Self-esteem is defined by the dictionary as: a realistic respect for or favorable impression of oneself; self-respect. Engendering the “realistic” aspect of self-esteem into an individual has been the component conveniently ignored by teachers, therapists, and misguided parents over the past many decades as they’ve attempted to build self-worth into kids with everything from undeserved praise, to unearned weekly allowances, to participation trophies for various activities. This false kindness has diminished the work ethic and self-discipline for untold millions. Ironically, it has also damaged the self-esteem of the very people targeted for help as these deluded multitudes get into the real world and recognize the fact they haven’t been prepared for life. Perhaps the saddest monument to building false self-esteem, and a clear indictment to the danger of giving someone something for nothing, is that an entire generation has now become characterized as selfish, demanding, entitled victims.
To be of lasting value and to measurably aid job and life performance, self-esteem must be earned. As a business leader your challenge is to instill this principle and teach team members how they can achieve authentic self-esteem despite a growing worldwide epidemic of liberal thinking—arguably a mental illness—that encourages their denial and assures them that their failures are someone else’s fault or problem.
For starters, it’s important to recognize that there are two types of self-esteem:
False self-esteem comes from one or more of the following causes:
A. Undeserved praise from those trying to make you feel good about yourself.
B. Getting something for nothing, and gaining an overstated value of your worth as a result.
C. Arrogantly comparing yourself to those not as fortunate as you and using this as your barometer of self-worth, rather than measuring your worth by whether or not you are better than you used to be.
Those raised with an accurate understanding of what it means to earn and deserve what they get are unlikely to be duped into a bloated self-image by virtue of these three causes. However, people nurtured under the illusion that life has no absolutes like winning or losing, right or wrong, and success or failure are certain to interpret the three dishonest self-esteem stimulants as proof that they are special; God’s gift to both your business and the world at large. If these people work for you, it is your responsibility to correct this misconception so that they can develop the authentic self-esteem required for continued growth.
The second type of self-esteem is authentic self-esteem which, of course, is earned. Following are nine ways to earn the right to authentic self-esteem. While this list is nowhere near complete, it is a good start, and these points should make the basis for an effective training meeting.
1. Keep commitments even when it’s hard. When you do what is right rather than what is easy, cheap, popular, or convenient you earn respect from yourself for yourself.
Do what you said you’d do and then some; and do it how you said you’d do it and by when you said you’d do it. This commitment should extend to family, friends, teammates and customers alike.
2. Strong work ethic. Giving your all every day even when no one is watching, and despite the fact that no one else may be at all, separates you from the “I’ll do just enough to get by and not get fired” masses.
Motivator extraordinaire Zig Ziglar observed that there is no traffic jam on the second mile, because most folks have enough trouble limping through the first mile. Today the bar is often so low that if you do just a little more than what’s expected you’ll stand out; do a lot more and you’ll be in a class by yourself.
3. Personal growth. Becoming more precedes getting more. Or, in the words of Jim Rohn: You must first grow personally and then advance materially. By consciously upgrading your own skills and knowledge you surely and steadily earn the right to authentic self-esteem.
Working on yourself by reading books, attending training with a good attitude, and earnestly listening to honest feedback helps you become more as a person and a professional.
4. Honesty in words and deeds. Living with integrity brings a clear conscience, and a clear conscience builds a self-worth and inner peace you cannot put a price on.
When you tell the truth to teammates and customers alike regardless of the cost; and when you do what is right even when it costs you, you’ll catapult past those addicted to situational ethics and who spend their lives mired in character compromises.
5. Accept responsibility. Accepting responsibility is a humble, honest, mature, and rare act. The day in your life that you decide to not diminish yourself by resorting to blaming, spinning or making excuses, your self-esteem soars.
When you can stop pointing fingers at the government, weather, time of year, crazy competition, economy, or manufacturer for less-than-desired results and acknowledge that personal failures—mostly your own poor decision-making—are the chief architects behind your misery you will position yourself for progress.
6. Expect only what you have earned and deserve. To live without entitlement earns respect from others and yourself.
To focus more on what you owe God, your family, society, your teammates and company, than what you are owed by them is to take a giant leap towards growing personally and financially.
7. Improve Discipline. Discipline is a morale builder because you respect yourself more when you make yourself do what you know you should do, but don’t necessarily feel like doing.
The discipline to plan, prepare, practice, or prospect is what often separates the average from the excellent. Spiritual, health, learning, and work disciplines guarantee that you will not only earn well, but that you will live well.
8. Persisting in the face of difficulties. The difference between having a breakdown or a breakthrough often lies in the will to persist in the face of difficulties.
The world is filled with serial quitters, who are quick to start something but bail out when it gets tough. This is precisely why it is not crowded at the top of any industry; it is crowded at the bottom, where the mentally weak masses put in minimum effort and reap a banquet of mediocrity. Persisting with one more call, one more closing attempt or one more hour of effort even when it’s uncomfortable can elevate you into your own category, a sure recipe for authentic self-esteem.
9. Adding value to others. Emerson wisely observed, It is one of life’s greatest compensations that we cannot help someone else without also helping ourselves.
Givers build their self-esteem as they free themselves from the petty self-centeredness that keeps so many bound in bitterness. In fact, one of the fastest ways out of a rut or other depressed state is to find a way to add value to someone else. It could be something as simple as thanking them, affirming a job well done, helping them out of a jam without being asked, or intently listening to what’s going on in their life without judging or trying to fix them.
The bottom line is that authentic self-esteem can and must be earned. Anything less is simply self-deception. Self-deception invites self-denial, and self-denial aids and abets eventual self-sabotage. Considering this, it would be wise to put these nine practices into action now.
For a six minute video clip on this topic suitable for viewing click here.
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