Monday, July 28, 2008

Self-Inflation Is Not Necessarily a Good Thing

As we progress through life, it is important for us to have a healthy sense of self-concept, self-esteem and self-worth. (In psychology, self-esteem reflects a person's overall self-appraisal of his or her own worth.) I use the term “healthy” for a specific reason. On occasion, for example, I see the children of the “soccer mom generation” of the 1990s who grew up seeing bumper stickers on their families’ cars saying things like, “Terrific Kid Aboard” and “My Child is Above Average.” Not only as a practicing psychologist for over three decades but also as a father of three adult children and grandfather of three grandchildren, aka “Pop Pop,” I am well aware of the importance of a high self-concept, high self-esteem and high self-worth. Nonetheless, it is equally important that such self-considerations also be grounded in reality.

A good friend, colleague and co-author, Dr. William A. Lambos, and I recently sent two completed book manuscripts to our publisher, Nova Science Publishers. While these two self-help books can stand alone, they also comprise a companion set with foci on adult loving relationships: My Loving Relationships and Our Loving Relationship. We expect that they will be published this fall; I will let you know when they are released. Nonetheless, in Chapter 1 of the first book, My Loving Relationships, we include a section addressing these phenomena (as well as the concept of self-inflation – “seeing ourselves as being better than and/ or more important that we really may be”). I herewith shall share it with you:



Our self-concept, self-esteem, and overall sense of self-worth are very important aspects of our lives. It is also important, nonetheless, that we temper our self-concept and sense of self-worth with some reality. When Bill Emener was talking with Julia and she was sharing some aspects of her relationship with Frank, her fiancĂ©, she frequently was using the expressions, “When I did this, he did that. And I know he did that because I did this. And if I could only do this, then he would do that.” After hearing a number of these types of scenarios, Bill chose to use some paradoxical intention and humor in his response to her. He said, “I have the feeling that everything Frank does, in fact everything that everyone around you does, is a function of you. That makes sense. What the hell – you’re the center of the universe!” Being a very intelligent and quick-witted young woman, she instantaneously looked at him and said, “Of course, Dr. Emener, that’s the effect of your modeling!” They both enjoyed a hearty laugh.

In our attempt to understand ourselves better, our significant others and our relationships, it is important that we be careful of those times when we fall into the trap of believing that everything other people around us do is a function of us. On the contrary, it is typically the case that people around us do things totally independent of us. Our brief digression into emotion reminds us that people are motivated primarily to meet their own needs. Knowing that difference – that others do not base their realities on us – is probably the most important difference of them all. As Julia was leaving his office, she asked Bill if there was anything else he would suggest she do. Bill looked at Julia, smiled and tongue-in-cheek quipped, “Sign up for a course in astronomy.” “What?” Julia asked with a furrowed brow. After a pause, however, she smiled and through a laugh replied, “The sun really is the center isn’t it?”


Personally, I thank my parents for helping me understand the potential harmfulness of “self-inflation.” For example, in my book, Mom and Dad’s Pearls of Wisdom: You Gotta Love ’Em, I have a chapter on “Worth” and tell the story of what my Dad once said to me (about my then self-inflation). Below I shall share that with you:



During the summers that I was playing fast-pitch softball in the beer leagues, I was usually the starting pitcher. One Thursday I learned that my good friend Peter would start as pitcher in that night’s game. Even though I would start at third base, the news infuriated me. Pitching was my passion.

The next morning when I was talking with my dad about the game, still burned up, I said, “Okay, so we won the game. But I’m a better pitcher than Pete, and he’s better at third. It just doesn’t make any sense to me!”

“Maybe Coach wanted to save your arm for the tournament this weekend.”

I begrudgingly considered it. “But on the mound, I’m worth a hell of a lot more than Pete. The last time we played that team I pitched a two-hitter!”

Dad began to laugh.

“Okay, what’s so funny, Pop?”

With a mountain of love in his heart, he said, “Son,

If I could buy you for what you’re really worth

and sell you for what you think you’re worth,

I could retire.


Question: Have you ever experienced “self inflation” (either on your own behalf or on behalf of another person)?



Anonymous said...

I have never experienced self inflation. To be honest, I'm too good for that to happen to me!

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Ah Grasshopper – the quintessential legend in his own mind, living on a houseboat on that river in Egypt.

I obviously sense your tongue-in-cheek comment. Thanks, Maconole – I always enjoy your visits and Comments!


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