In a popular 2002 television show American Idol, contests compete in singing. Each week one is eliminated until only one survives. Performances are rated by three judges, pop star Paul Abdul who does not want to hurt anyone’s self-esteem, American record executive Randy Jackson who sometimes will hurt self-esteem, and British record executive Simon Cowell who does not hesitate to tell it like it is. Paula is considered sweet and kind, Simon is considered mean and heartless. Which is better, telling a person they do not have what it takes to survive in the music industry and to move on to something where they may achieve greatness, or telling the person how great they are so they may continue working toward something that will probably end in failure.
Thank goodness, many parents have discovered Taekwondo. In Taekwondo, students are ranked. They are promoted by performing required techniques in a satisfactory manner and failure must be faced and dealt with. Sometimes your friend may move to the next rank and you do not. Students compete in tournaments and learn to win with humility and lose with dignity. In class, while performing techniques, students sometimes have problems with certain techniques while those around them have them mastered.
Instead of tearing down self-esteem, Taekwondo builds self-esteem. As students accomplish things they felt were unachievable, learn to deal with failure, and learn to interface with people who are better or worse than they are; their self-esteem grows.
In the early 1990s, researchers tested the effects of self-esteem by measuring how high school students perceived their own academic ability. Students were asked to agree or disagree with the statement “I am good at mathematics.” The results showed that the more highly students thought of their ability, they less ability they had, and vice versa. Students in Washington D.C. ranked first in self-esteem but ranked next to last in actual performance. Students in North Dakota ranked first in math tests but ranked last in self-esteem.