Kressel Housman's Reviews > Real Power

Real Power by Dovid Lieberman
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's review
May 12, 2009

did not like it
bookshelves: jewish, non-fiction, psychology, torah, self-help
Read in June, 2009

I heard the author of this book speak at a parenting lecture, and he was fabulous. What stage presence! He could have been a stand-up comedian! So I figured that anyone who can get up in front of a crowd of people so confidently must really know how to do what his subtitle promises: "rise above your nature and never feel angry, anxious, or insecure again." It's a pretty big promise, and the book didn't deliver.

The main theme of the book is self-esteem. In fact, Rabbi Twerski, the Jewish world's biggest advocate of self-esteem, wrote the introduction. (That was my favorite part.) The book goes on to describe the results of low self-esteem very clearly, which had the effect of decreasing my self-esteem even further. Really! Anyone who'd read a book like this probably knows the problems of low self-esteem very well and is looking for skills and solutions. But by the time the author got around to solutions, I was feeling so low that I wasn't in a frame of mind to use them. And truth be told, I didn't think all that much of them anyway.

The one thing I appreciated about this book was that it used Jewish sources - stories of gedolim and verses from the Torah and Talmud. The psychology did nothing for me. It left me wanting to re-read The Road Less Traveled for chizuk (emotional strengthening). If only someone would add Torah references to The Road Less Traveled. Now that would be right up my alley.

Unimpressed as I am with his book, I'd still go hear the author speak at the drop of a hat. I might even read any books he comes out with in the future; this is his first, after all. I just hope that next time he puts some of his delicious sense of humor into it. For me, this was a downer.
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by K (new)

K Great review. I happen to think self-esteem is kind of overrated. I also think it's very misunderstood. I've said this on goodreads before, but I think the dichotomy between "high" and "low" self-esteem is false; it hasn't been applicable to most people I know. I find that "realistic" and "unrealistic" self-esteem is a far more accurate distinction; healthy self-esteem is a realistic self-appraisal that includes one's strengths and weaknesses and isn't "high" or "low," just balanced. I also think that the emphasis in America on self-esteem is misplaced. Although Jean Twenge's book "Generation Me" got a lot of mixed reviews on goodreads, I appreciated her point that what we call self-esteem is actually a kind of narcissism where one's good opinion of oneself should be unconditional and not tied to anything real. I'm not an expert on this or anything, but I'd be curious to see where the conclusions on the "results of low self-esteem" came from. Research articles? And if so, how was "low self-esteem" defined and measured? And how was a causal connection between "low self-esteem" and these terrible "results" proven? At best, a correlation might be proven but that's pretty far from being able to state with any confidence that low self esteem causes these things.

Kressel Housman What you say dovetails nicely with Rabbi Twersky's description of self-esteem - distorted or not? I do believe that having a distorted sense of self esteem can mess up your life. I think the trouble is not that it need not be addressed how parents, teachers, and shrinks go about "raising" it. And perhaps I'm just as guilty as any other parent, cheering on my "weaker" student and taking nonchalantly the successes of my "bright" one.

message 3: by K (new)

K I imagine it's probably true in general that people with distorted self-images tend to make poor choices. I also think, though, that there are usually other complicating factors involved and that self-esteem in and of itself is overrated as a contributor, and that the connection between what's labeled "low self-esteem" and other difficulties is oversimplified. It's certainly understandable to feel compelled to encourage the weaker student more, and to assume that the more successful student is not short on reinforcement. I think the mistake our generation often makes, though, is to view self-esteem as its own goal rather than to view it as a byproduct of other goals we might be better off focusing on.

Kressel Housman "I think the mistake our generation often makes, though, is to view self-esteem as its own goal rather than to view it as a byproduct of other goals we might be better off focusing on."

Well said!

message 5: by K (new)

K Thanks! I suspect I was really just rephrasing something Jean Twenge said in "Generation Me," but the thought definitely resonated with me.

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