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The Big Answer

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Maximum Self-Esteem: The Handbook for Reclaiming Your Sense of Self-Worth

a book by Jerry Minchinton

(our site's book review)

Jerry Minchinton truly understands self-esteem, self-talk, normal versus optimal psychological development. His book is clear and readable and is designed to guide the layperson through a process of bolstering self-esteem that requires no therapists, counseling, or outside assistance. Everyone deserves a chance at positive self-worth. This book gives the reader this chance. Like Gordon, Louv, Hart, the Tofflers, Slater, Maslow, Riesman, et al., Minchinton has become, via his writing, part of the solution—one of the trees of the forest [whose context is the MC movement in a Third Wave framework] that is the overall solution to the dangerous, negative, self-destructive, violent, confused, and alienated times we live in as the 21st century gets under way.

See also On the Wings of Self-Esteem and Revolution From Within.

The author bemoans the fact that the majority of people were raised by low self-esteem caregivers. This doesn’t mean that parents are to “blame.” They were raised the same way and their parents were also raised the same way—it’s the way the system is set up. (It’s like primates who never seem to culturally develop because they have no cultural language. So it’s “monkey see, monkey do” for millions of years.) Humans have the opportunity to do much better, since their sciences have learned the secrets of good parenting, upbringing methods that promote self-esteem, etc. But human parents pass on whatever happened to them during childhood, regardless of whether it’s good or bad, hateful or loving, traumatizing or inspiring. Unless they happen to be among the lucky few who have parents with high self-worth and who passed this on to their kids, they’ll misparent their kids as they were misparented

Why would parents go through all the pain and expense and sacrifice of having and raising kids but then wreck the whole endeavor by failing to take responsibility to make sure they do it right? The problem is: they do take this responsibility, but in the wrong way. They listen to their parents and friends. They learn from authoritarian clergymen, teachers and kin that they need to keep kids under authoritarian control. They read in right-wing books how they should “dare to discipline” in authoritarian manners. Or they read some left-wing liberal-permissive nonsense about liberal upbringings and follow permissive guidelines that lead to misery and frustration as fast if not faster than the authoritarian guidelines.

But notice what went wrong: They consulted the people who were busy unknowingly spreading misinformation on the subject rather than finding out the real truth about the subject—which they had no idea how to seek. And this shows that during their education, they never were taught some of the most important truths about life, parenting, communication, conflict resolution and relationships. And that’s because schools don’t want to—and cannot afford to—offend their kids’ parents, so they balance halfway between the extremes of the left and right. From the kid’s point of view, this pablum-flavored education sends a relativistic message where it’s all just a matter of opinion and no one really knows how to raise kids—if they did, why don’t they teach us? Of course, even when they get taught, what they believe underneath is what they were taught at home; so even if they were taught all the right knowledge, they’re emotionally intertwined with the misguided home-taught info—which was mostly taught by example. This sounds hopeless until one realizes that if one were taught the right knowledge—by example—at home [think MC; see Why Register for an MC?], then the misinformation at school would have no effect, and those hearing it who knew better would attempt to correct it out of benevolence and respect for people, knowledge, and the world working.

Registering for MC search and match
Registering for MC search and match

People who dislike themselves raise others who dislike themselves as well. They didn’t intend to raise low-self-esteem kids. They did their best: “. . . with the resources available to them. It was not their fault that those resources were so limited and inaccurate.” [The key characteristic of MCs is that their resources are plentiful and accurate.] People learned they were not lovable. They became permanently insecure, but repressed and hid it so it came out only in consumption habits and dependent relationship patterns in which they acted out their low-self-esteem conditioning. Many of their teachers tried—unknowingly—to raise their own self-esteem by lowering that of their students wih authoritarian discipline or even humiliation. Parents attached negative comparative labels on kids, like chubby or lazy or bad. People taught kids to seek other-directed (as discussed by Riesman in The Lonely Crowd), indirect self-acceptance (as discussed by Putney and Putney in The Adjusted American), and to be dependent upon authorities for answers rather than learning to think for themselves.

