Playing baseball games without keeping score. Parents not allowed to cheer for one side or the other at basketball games. Refusing to use red ink to grade tests because it's too jarring. No dodgeball. Participation trophies. Telling kids, "You're special," without their doing anything to show they're special.
Newsflash: You may be special to God, your mommy, and your teacher just because you were born, but the rest of us aren't impressed.
The world doesn't owe you a living, a promotion, or any special consideration at all. The people who tell you otherwise are doing it because they think you're stupid, easy to manipulate, and they want to use you for their own purposes.
Oh, but what about the lucky ones, you say? The lazy, good-for-nothing punk kids who just happened to be born in the right family and live a life of luxury as a result?
What about them? There's always a little bit of randomness in life. The woman who does everything right and gets hit by a bus before she ever gets her payoff or the guy who does everything wrong and seems to get every break. So what? Is the idea supposed to be that you should have everything you want in life handed to you on a silver platter even though you're lazy and good-for-nothing because the Kennedy family exists?
Wait, wait, I forgot; you're not lazy and good-for-nothing. Your teacher told you that you are special and so did your mommy.
I hate to break this to you, but they may have told you a lie. Think back; what did you actually do that was so special? Were you an all-state quarterback? Did you carry your team to victory on your shoulders in a HI IQ Bowl competition? Did you set a state record for selling chocolate bars to support the school band? Those are the sort of achievements that should build self-esteem. That's because the right way to build self-esteem is by finding something you want to do, becoming better at it than most other people, realizing it, and then feeling a sense of specialness as a result of your accomplishments.
Instead, what we call "building self-esteem" has become nothing more than giving children a false sense of confidence. Oh, little Johnnie, you were born in America! That means the world is your oyster! Oh, you graduated from high school; that's great! Then you graduated from college? With a degree in Art History? Wow, that's really amazing! Just stand there long enough and your reward is sure to fall from the sky, wrapped in a bow, right into your waiting hands!