If you know me well or follow me on Facebook, you know I am a big “quote guy.” I find inspiration in simplicity, and quite frankly, most things are a lot simpler than we make them out to be. Capturing a big concept in a profound snippet is like gold to me. That being said, I keep coming back to a single quote that seems to be the genesis of a great deal of human suffering. “You are your own worst enemy.” There is probably no telling who was the first to spout this gem, but whoever did should be on the Mount Rushmore of human psychology.
Like seemingly everything in our lives, with respect to our sense of self- esteem or self-worth, we clearly can be our own worst enemy. Self-esteem is that feeling you have about yourself overall; do you think you are worthwhile, are you a valuable person? I have news for you, YOU ARE. That’s not just me blowing smoke up your backside, that is me believing we all have a unique gift that only we can deliver to the world in our own way. We matter, You matter…..that is not up for debate in this blog. Now that we got that out of the way… why is self esteem so fleeting for us at times? If you want to keep it going strong, here are some traps I would highly recommend avoiding.
1 – OMG, you have a history of mistakes and bad judgment……..deal with it!
Let’s get something straight, you are not perfect. You have made mistakes, done dumb things, made poor choices, blah blah blah…. That is over. It does not define you now, and if anything it has prepared you in some way to be a better more kick ass you. Please stop the trip down memory lane to lament all the perceived mistakes you have made in your life. I guarantee, you did the best you could at the time. You would never want to live with someone who greeted you every morning with a laundry list of your past mistakes……so put yourself on that list. Everything that has happened to date has prepared you for now, and right now you are more valuable to the world because of what you have learned from your past, so if anything, your past mistakes should be increasing your self esteem!
2 – Stop sizing up the competition.
Let’s get another thing straight, no one else is perfect either. If you are looking for a dose of self esteem everyday by comparing yourself to your neighbor or your Facebook friends or the people at the gym……..be forewarned, this is a slippery slope. Sure, there are always people you look at and judge yourself as being “better than”, but there are just as many that you will judge as being “better than you.” First of all, work on eliminating the judgment entirely and your life will dramatically improve, but second of all, what other people do or don’t do, or what other people are or are not is IRRELEVANT and I can guarantee you your judgment of them is at best way off base and most likely flat out wrong! We are all complex, changing by the moment and doing the best we can. Focus on you and how you compare to the you yesterday. You are important to the world…….no matter what anyone else is doing!
3 – Don’t become “institutionalized.”
Since we are on a role with getting things straight, here’s another thing: ultimately, no one gives a shit where you went to school, what your title is or where you work. Hey….don’t get me wrong, I am all for school pride or a sense of satisfaction with where you work or how high up the ladder you have risen. That is awesome and you should be patting yourself on the back for your victories. Where it can become dangerous for many is too much of your identity tied up in the “institutions” you represent. If someone asks you to tell them about yourself and your first response is, I am Stanford educated and the VP of Global Operations at Google, then maybe, only maybe, your self esteem is tied too heavily to these institutions and titles. Here is how to find out. If a year later Stanford has been mired in widespread academic fraud and Google’s stock is in the tank, are you likely to lead with these items in telling someone about yourself? Will it effect what you think of yourself and how you represent yourself? For many it will…… and I say screw that! Stanford and Google are better because you were there, not vice-versa!
4 – A chip off the old block is one thing, but………
Ok, last thing to get straight, you are not your parents and your kids are not you. Seems simple enough, right? Until you find yourself the proud parent sitting in the stands at the swim meet when your son or daughter touches the wall first! Admit it, it makes us feel pretty good right? Even pretty good about our self, right? Two months later that same kid gets caught stealing a candy bar at Target. Admit it, it makes us feel pretty shitty right? Even pretty shitty about our self, right? You can see where this is going. We have great influence on our children and should take our responsibility as parents very seriously, but when the slippers come off (that’s my term for “at the end of the day” which I refuse to partake in any longer), they are their own people. They have their own journey and life purpose. They are not us, and your self-esteem should not be tied to the choices they make. This one is by far the hardest to avoid but think of it this way, when you have your own highs and lows, do you want your parents self-esteem hanging in the balance?
Awareness is the foundation for changing ourselves. Notice if you are falling into some of the self-esteem traps described above. If so…….your awareness will be enough to start you down a path of handling it better and feeling better about yourself despite these pitfalls. You have a purpose in this world and we need you at your best…….so stop being your own worst enemy.