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Self-esteem or self-worth is one's self-image at an emotional level; circumventing reason and logic. The term differs from ego in that the ego is a more artificial aspect; one can remain highly egotistical, while underneath have very low self-esteem. The mainenance of a healthy degree of self-esteem is a central task within psychology, where patients often suffer from excess degrees of self-criticism, hampering their ability to function.

Popularised in the 1970s as the cause of the ills of society and of individual humans, and written into Californian law as something to oppose, low self-esteem rapidly became a universal explanation for any personal failing and a staple of personal development movement attacks, sometimes resulting in narcissistic, over-confident individuals with excessive self-esteem.

Much debate about self-esteem centres on the definition of the term. New Age thought can provide self-serving views of the concept; others can discount the existence or merely the usefulness of the idea.

Some see low self-esteem as a major predisposing factor for crime; others point out that high self-esteem equates with the risk-taking behaviour of criminals.

External link:PSY: NYT: Deflating Self-Esteem's Role in Society's Ills (http://www.wetheliving.com/pipermail/psychology/2002-October/000195)

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