Dr Jennifer Crocker, a psychologist at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research conducted a study on Self-esteem in the early part of 21st century. She surveyed more than 600 college freshmen and studied the relationship between their self-esteem and academic performance. Her research was published in the Journal of Social Issues (Vol. 58, No. 3).
Dr Jennifer found that college students who based their self-worth on external sources (including academic performance, appearance and approval from others) reported more stress, anger, academic problems and relationship conflicts. She concluded, students who based their self-worth on internal sources – such as being a virtuous person or adhering to moral standards – were found to receive higher grades.
A student’s sense of worth should not come from their marks or academic achievements. What Dr Jennifer has recently discovered, is the age-old tradition of the Vedas! True worth of a person lies in the quality of ideals one lives by. Your true self-worth should come from your spiritual ideals. If you stick to these spiritual ideals, despite challenges in life, that is the real estimation of your greatness. Vedic education was focused on building these internal assets which can increase the self-worth of a person, whereas, in the modern world, most students bank on some external success. And thus, it is not surprising that such students go bankrupt soon!
Mahabharata gives a classic contrast between Yudhisthira and Duryodhana. While Duryodhana’s sense of worth was dependent on his achievements, Yudhisthira’s self-worth came from his spiritual ideals. Duryodhana, consequently was always miserable. The more he got, the lesser it felt. He was in constant need of approval from others. Whereas, Yudhisthira was stable even when his kingdom was taken away or even if he was defeated or wounded. Nothing could steal his self-worth from him. And thus, he would always emerge with a wise plan to combat the adverse situations.
What was the basis of Yudhisthir’s self-worth? His self-worth came from following dharma, his duty towards God and society. Indeed, true self-worth of a person should never be based on their career dimension, but on their spiritual dimension.