‘Beauty or brains… I was blessed with both!’

Suits: “Not one of the candidates is actually stupid,” said Lord Sugar’s aide Claude Littner.

Is self-esteem overrated? The Apprentice returns next week, and the candidates have been unveiled. As usual, they ooze extreme self-confidence: a trait admired by some, but hated by others.

“I have the beauty and the brains, typically people only have one. I was blessed with both.” So claims Daniel Elahi — one of 18 entrepreneurs set to battle it out for £250,000 in a new series of The Apprentice.

It remains to be seen how much business acumen will be on show. But when it comes to selling themselves, the candidates truly excel.

“There’s no need to watch your back when I’m already two steps in front,” claims marketing manager Frank Brooks. “I’m not anyone,” insists public speaker Kayode Damali — “If you’re not your own biggest fan, who do you expect to be it for you?”

Sian Gabbidon (who owns a swimwear brand) is the self-declared “Beyoncé of business”, while consultant Jackie Fast says she is not “intimidated by anyone, or anything.”

What links these outlandish statements? Each one shows the speaker has a high level of self-esteem, that is: belief in one’s own importance.

The idea that high self-esteem leads to success is a very modern notion. For thousands of years, Judeo-Christian wisdom emphasised the importance of modesty, humility and helping others.

Things changed in the 20th century. Philosophers like Ayn Rand rejected traditional ideas of altruism and declared that individuals must only care about themselves. She described the essence of her philosophy as “the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life”.

Crucially, this idea influenced later psychologists, who repackaged Rand’s philosophy of self-interest as the “psychology of self-esteem”.

In 1994, Nathaniel Branden (known as the “father” of the self-esteem movement) published The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem. The book asserted that high self-esteem was necessary for success, and offered readers ways to boost their own.

These ideas have seeped into our culture. One long-running study tracked students’ responses to the statement “I am an important person”. In the 1950s, only 12% agreed. By 1989, that number had soared to almost 80%.

Is self-esteem overrated?

I, me, mine

Absolutely, some argue. The modern cult of self-esteem stems from a philosophy which taught that selfishness is better than caring for others. This leads to arrogance and narcissism, rather than a fulfilling life. Furthermore, people often confuse the pursuit of self-esteem with the pursuit of riches, fame and status — none of which last.

Not so fast, others respond. Encouraging people to have high-self esteem is crucial to their well-being. People who value themselves take charge of their own health, career and relationships. Furthermore, self-sufficiency actually makes you better at helping others. The confidence of these Apprentice candidates should be admired.

You Decide

  1. Is it possible to have too much self-esteem?
  2. In the modern age, do we care too much about ourselves?

Activities

  1. Sum yourself up in one sentence — just like the Apprentice candidates. Make your description as fun and interesting as possible. Share it with the class.
  2. Watch the video in Become An Expert which describes Ayn Rand’s philosophy. Take notes as you watch. What are her main ideas? What are some of the main objections to these ideas? Do you think her philosophy is a good one to live by?

Some People Say...

“The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.”

Ayn Rand

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The 14th series of The Apprentice will start next Wednesday. The selection process takes 12 weeks with the winner due to be announced in December. The winner will receive a £250,000 investment in their business with Lord Sugar taking a 50% stake in the company.
What do we not know?
How long the format will last. However, the BBC have already commissioned series 15 and 16, which will keep the programme on TV screens until 2020. The show is often criticised for featuring contestants more interested in fame than business. “Sometimes I worry that people are there for the wrong reasons,” Lord Sugar admits, “and if I do come across them, they don’t tend to last too long, let’s put it that way.”

Word Watch

Entrepreneurs
Someone who establishes a business, taking on financial risk in the hope of profit.
Acumen
The ability to make good judgements and quick decisions.
Humility
Having a low view of one’s own importance. “Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble.’” 1 Peter 5: 5
Altruism
Showing selfless concern for the well-being and happiness of others.
Nathaniel Branden
Canadian-American psychotherapist (1930-2014). He was an associate and lover of Ayn Rand who helped promote her philosophical ideas. The pair split acrimoniously in 1968, after which he published many books on psychology, philosophy and his experiences with Ayn Rand.
Study
“Changes in adolescent response patterns on the MMPI/MMPI-a across four decades,” by C.R. Newsom, R.P. Archer, S. Trumbetta and I.I. Gottesman.

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