Think about this: It means that self-confidence is undermined until we gladly turn over responsibility for our lives to fathers, spouses, clergy, supreme beings and other “authorities” and “experts” of all stripes. The constant undermining of self-control and self-esteem by authoritarians feeds on itself in a vicious cycle—producing more authoritarians who pass this strategy on to others ad infinitum. This is the ultimate win-lose scenario, which, combined with intrinsically win-lose steep-gradient nurturance, assures a steady supply of win-lose parents who either win while their power trips make their kids lose, or they get so ashamed of themselves for laying all this on kids that they let the kids win and make themselves lose as a punishment. Of course, this permissiveness lasts only until the kids’ unbearable behavior pushes them over the edge and they once more assert “parental authority.”

The cost of all this negative parenting and misguided authoritarianism is that people conclude they’re unlovable, incapable, bad and unable to exercise effective control of their lives—they’re at effect of life and people and especially authorities. They are never at cause, in charge, in control, confident and capable. They even sabotage things (passive aggressiveness) so that whatever they do fails in some way or disappoints those around them; they’re a day late and a dollar short. Relationships sour. They have a glass ceiling above them stopping them from rising above their lot in life. It’s because of them that 80 to 90 percent of all employees are ineffective and more or less “carried,” while 10 to 20 percent do the work that matters, see that things work out, are responsible and reasonably effective. The workers that go along to get along and are carried are full of negative beliefs about themselves. So they act as though the beliefs are true, even though they aren’t, which—ironically—tends to make them come true. It’s all GIGO—garbage in, garbage out. If parents and society program us to fail and dislike ourselves, that’s how it turns out.



The author gets us to use affirmations (positive self-talk) and visualizations (positive self-imagery) to help us reprogram these beliefs and obtain a better opinion of ourselves and our capacities. He warns of the appeal of other-directed, indirect self-acceptance in which we seek acceptance for others and to get it we: avoid autonomy (self-directedness), seek to live by others’ rules to please them, make a phony and superficial “good impression” about ourselves in order to get approval even though it doesn’t reflect who we are, become easy to manipulate and emotionally vulnerable (because of the blindness of Maslovian deficiency-cognition (Toward a Psychology of Being) in which we see what we need to see rather than what is), and become self-conscious. Like Putney and Putney and Fromm and Slater and countless other experts on the self, he encourages us to seek direct self-acceptance (from oneself), not indirect self-acceptance (from others), and seek to be at cause and proactive and active rather than always reactive. See Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?.

Facebook encourages false-self actualization, not real self-actualization; and connections, not bonds
Facebook encourages false-self actualization, not real self-actualization; and connections, not bonds

Minchinton feels that the greatest problem facing society and civilization is that people so often fail to assume responsibility for their lives. They’re victims of their past, of politically incorrect speech, of sexism and racism, of their bosses, their parents, and the bill collectors. To solve their problems, they first figure out who is causing them—who’s to blame. They need to understand that they are responsible for solving their problems and that blaming is a fool’s game.

Evil baby—who knew 'kids are born evil'?
Evil baby—who knew 'kids are born evil'?

And people need to avoid religions that stress the untrustworthiness of man’s nature (man is born evil, has an evil nature, cannot be trusted, will revert to being a beast unless clergy and other authorities keep him in line, etc.), according to the author. They should go toward ones that affirm humanity as born good or neutral, because the ones that stress man’s evil nature keep their “flocks” helpless and dependent and always seeking indirect self-acceptance because of low self-esteem. He reminds us that Jesus, Martin Luther, John Wesley, Mary Baker Eddy, Mohammed, and Buddha all became unhappy with the religious status quo and began doubting, and ended up revitalizing religion rather than hurting it. Healthy change happens when healthy minds trust themselves and believe in themselves.

He points out the weakness of an entitlement society where the government creates dependency so as to justify not only its existence but its expansion. Dependence is for old and enfeebled, for seriously ill, and for kids who must count on others to help them. It’s not for healthy, capable adults.