As for those of us inclined to sneak a biblical allusion into our prose now and then, we need not fear; our ‘educated’ classes may no longer recognize it. The theory behind the Cult of Self-Esteem is simple: First get the cart, then put it before the horse. Just feel good about yourself and achievement will follow automatically. It would be too much to call this approach instant gratification; it’s really more like pre-gratification... Want to build real self-esteem, the kind that is the fruit of self-respect and not just an inadequate substitute for it? Expect, even insist on, competence. Don’t pretend it’s there when it isn’t.
If that sounds too hard, that’s the catch with self-respect—it has to be earned. Self-esteem, on the other hand, costs little or nothing. And it’s worth just what you pay for it.”