Can Having a High Self-Esteem Cause You to Fail?

Almost everyone believes that self-esteem is a common denominator to success, including myself. But is it possible that having a self-esteem that is too high can result in failure just the same?

In my habitual perusing of the internet and researching the topics I write about, I came across a few (now old) articles on the studies of high self-esteem and how that may be the very thing that gets in the way of success for many people.

How is this possible? I asked myself as I fought with the idea. I always thought that believing in yourself would push you to achieve because when you believe you can and you deserve to, you actually try.

However, according to these articles, having a high self-esteem can result in failure for two very real reasons. Personally, when I try to understand it, I cannot equate these reasons to high self-esteem but rather low-self esteem and ego.

Here’s one of the articles I read this week.



First of all, let me begin by saying that I don’t think there is such thing as a “high” self-esteem on a three-point scale of low, normal and high. It’s either low, as in unhealthy, or high, as in healthy.

If a person appears to have a self-esteem that is “too high”, they may actually just be cocky, over-confident (smug) or egotistical. It is my personal belief that these things are actually by-products of insecurities and inadequacies that very well hidden and compensated for through these other behaviors. In other words, their self-esteem is unhealthy in some areas.

People often view high self-esteem as ego. Ego is that, “my shit don’t stink” attitude that is often brandished as a shield in the name of one’s pride and easily-offended emotions. Ego is the result of an unhealthy pride. It is the emotional monster, desiring external acknowledgement, that needs to be stroked and fed. People with low self-esteems often cover it up with a sensitive false-sense of pride that we call “ego”.



As a I said before, ego is not a healthy self-esteem, but rather a facade in the defense of a low one.

Ego causes failure, because ego blows a person’s sense of reality out of proportion. It can allow a person to see themselves as having little to no flaws. That stifles room for personal growth, adaptation and the change necessary to create success.

Even when that egotistical person is extremely talented and skilled, ego causes them to treat others with disregard. They are often condescending and disrespectful. But no man can truly succeed without the support of others. A person with too much ego is bound to fail, due to the simple fact that no one can stand to be around them for very long.

Think about it. A simple, lone salesman couldn’t succeed if he had no one to sell too. If he were to treat his customers with disregard and disrespect, no one would buy from him.  He would experience failure.



The article that I linked back to in my introduction talked about a study of people who had to act with “high self-esteem” in contrast to a group of people who practiced “self-compassion”.

The article claimed that people with high self-esteem held high expectation towards themselves. This resulted in disappointment when they failed to meet their own high standards. They were harder on themselves. This resulted in a reduced effort when it came to improving their abilities to attain personal growth for future success. Ultimately, this caused them further failure, or repeated failure.

Like I explained earlier, the idea that one is already “perfectly perfect” is called ego. We know how that can cause failure now.

The other factor that causes failure is the “high-standards-that-could-not-be-met” complex. This is where a person punishes or is hard on themselves for being unable to meet their high personal standards. In my opinion, this is not high or healthy self-esteem. It is high expectation and again, a low sense of personal worth and value.



When you punish yourself or are unkind to yourself, you ultimately damage your own sense of self-esteem. If you are constantly mad at yourself for not meeting the personal high standards you’ve set, you’re basically telling yourself that you’re not good enough. You’re enforcing the idea that you’re not as good as you thought you were. When you reprimand yourself severely for your failures, you’re not allowing yourself to be human. Humans have flaws and are allowed to have them. The act of self-punishment is the recipe for a low self-esteem.

The article discusses “self-compassion” as if it were separate from a high self-esteem. I think that if you have a healthy self esteem, you should value yourself enough to know that you are flawed, but you deserve compassion for it. It’s okay to make mistakes, and you need to be kind and forgiving to yourself too in order to move past them and build from them. You can only do this if you have a healthy, or “high” self esteem. Someone with a low self-esteem will feel deserving of punishment when they fail.

The problem with punishing yourself when you fail, however, is that you discourage yourself from trying again. You become fearful of failing again, thus leading to a life of failure.



In conclusion, the illusion of a high self-esteem in an attempt to cover up a low one will result in failure, in my opinion. I don’t believe that a high self-esteem is unhealthy, and I don’t believe that a low self-esteem is healthy.

Perhaps there is such thing as thinking that you are too valuable and genuinely believing that your “shit don’t stink”, without the vulnerability of a low self-esteem. However, you’ll find that those people are extremely defensive of their weaknesses, should someone identify it for them. Explain that.


Do you think that a high self-esteem is unhealthy?