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The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz


Once upon a time, Jacob Finch Bonner was a literary sensation. His first book was well-reviewed and widely read. But it’s been more than a few years since this one-hit-wonder wrote anything worth reading. To make ends meet, he’s fallen from being a professional author to teaching at a (poorly regarded) low residency MFA program. His self-esteem is tragically low.


Along comes an arrogant MFA student with a fantastic plot. The type of plot line that will shape the sort of best-selling novel which will inevitably be remade into a blockbuster movie. It’s that good. When the student dies, it looks like the plot might die with him. Until, in a fit of desperation, Jacob Finch Bonner…repurposes… it for his own novel.


As a therapist, I have the luxury of believing that good people sometimes make bad decisions because of a pre-existing frailty. Jacob Finch Bonner’s was low self-esteem.


Let’s talk about self-esteem. Low self-esteem occurs when a person sees themselves in a negative or critical light. Typically, people with low self-esteem may stop trying new things, avoid challenges, isolate themselves from others, and experience anxiety and depression.


Here are some ways to increase self-esteem


  • Identify the things you’re good at and engage in those activities – Frequently, people with low self-esteem are overly focused on one skill or component in their life in which they aren’t excelling. And sometimes, they are so focused on the areas of imperfection that they ignore their positive attributes and abilities.


  • Engage in healthy relationships with people who recognize the good in you – Sometimes, people with low self-esteem shy away from relationships with people who see them as positive (“because if that person thinks I’m good, they must be a terrible judge of character.”).


  • Listen to the messages you are telling yourself and change the narrative when you recognize that you are giving yourself continued negative feedback. Set a goal to be as kind to yourself as you would be to an attractive stranger.


If Jacob Finch Bonner had improved his self-esteem, he might never have felt the need to steal another person’s story. The only potential downside? We wouldn’t be able to read about his twisty downfall.



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