as well in life as people with high self-esteem. In fact, they may do better, because they often try harder.''
Does this mean that low self-esteem is the solution to life’s bigger problems?
Not necessarily. While low self-esteem may be a driving force for some, it is a significant inhibiting factor for others, causing people to hold back for fear of being judged or for lack of confidence.
So if neither high self-esteem nor low self-esteem are the answers to the prevailing issues that we face on a regular basis, then what is?
Try less self-esteem. As in, esteeming yourself, or thinking of yourself, less.
In a self-obsessed world, this is easier said than done.
Facebook, Instagram and MTV culture encourage us to have our own little slice of the ever-growing fame cake (because everyone wants to know what you’re eating for lunch). The problem is that as the cake grows, so does our desire for self-worth via external validation.
Thankfully, the Bible does have a solution for the external validation trap: Humility.
“Worship is aggressive humility,” says Ned Davies, previous worship pastor at Hillsong Church in Sydney. “Worship asserts that God is over all and that we are under His care and His rule – that we are not our own gods… God’s grace and exaltation comes where He finds humility”.
By putting God in His rightful place – at the top – we relieve ourselves of the pressure of having to be our own gods, out for fame and exaltation. And, if we accept that Jesus made a way for us to be perfectly accepted before God, we no longer have to perform to a certain standard. Rather, we can live with purpose, empowered by grace.
Grace Mathew is a Sydney-based writer, speaker and presenter.
Grace's archive of articles may be viewed at: www.pressserviceinternational.org/grace-mathew.html