The Dangers of Excessively High Self-Esteem

September 30, 2019
When you think of self-esteem, you probably think of something positive. There's a dark side to self-esteem, however, when self-appreciation verges on narcissism and you're the most important person in your world. In order for self-love to be healthy, you have to find the middle ground.

Having excessively high self-esteem is neither positive nor healthy. Being overly confident and overestimating your worth leads to problematic behaviors and attitudes. These kinds of people don’t take responsibility for their own mistakes and they also have narcissistic tendencies.

Self-esteem is a very important topic in the world of personal growth. New books and articles on how to boost this basic psychological “muscle” that’s crucial for your well-being are always being published. That being said, some authors neglect to talk about the negative side of high self-esteem. That’s what we’re going to tackle today.

It’s important to clarify that the antidote to low self-esteem isn’t high self-esteem. Extremes are always dangerous and harmful. If you swing from one to the other, you’ll just create more problems.

Thus, it’s important to lay out what we mean by healthy self-esteem. In modern society, leadership, self-love, and self-confidence are considered important. However, you should always keep in mind that “the more the better” isn’t always the way to go.

“Be faithful to that which exists nowhere but in yourself.”

-André Gide-

A woman looking at herself in a small mirror.

People with excessive self-esteem like

One of the most interesting books by social psychologist Albert Bandura is called Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control. In his book, Bandura argues that perceived efficacy and self-esteem are key factors for navigating problems and being successful in every aspect of life.

Many things can get in the way of your goals and your happiness, such as low self-esteem and excessively high self-esteem. They’re both equally bad.

High self-esteem and a world without limits

Child psychologists often point out that children have to learn early on that the world has boundaries. They must understand that there are rules and that you don’t always get what you want. Being able to tolerate frustration is an essential life skill. If you never learn how to do it, you could end up facing a lot of problems.

Many children and teens are taught that they can have whatever they want. They’re like little monarchs. They feel entitled to do and have whatever their hearts desire. Raising kids to have this excessively high self-esteem can turn them into egocentric, abusive, arrogant, and impulsive people.

The dangers of high self-esteem tend to stem from children’s upbringing.

Overly high self-esteem doesn’t lead to success or happiness

Contrary to what you might think, having extra high self-esteem won’t make you successful. Instead, it leads to the following problems:

  • Excessively high self-esteem makes you believe that the projects, tasks, or jobs that other people propose are beneath you. As a result, your pride makes you miss a lot of good opportunities.
  • Arrogance and a sense of entitlement distance you from those around you. Having a giant ego makes other people uncomfortable.
  • You’re blind to your own mistakes and you can’t learn from them. Your failures are always someone else’s fault, never your own.
  • In relationships, excessively high self-esteem can make it impossible to see things from your partner’s perspective. In the worst case, this can lead to abuse.
  • It can also cause serious problems in your work relationships and your friendships.
A guy watching a storm in the window.

Overconfidence and crime

For a long time, researchers associated criminal behavior with low self-esteem. However, in the last few years, studies have shown that excessively high self-esteem also correlates with violent acts. A study by Dr. Robert Roy F. Baumeister at Princeton University explains that a sense of superiority is a decisive factor in a lot of criminal behavior.

Many criminals display signs of narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy, which go hand in hand with an excessively high self-esteem that justifies their bad behavior. They think too much of themselves and, consequently, believe that they should have everything they want.

In conclusion, high self-esteem also has a dark side. Everyone knows that low self-esteem is risky, but so is the other extreme.

At the end of the day, self-esteem is the art of self-care. However, it becomes unhealthy when it tips toward either extreme. The key is to find that perfect balance of self-appreciation and respect for others.

  • Baumeister, R. F., Smart, L., & Boden, J. M. (1996). Relation of Threatened Egotism to Violence and Aggression: The Dark Side of High Self-Esteem. Psychological Review103(1), 5–33. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-295X.103.1.5