Self-esteem is incredibly important. In fact, I think it is so important that I am going to say that again. Self-esteem is incredibly important. Many people have the notion that it is the same as self-confidence; however it is far more than just self-confidence. If we look further into the origins of the word esteem itself, as we look etymologically, it comes from the word aestimate, which literally means ‘to put a value on.’ As you might guess, this word shares the same root as the word ‘estimate.’ Therefore, we can see that self-esteem, really does just mean; the value we put on ourselves.
Now then, what are the key components of self-esteem? When someone has high self-esteem, they have a genuine, deep rooted sense of self; they actually like (and often love) themselves; they can and do recognise and be in control of their internal state; and they have a sound sense of purpose, or rather they act and behave with purpose. These are not magical gifts that we were given at birth, oh no. One of the key concepts in many of my self-improvement or change programmes or writings is a presupposition of neuro linguistic programming (NLP) and that is: what others do, you can learn. So that is where I am going to start here, by indicating and illustrating just what it is that people with high self-esteem actually do, I am going to break it down into easily consumable chunks so that you can replicate them and apply them to your own life immediately.
These things, if applied in the correct way, can have an amazing impact on anyone’s self-esteem.
Developing Your Own Sense of Self:
Many of the individuals that I have worked with over the years tell me that they lack self-confidence. I hear it so very often. As mentioned previously, self-esteem is the value we place on ourselves whereas self-confidence relates to our actions. Again, if we look at the word ‘self-confidence’ it means to trust in ourselves, so at its root it implies some kind of challenge or task that is to be undertaken in some way. To be more specific, confidence usually relates to our ability to do something or to have some kind of competency. We are confident in our ability to do something, to behave in a particular way in a particular situation, to take on a particular challenge.
It has been my experience that it is almost impossible to have self-confidence if we do not have self-esteem.
I once worked with a lady who was naturally very gifted in her specialised field and was a legal secretary. Following her initial training and joining a legal firm, she was recognised by the senior partners as being intelligent, conscientious and diligent as well as hard working. She really was an asset to the company and got on very well with her colleagues. At the end of her first year of working for the company, she was offered a more senior position and she was given some additional responsibility along with a slight increase in her salary.
Following three years in this role, the legal team office manager role became available and as she had been as good as running the office anyway, one of the company’s senior partners recommended that she apply. The partner felt that she deserved the role and encouraged her to apply. But, the lady in question was rather taken aback by the suggestion; she did not feel qualified or competent enough to take the role on or to even consider applying. She had always managed to successfully find reasons for dismissing praise, she told herself that she simply did not deserve it and that anyone could have done what she did and that there would come a day that one of the partners would realise that she was not that good at her job and she would be shown for what she really was. Therefore she just did not apply. Remarkable. What’s more, I know that you know someone just like this.
I encounter so many people like this. So many. People that have this low self-esteem and are not able to generalise from the obvious successful results that they are having, or the acknowledgement they receive. It is almost as if they don’t ‘hear’ the praise that they are given. Because of this, the lady I mentioned earlier lacked the confidence to apply for the promotion; and many people with low self-esteem consistently and continually underachieve in their lives. Most of them spend their entire lifetimes underestimating themselves and feeling that they are not worthy.
So what we are going to do is to explore. Over the years I have investigated those people that do have self-esteem and how they actually think and behave. It is all about that probing question ‘How do they do that?”
When I worked at the Independent National newspaper in central London when I was younger, the newspaper had been bought by a new owner and was moving from where the previous owners, the Mirror group were based, in Canary Wharf in Docklands, London, to new premises in a slightly different part of London. A girl called Samantha was the Managing Directors PA and rather than using a proper project manager of some sort, the MD organised the relocation himself with Samantha’s help.
She liked being who she was, had done well at school, this was only her second job and she had worked up the secretarial ranks to become the MD’s PA. She did not mind being asked to help with anything out of the ordinary or unusual. The day before the office relocation was due to happen, the MD was involved in a car accident and had to take some time off due to being in hospital for a night and then off for a period of recovery. Another director asked Samantha if she would oversee the relocation as she had been so involved in the process. She was very slightly apprehensive but of course agreed with no hesitation: after all, she knew most of the arrangements that had been made, and what’s more the MD had a mobile that she could call if she was desperate.
