One of the most fascinating things about Self-Esteem is that there is a group of people – usually very successful – who do have a Self-Esteem problem, but don’t recognise it.
Then there are the people who know very definitely that they struggle in this arena.
Regarding the former group who are very successful, I see these people in my office all the time.
They are fulfilled and successful in their work and they are making money and they have immense skills in this area but the skills and the success and the confidence that they have at many levels masks the lack of Self-Esteem underlying the success.
They come out of the meeting or a conflict situation or a negotiation that has been difficult and they’ve handled it well but there is a tightness and an anxiety and a noticing of aspects where they weren’t particularly skilful. The anxiety and the tension and the perfectionism reflects a lack of Self-Esteem. What further reflects this are the ruminations about what just happened.
You know those dialogues in your head, “I should have said this, I missed that, damn I could have said that better…”
This reflects a debilitating perfectionism, always having to be better. What you have just done is not good enough.
I’m not saying, ‘Don’t improve, don’t grow,’ but growth is much more enriching when it comes from inspiration, not panic and fear.
It’s very useful to recognise areas where Self-Esteem is a problem and I would certainly recommend doing the long form of my Self-Esteem quiz on my website, nevertheless here’s a list of some of the indicators to help you out:
- Having to prove or tick certain boxes in order to be lovable. Just about everyone on the planet lives here. We believe that Self-love is not for free. We think we have to earn it, deserve it and prove that we are worthwhile enough to have it.
- Wanting love through approval or success ie externally as opposed to generating it internally. The unworthiness is created from the outside through criticism and judgement so we look to the outside for it. It is an endless search and it is never satisfied for long because our job is to love ourselves. No one can do it truly or permanently for us.
- Anything you avoid talking about or doing because it scares you or bores you but needs to be done – most particularly, difficult conversations, conflict and money issues. It is natural and normal to want to avoid difficult things, to want to avoid pain but the more you do this the more you will suffer. When we avoid, our spirit dies, we have stopped living in the world of creativity and movement. We freeze and stagnate and ironically we then want more and more love from the outside.
- The converse of this is that the less you risk doing things which scare you the more your spirit will dissolve too. So anything that makes you anxious for fear of criticism, rejection or failure leads to a collapse of Self-Esteem.
- The belief in the concepts of success and failure lead to loss of Self-Esteem as soon as the threat of the latter rears its head. This is a very difficult one to deal with because we believe that success and failure are facts. They are not. Small children have no concept of success and failure and hence they do not have fear until this is injected into them. Once the concept is learned it is very difficult to unlearn it but it is possible.
- Needing to defend yourself against criticism. To defend yourself when attacked is to give your attacker credibility. Decades ago Dan Quayle was the vice president of the US and he was often compared to looking like Robert Redford. Quayle came under a great deal of criticism for not being very smart. I watch Larry King interview Redford and he asked him what he thought of the comparison with Quayle and in the most relaxed and beautifully modulated way Redford said, “Yes I can understand that.” There was absolutely no sense of defensiveness or need to protect himself. It was absolute genius in terms of Self-Esteem.
- Being inauthentic with people you perceive to be superior to you. Our parents intimidate us. Our teachers intimidate us. We learn to give away our power to them and to be fake and stiff and tight and to lie about what we really think and to hide who we truly are. Any time you are still doing this your Self-Esteem is gone.
- Saying yes when you want to say no. This is simply another expression of being inauthentic. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. When I created this about 16 years ago I was discovering what it meant to stop being fake. I am still learning. We are all prostitutes. Prostitution is traditionally about selling your body for money. We all, at some time in our lives have sold our integrity, our honesty, our true valuing of ourselves for money, for security for approval. I think prostitution is really fine, it is an expression of our struggle to love ourselves and to live this in the world.
- Apologizing when it is unnecessary. I see people everywhere apologising for going to the toilet, for borrowing a pen, for having a second helping of food, for asking for information that they have lost…again and for not remembering something or for making mistakes. To over apologise is to be on your knees longing for forgiveness. Before you do this you need to forgive yourself for all your ‘small crimes and misdemeanours’ and then you don’t have to endlessly ask for an apology from others. I’m not saying never apologise I’m just saying when you overdo it, it’s a problem.
- Having a strong need to get things right, to not make mistakes, to not offend others. When we are trying to get it right we are searching for the gold standard of behaviour, of personality. It doesn’t exist. When I was a kid I started reading Time magazine and I was just fascinated by the ‘letters page.’ People writing in and sharing their views on various topical issues. It amazed me endlessly how on every single topic there was one view that opposed and one view that supported the issue. If you’re trying to be perfect and to not screw up and not make mistakes you will endlessly satisfy and displease others. If you are not trying to be perfect and not trying to screw up you will endlessly satisfy and displease others. You may as well give up and just let yourself be as you are. This is Original Self-Esteem.
- If someone threatens or bullies you and you get anxious and feel not good enough your Self-Esteem has crashed. The only reason that bullies continue to exist in the world that there are people out there – perhaps including you – who are too forgiving and allow them to get away with it. Allowing yourself to be bullied and controlled is to give away your power and to not love yourself. In doing so you are giving bullies permission to continue to do what they do.
- Struggling to make decisions through self-doubt, which is:
“Chopping up your personality into little pieces and scattering them to the wind.”
Self-doubt is not trusting your perception, your intuition, your experience of the world and then acting on it, clearly, decisively, powerfully. One of the greatest quotes I’ve ever read is an anonymous one that I found on Facebook:
“In a world that profits from your self-doubt,
loving yourself is an act of rebellion.”
How do others profit from your self-doubt?
When somebody is passionate and/or anxious about getting some outcome or other, they are really wanting something to happen, really, really desperately, then if you agree with them and let them manipulate you or bully you, they are profiting from your self-doubt and your inability to stand up to their powerful opinions. If you reject yourself and let them overpower you they win, you lose.
Have you ever noticed how often people are shocked and angered by your disagreement with them. When you doubt yourself you agree with them inappropriately and they benefit – profit – from your self-doubt.
It’s as simple as that.
There are many times in life when loving yourself is truly an act of rebellion.
Be a rebel.
In great Love and great Power,