This is actually not well known but it is known enough to make it in the Urban Dictionary. The Urban Dictionary is a collection of sayings, idioms etc that make up American as well as other cultural sayings.
FROM: Urban Dictionary.
When someone builds their self esteem from self help books.
My coworker just added Dr. Phil to her shelf esteem library, now everyday at lunch its Dr. P said this Dr. P said that.
Here is the second entry for 'shelf esteem'.
When a person fills their book shelf with trendy novels, reference books, and/or classic literature to make themselves feel better about their base level of knowledge. Also refers to someone talking about a book they just read in a way which seems as if they had read it years before to make themselves sound well-read.
"That guy had the complete works of Shakespeare, 10 or 15 New York Times best sellers, and the Encyclopedia Brittanica 2009 Edition on his shelf. That guy has some serious shelf esteem problems."
"I was about to join one of those book of the month clubs you always see on TV, but then I grew some shelf esteem."
You: "Like that scene in the Da Vinci code...."
Someone Else: "Dude, buy yourself a 12th grade education level and get yourself some decent shelf esteem."
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