Now I mention this because you can see the differences between the two people in those examples. Not only did Samantha have a more easygoing temperament than the lady mentioned in my first example, she was also far more comfortable with herself and of course that naturally meant that she could take the leap of confidence in herself that was required for her to take on the last minute responsibility.
Both of the women were extremely capable, however, the first mentioned lady had a low sense of self-worth, whereas Samantha believed in herself. So, what about you? I would like you to answer these questions to yourself:
o Can you accept a compliment straight, without verbally or non-verbally deflecting it and without dismissing it or having to qualify it in your mind.
o Are you ever afraid that you may well be ‘found out’ one day?
o Can you list 5-10 things that you like about yourself without hesitation, just doing it straight away?
o What is your reaction (internally and externally) when you are asked to try something that you have not done before, something new?
o What do you say to yourself inside your mind when you are about to do something that challenges you or that is difficult?
Really take some time and even consider writing down your answers, it is always good to see this kind of information in writing as well as it being in your mind. Then, what do your answers suggest about you and how much you like yourself? Do you think well of yourself? Are you happy being you? Are you critical about yourself and your abilities? I recommend writing these down again because you can then compare and contrast your answers when you have finished following these techniques and strategies. So, lets move on to those strategies and techniques.
The first of the strategies that I want to mention is: Accepting Compliments.
Quite simply, the easiest way to accept a compliment is just by saying “Thank You.” Not too difficult is it? Remember a compliment that someone has paid you, however small or minor you may consider it: imagine hearing it in your head again, play it over and over or better still, say it out loud to yourself and then say “Thank You.” You may want to experiment with a variety of tones of voice or accents or mannerisms as well as different facial expressions to find some of the ways that resonate the best with you and that seems the most natural.
You need to push your boundaries out here and really do this. Practice this over and over. I would recommend that you practice this in front of a mirror too even if it does feel unusual. Then, on the next occasion that someone gives you a compliment, because there will be some, catch what you do, even if your old response tries to kick in again. Even if it does, notice what you did and just offer a “Thank You” anyway. As you keep on doing this your brain will learn the new response and will begin doing it automatically.
Worrying about being found out:
Hmmm. Ok, ask yourself this question: what exactly is it that I do not want other people to know? Really ask yourself that and answer it thoroughly and precisely. The majority of people just don’t want people to think badly of them or their abilities. This kind of worry or fear almost always has to do with what you anticipate happening and not what actually does happen; it tends to be removed from reality.
So now is time for a reality check. These people that often feel unworthy about their capabilities at work or about their attractiveness are underestimating themselves. You should observe the other people at your work or in your life that seem quite contented with themselves and notice that contentment and ability are not related. They are not correlated. At the same time, you only have to take a good look at couples in any public place to notice that beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. It has often helped to ask two very powerful questions here to discover other possible reasons for your unnecessary worries:
o What stops you (feeling good about yourself)?
o What would happen if you did (feel good about yourself)?
Learning to Like You:
Ok, it is time to take out your self-esteem journal or that piece of paper to write on again. As we touched on earlier, I would like you to list anything you can think of that you like about yourself. It might be the dimples in your cheeks when you smile, or the crookedness of your teeth, or the fact that you can spell words really easily, or that you have good morals, or that you are honest. Absolutely anything applies here. Keep on collecting and adding to this list. Now check this list against your logical levels exercise that you did at the very beginning of this programme. Think about your environment, your beliefs and values, your capabilities, your behaviour and identity and think about your characteristics on each level and find more and more things on many differing levels that contribute to your own unique identity. Then keep this list somewhere important to be able to refer to and remind yourself often of its contents.
