Been reading Erich Fromm's The Art of Being these days. I'm a big fan, but I hadn't read him in a while. I'm reminded why I missed him by passages such as this:
Concentration is such a rare phenomenon because one's will is not directed to one thing; nothing is worth the effort to concentrate on it, because no goal is pursued passionately. But there is more to it: People are afraid to concentrate because they are afraid of losing themselves if they are too absorbed in another person, in an idea, in an event. The less strong the self, the greater the fear of losing themselves in the act of concentration on the non-self.
Doesn't mince words, does he. See why I like him?
He is right of course to draw a direct line between the unwillingness to lose oneself in something else and the weak self. And you see it very clearly among teenagers and young adults, who grew up being told they were the bee's knees but who are nevertheless very insecure in their sense of self. In good part (that's me saying this, not Fromm) because they have never been made to push past their limits and accomplish anything real. They always got trophies just for showing up. That doesn't build character, it builds chronic insecurity. Because one day you get out into the real world and you don't get anything just for showing up and suddenly you feel very anxious about exactly what size beast you really are.
In that sense, the inability to concentrate is not a cause of low genuine self-esteem but a symptom of it. We all struggle with this to some extent, and up to a point it's normal to have moments of relative weakness. But to be chronically weak is no recipe for success, no matter how many fake trophies you have in your childhood bedroom.