Marquis Who’s Who, the world’s premier publisher of biographical profiles, is proud to present Christopher J. Mruk, PhD, with the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award. An accomplished listee, Dr. Mruk has been noted for a number of scholarly and educational achievements in his field. As in all Marquis Who’s Who biographical volumes, individuals profiled are selected on the basis of current reference value. Factors such as position, noteworthy accomplishments, visibility, and prominence in a field are all taken into account during the selection process.
Dr. Mruk is a licensed clinical psychologist, professor of psychology, author, and fellow of the American Psychological Association. He studied behavioral and cognitive psychology at Michigan State University and received his Bachelor of Science degree in 1971. His graduate training was in existential and phenomenological psychology at Duquesne University, where he completed both a Master of Arts and a Doctor of Philosophy in 1974 and 1981, respectively. His career may be divided into two related periods, one clinical and one academic.
The clinical portion of his career began with supervising a heroin addiction program in Detroit, Michigan and then working as a crisis intervention specialist in one of the nation’s first two comprehensive emergency psychiatric services at St. Lawrence Hospital in Lansing, Michigan. Afterward, he served as a staff psychologist at Mon Valley Mental Health Center in Monessen, Pennsylvania and finally moved on to direct the counseling center at Saint Francis College in Loretto, Pennsylvania. Even after shifting to academia, he continued some clinical work in private practice and consulted as a psychologist to the Firelands Regional Medical Center in Sandusky, Ohio.
Dr. Mruk’s 37-year academic career involved teaching graduate and undergraduate courses as a professor of psychology at Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio from 1984 through 2021. During that time, he was awarded various research and teaching awards at both the college and university levels. The former includes receiving the Distinguished Teacher Award from Bowling Green State University’s Firelands College in 1990, 2001, 2018. The latter centers on being recognized as a Finalist for the Master Teacher Award in 2001, receiving the university-wide Professorship of Teaching Excellence Award in 2017, which is recognized as a national award, and being recognized by faculty through the university’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2021.
His research awards include receiving his college’s Distinguished Creative Scholar in 1995, 2005, as well as in 2012, and becoming a Fellow of the American Psychological Association in 2018. In addition to several dozen refereed publications in professional journals, Dr. Mruk has served as an associate editor of The Humanistic Psychologist, and authored or co-authored several books. Most notable among them are, “Feeling Good by Doing Good: A Guide to Authentic Self-Esteem and Well-Being,” Oxford University Press, 2019 and “Self-Esteem and Positive Psychology: Research Theory and Practice (4th Edition), Springer Publishing Company, 2013.
The bulk of Dr. Mruk’s work focuses on what may be called the crisis of self-esteem and its implications for clinical, social, developmental, educational, humanistic, and positive psychology. The centerpiece of this activity concerns the crucial issue of defining self-esteem and its practical as well as theoretical implications. The work begins by examining how two of the three major definitions of self-esteem social scientists use inevitably lead to erroneous conclusions and problematic outcomes.
The first definition was introduced by William James in 1890, which makes self-esteem one of the oldest topics in psychology. This view presents self-esteem as a ratio between one’s successes and failures. Consequently, competence is seen as the major determinate of self-esteem because it is necessary for success. The problem with this definition is that one can be competent at very negative things, such as lying, cheating, bullying, and a host of antisocial activities, none of which are associated with what people generally understand as reflect healthy self-esteem.
The second definition is based on feeling good about oneself or “worthy” as a person and this approach is the one that is most commonly used today. However, this definition is also problematic. For example, understanding self-esteem this way means that those with an exaggerated sense of themselves, such as in the case of conceit or even narcissism, must be seen as having genuinely high self-esteem, because they typically feel good about themselves – even though it may be undeserved.
Consequently, defining self-esteem in terms of success (competence) or feelings (worth) are problematic ways of understanding self-esteem and are serious enough to result in major criticisms concerning the value of self-esteem as a concept, not to mention increasing self-esteem in general. Indeed, these limitations caught the eye of the popular media and press in the 1990s and created a need to reexamine the importance of this construct in the social sciences, education, parenting, and elsewhere. Fortunately, however, there is a lesser known but more powerful and balanced definition of self-esteem that Mruk has advanced in the field as a way of preserving this important psychological concept.
The third major definition, originally suggested by Abraham Maslow, is based on a relationship of competence and worthiness, and is often referred to as a two-factor approach to defining, researching, and enhancing self-esteem. One factor is competence or the ability to face life’s challenges when they arise. The other is worthiness, which is tied to basic human values concerning such things as decency, integrity, and courage.
In other words, authentic self-esteem involves competently facing life’s challenges, but doing so in ways that are worthy of a mature, fully function human being. As a result of the relationship between these two factors, self-esteem cannot be associated with mere success, as in the case of antisocial behavior, because such actions lack worth. Nor can self-esteem simply involve feeling good about oneself as such appraisals can be highly distorted, such as with narcissism. Instead, the two-factors balance each other so that authentic self-esteem involves being competent, but demonstrating that in worthy ways, and being worthy as an individual as indicated by the quality of one’s behavior, not just thoughts or feelings. This definition also means that people become responsible for managing their self-esteem and may, therefore, increase or decrease it, depending on the types of decisions they make in life.
Dr. Mruk’s primary decades-long career focus is presenting, demonstrating, and expanding the value of the two-factor approach to self-esteem through theory, research, and practice. This work includes developing evidence-based practical ways of enhancing authentic self-esteem for clinical and nonclinical populations in both group and individual settings. To date, this effort has been reasonably well received in clinical, humanistic, and positive psychology, as indicated by the presence of one a fourth edition book in the field, well over 1,000 citations of that work in scholarly publications on the topic, and a more popular blog for Psychology Today that has been read by over 40,000 people around the world in only three years.
His other professional contributions focus on clinical issues and training, both of which include coauthored books as well as professional continuing education training presentations and seminars. In part as a result of this work, Dr. Mruk received the “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Faculty Senate of Bowling Green State University in 2021, which is only awarded to one faculty member a year. He has also been showcased in the various editions of Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Education, Who’s Who in Medicine and Healthcare, Who’s Who in Science and Engineering and Who’s Who in the Midwest.
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