Doing Different Things:
Lots of us react with fright, fear and anxiety when confronted with new things! Oh, no, a new thing! So if you do respond that way, spell out the worst case scenarios you have in your mind. Really spell them out, write them down if it will help. Sometimes this is enough to make you realise that they are silly fears or maybe they are a bit (or a lot) unlikely. I bet they are. However, if your worst case scenario could happen, think about how it could be managed and overcome. Take it a step further and think about someone you know would overcome it – what exactly would they do? How would they go about it? So, instead of letting that fear harbour itself deep within you as if you were burying it, take it on and find and create a strategy for dealing with it. Much more often than not at least one of these approaches can and will defuse the anxiety. Now, if it doesn’t, your intuition and instincts may well be right: so don’t do it!
Communicating With You:
If you persist on telling yourself not to make an idiot of yourself in front of others, or remembering how things went wrong the last time, or highlighting to yourself how useless you are, then that internal dialogue voice may well be contributing to your problem. In fact, I know it is!
So instead, begin to think: what would you say to someone else in the same situation if you wanted to encourage them? Work it out and again, write it down. How would you encourage them? Then continue to say those things to yourself. Do this. Say those things to yourself instead of all that other nonsense that you used to persist on saying. Be convincing and sincere; really mean it. Now how does that feel? To have that kind of progressive internal dialogue instead. It can be like a breath of fresh air for your brain, you are nurturing it. Because we engage in it so very much, each time you create some internal dialogue the more supportive you become and this makes a real difference to you self-esteem and your self-confidence.
Self-Esteem Telling Signals:
How can you tell if someone has self-esteem? It is so easy to tell, though not many people actually notice. One of the surest indicators is that people with self-esteem just do not need to prove themselves. By that I mean that they do not need to:
o Put others down.
o Show off.
o Hog the limelight.
o Tell you all about themselves and their achievements.
It is often individuals who do these seemingly confident behaviours that have quite low self-esteem.
Earlier this year, I was speaking at a large conference in Las Vegas and over 500 people were there to listen to the team of speakers of which I was one. The main speaker was someone I had heard of and is very well known across the world and so I wanted to speak to them as much as I could and glean some tips or just get to know them. I wanted to do the same with all the speakers and as we were waiting to go on stage, I took some time out to chat with all the speakers and they were all nice and at ease, no-one displaying any signs of anxiety at the prospect of speaking to this large audience. However, I really did notice that the well known speaker asked no questions of any of the others, in fact they did not show any interest in any of the other speakers at all. Which surprised me a little. Instead, the person maintained a relaxed demeanour and outward appearance but focused all the time on them self. It was all one way and self-centred. I suspected that they were not at all comfortable being this well-known speaker at all. I confirmed this later on when that person asked me if I would spend some time with them to help coach them through some things that they wanted to deal with following a later conversation.
People with true, genuine, real, sincere self-esteem, however well known they are, usually display very different characteristics:
o They have a quiet confidence.
o They do not fish for compliments – but they do accept them well: they know what they are worth.
o They may be quite humble.
o They recognise and are often interested in other people and their achievements.
o They may not be bothered about receiving external recognition.
You can read the body language of someone with self-esteem as it usually speaks for them. They are often physically relaxed, upright, calm and measured in movement, they are decisive and without hesitation and they make good eye contact freely and comfortably.
It has been my experience that despite there being so many people out there who display apparent confidence and competence, actually doubt themselves and their own abilities. (hey, you may well be one of them) I know I spent years and years showing off due to a lack of self-esteem. These days I just show off because I am childish and silly. I joke. These people though, may well stand up for others, but fail to stand up for themselves. They may well be sensitive and sympathetic – but not about their own limitations. Bear in mind that when you meet other people, whether they are dominating and outgoing or just quietly efficient, they may both have a serious lack of self-esteem.
As with so many things, as with so many areas that I work within and as we have touched on already, modelling can really help. Stop and think about people you know who have a strong sense of self: how do they behave? How do they seem to think? What is important to them? What do they believe? What tells you that they are genuinely comfortable with themselves? Trust your intuition here and make the most of your observations. Again, note this stuff down.
Imagine that you were someone else that is watching you from the outside. As you look at yourself, how could you begin incorporate what you have learnt from your self valuation and apply them to yourself. Really have a think about that.