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A Healthy Dose of Low Self-Esteem

What is Rox Populi? | Archived Columns

Posted: January 23, 2004

By Christopher Roberts

I was one of the few humans on Earth who never got caught up in this American Idol foolishness. I mean really, people, how starved are we for entertainment? After some profound soul-searching, it appears that we (or at least I) are pretty damn desperate. I have been vexed by this foul temptress of a show, and I am powerless against it. Everything I heard was right. You really just can't stop watching it. Oh, as soon as they pick the good singers, I'll drop this show post-haste. But man, watching these people, each more delusional than the last, attempt to convince the panel that they can actually sing, is priceless. More to the point, it strikes at a problem that has been brewing for some time.

We as a society are constantly bombarded with the notion of Low Self-Esteem. We are told what a psychological cancer this is, and how it can prevent us from reaching our potential. I'm no Dr. Phil, but I think we may finally be seeing the emergence of a new psychological cancer; one called Overinflated Self-Esteem, or OSE. You see, while low self-esteem is a bad thing, so too is OSE, and perhaps no media showcase hammers this point home better than American Idol. I can't sing. But more importantly, I KNOW I can't sing. This is not a self-esteem issue. This is just reality. And reality is often a cruel bastard. And yet, with each episode of American Idol, I get to see people with a "dream" attempt to become the Next Big Thing. Now, dreaming is fine; everyone has a dream. But some of these people just won't let it go.

When you see the deep hurt and anger on the faces of those contestants who did not make the cut, it becomes quite clear that OSE is approaching epidemic status. These people are not just disappointed that they were not selected; they are angry because the judges would not recognize their ample talent. They fervently believe this! The level of self- delusion is staggering! What's called for here is a little dose of low-self esteem, shame, call it what you will. I believe that there is such a thing as healthy low self-esteem, and American Idol has reinforced this idea more than ever.

One contestant gave such a bile-raising performance that fan favorite judge Simon Cowell attempted to explain to the young hopeful that she just could not sing. Of course, she disagreed and wagered Simon that she could go down to the local mall and sing and return with 10 people who would have a favorable opinion of her "talent." She proceeded to the mall, gathered a small crowd, and began to perform her rendition of "I'm So Excited." Her shrill assault on the auditory senses dispersed the small gathering in short order (save for one guy, who was either really sweet or looking for a hook-up).

Was everyone wrong? I'm sure if you asked the contestant, the answer would be a resounding yes. What then is the lesson here? Simply put, it is this: If you want to believe that you possess talent that you actually don't have, then make sure you have your seatbelt fastened for the inevitable crash into the unyielding wall of reality. Don't blame the wall for being there. Who knew American Idol would serve as such a fertile laboratory for social examination? I did not. I was just goofing on the dude who tried to sing "Sweet Home Alabama" and could not remember the lyrics.

Go ahead; take your shot! It takes a lot of courage to do that. But if you suck, and the judges tell you that you suck, and more importantly if you actually do suck, then you have to face the facts and move on. Reality has very little malleability. It cannot be bent to imbue you with talent that you just don't have. I'd love to be a race car driver, but regardless of how many high speed passes I make down the street in my '82 Caprice, NASCAR still hasn't called. I have put my dream in the back of my mental closet, where it belongs. The world would be a better place if these monstrously delusional wannabes on American Idol would get a healthy dose of Low Self-Esteem and do the same.

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