Professor Glynn Harrison explores the concepts of self-worth and self-esteem, and explains why self-esteem ideology leaves us emptier than ever.

In the first part of his talk, Professor Harrison explores how attitudes towards self have changed over the last few decades, exploring concepts of narcissism, self-worth and self-esteem. He suggests that self-worth is often sought in unhelpful ways and places: through “being good” at something and through “being seen” by others, with the resulting feelings of worth through the deference and appreciation that is shown.

Psychologists recognised that it was not helpful to stake one’s self-worth on the contingent elements of being good or being seen, and started to emphasise ways in which individuals could take responsibility for their own self-esteem. Professor Harrison describes a study showing that this tends to be unhelpful for those who already have low self-esteem.

In examining how Christian beliefs relate to these ideas, especially concepts of identity as a child of God as in John 1:12, Professor Harrison then examines how self-esteem is better linked to a sense of personal identity, rooted in purpose and meaning. Rather than self-worth being related to what we have done or how other people view us, it arises from living out an identity that we already have.

The talk lasts about 30 minutes and is followed by about 10 minutes of Q&A.

© 2015 Oxford Inter-Collegiate Christian Union (OICCU) and Glynn Harrison