The birth of a well-adjusted individual in neoliberal times: Self-esteem discourse and its implications on bodies of color
The concept of “self-esteem”, identified within sociology and psychology fields as self-concept, reflects a person’s overall subjective emotional evaluation of his or her own worth. Ever since its inception into academic literature in 1890 by the American psychologist William James, it has experience and continues to experience an important scientific status in finding out more about the human mind, human emotions and human behaviour. Self-esteem literature and research has also worked its way into social work research and practical applications especially when working with marginalized clients whom social workers wish to integrate smoothly into society either through mood regulations, behaviour interventions or other strategies such as family settlement and employment. From a post-structural and explicitly Foucauldian framework that also analyzes from post-colonial and critical race theories, I argue there is little literature within contemporary social work that looks at the problematic ways self-esteem as a dominant discourse organizes and privileges certain beliefs about the body as normal and healthy while negatively viewing others as harmful to selfhood and to the greater society. This research attempts to examine the ways self-esteem as a dominant discourse facilitates a reproduction of an Eurocentric and colonialist knowledge base that can have both discursive and material consequences for racialized clients participating in psycho-social educational programs within mental health agencies as a part of the current recovery model.