In the video "Self-esteem Doesn't Exist, the author Jordan Peterson clearly seems to argue he doesn't believe in self-esteem, given the title of the talk. However, I do not notice him mentioning anything in relation to this and therefore I do not understand what he means exactly (maybe because I am not an English speaker).

Could you clarify why exactly he claims self-esteem does not exist, or what he is referring to?

  • $\begingroup$ Which part of what he says can't you understand? Why do you hope to understand any answer given here better than the original thing you are trying to understand? Clarify, figure out, which part you do not understand. If it is a language thing, look for the definitions of what you don't understand. Only then can we help you. $\endgroup$
    – Steven Jeuris
    Nov 18, 2019 at 20:54
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @StevenJeuris I cant see in video what exactly he doesn't like about the term self esteem, he just doesn't mention it, hence there is no point in me explaining any further what I don't understand about the video. That is why I asked what is the accepted norm of interpreting self esteem and how to approach it. But I already did some research and I might have answer what he means: snip.ly/5smyx#http://www.yorku.ca/mar/… $\endgroup$
    – user24743
    Nov 19, 2019 at 9:46
  • $\begingroup$ So, is your question related to that you don't understand why the author titled his video "Self-esteem doesn't exist", given that you could not identify anything he said in this talk which would argue as such? Thus, are you are asking to clarify what it is he said that argues for the non-existence of self-esteem? I edited your question as such, and removed your personal interpretation of self-esteem as I do not see how that is relevant to this question, which allows me to retract my down vote. Feel free to roll back if you do not deem this edit helpful. $\endgroup$
    – Steven Jeuris
    Dec 22, 2019 at 14:33
  • $\begingroup$ I’ll be honest I have not seen Peterson’s video. I imagine it was on Youtube. That’s where Peterson posts a lot of things. Albert Ellis, the creator Rational Emotive Therapy, has written about “self esteem”. He said it’s not real. It’s a concept that sounds good but, is not part of one’s psyche. I don’t trust anything Jordan Peterson says. He spends too much time making things up, trying to make others feel stupid and he’s emotionally disturbed. Peterson did learn Jung’s Analytical Psychology but, he doesn’t use it. $\endgroup$
    – kerry k
    Mar 13, 2023 at 22:20

2 Answers 2


In the video, he states:

What is self-esteem? It is a word (actually it is two words). It is sort of something you think you might have or not have. But, that's a figure of speech. That's not an empirical phenomenon.

Thus, by stating "self-esteem does not exist", he is implying it cannot be empirically observed, i.e., it is not something that can be observed reliably and systematically.

From there on out, he starts arguing why this is so. Some key points:

  • Reported self-esteem measures are pretty appalling.
  • You can already model the concept of self-esteem with the Big 5. I presume he is implying here the concept is superfluous and implications of 'low or high self-esteem' are modeled better using Big 5.
  • The introduction of the concept has lead to undesirable consequence of advocating for self-esteem. But, there is no reason to believe that increasing your self-esteem is a good idea. "It is not at haste that you should have a good opinion of yourself in every bloody situation."

He continues to give examples for these points, e.g., "self-esteem might become disconnected from the actual accomplishment", but I believe this is outside of scope what you are asking for here.


I assume the title is designed to be a bit provocative. But I think he makes a few claims:

  1. Big Five personality (especially neuroticism and extraversion) explains self-esteem well.
  2. It's very difficult to change a person's fundamental level of neuroticism.
  3. Interventions that focus directly on increasing self-esteem in a way that are detached from reality may be counterproductive.
  4. Beyond not being depressed, higher-levels of self-esteem may not necessarily be good or functional, especially if they are not grounded in intersubjective reality or lead to narcissism.
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    $\begingroup$ "Interventions that focus directly on increasing self-esteem in a way that are detached from reality may be counterproductive."-> I agree you shouldn't increase self esteem in a way detached from reality. But to objectively try to evaluate your worth, I think that is alright? a.k.a self esteem $\endgroup$
    – user24805
    Nov 27, 2019 at 15:39

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