As a success coach, one of the biggest problems I see with my clients is their self-image or lack of self-esteem. The problem is more prevalent with women than with men for reasons that I will not get into in this article – most of us know what those reasons are anyway – but it does affect all income and professional levels.
Your self-esteem determines your energy level and the vitality of your personality. It is the control valve on your performance.
How you react, both consciously and sub-consciously, to everything that happens to you and around you affects your self-esteem in some way. Your perception of each stimulus either increases your self-esteem or lowers it. Your response to every word or gesture of other people toward you affects your self-esteem in some way. Therefore, the defense and development of your self-esteem becomes the key to high performance, happiness, and ultimate success.
While many things affect your self-image, one of the most important is the difference between your current self-image, the way you see yourself in the moment, and your self-ideal, the way you would ideally like to be either right now, or sometime into the future.
Whenever you feel your current performance and behavior is consistent with the person that you would like to be, your self-esteem goes up. You feel happier and more exhilarated. You have more energy and enthusiasm. You are more positive and personable with others. You’re in a good mood.
On the other hand, when your current performance or behavior is inconsistent with the person you like to be, your self-esteem goes down. You feel anxious and unhappy. You feel self-conscious and embarrassed. You feel frustrated and angry. You feel depressed and in a bad mood.
So how do you increase your self-esteem and create a self-image that will propel you forward instead of holding you back?
First, develop a clear picture of the person you want to become. The greater clarity you have with regard to your self-ideal – the person you would most like to be – the easier it is for you to tailor your performance and behavior to be consistent with that kind of person. Sometimes it is helpful to read about someone whose personality you admire, and try to adapt his or her behaviors. For example, Shelly Branch and Sue Callaway have written a great book titled, “What Would Jackie Do?”This book details some of the characteristics of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. Men tend to like anything by or about Winston Churchill, like “Never Give In.”
Second, visualize yourself behaving in the manner you desire. We all have some recurring situation that gets the best of us. We never know how to react until it’s too late and the opportunity has passed. However, people with a well-developed self-image rarely have this problem. They have practiced, (I’m not kidding,) saying or doing that which they desire until the opportunity presented itself to behave in a certain way. It’s just like an actor preparing his or her lines until the night comes to perform. Every time you do or say anything that is consistent with the person you want to be, your self-esteem goes up. When your self-esteem goes up, your self-image begins to change. You feel positive and powerful. You feel capable of doing more and better things in that area and in other areas of your life. You become the person you want to be because you are your self-image!
Third, realize that “reacting” to a situation doesn’t always mean you have to say something. Remember earlier when I said that how you react, both consciously and sub-consciously, to everything that happens to you and around you affects your self-esteem in some way. Sometimes, it’s best to just let the other person say what they want, then silently say to yourself, “That’s not true. I’m a very smart person. I’m organized and thorough. This was just a minor mishap that will never happen again.” As long as your inner mind can influence your self-image, there is really no need to start confronting every issue. Choose your battles. Doing so will give you an amazing sense of control.
Fourth, engage in positive self-talk. I’ve already alluded to this in the above paragraph. But I want to address it in a little more detail. Start saying nice things to yourself. In his book, “Million Dollar Habits,” Brian Tracy says one of the ways he increased his self-esteem years ago was by repeating to himself 10 to 50 times a day, “I like myself!” The powerful message behind this phrase is that even when you mess up, and we all do, you can still like yourself. Or at least you should, because that what self-esteem is – liking yourself no matter what.
Listen, things happen to us. Everyone, even the most successful person, has setbacks. What matters, as I’ve been saying throughout this article, is how you react to them. Don’t let anything or anyone keep you from attaining the success you deserve. You can do anything, but you need to know that and believe it first. Defend and develop your self-esteem.
Tomorrow, I’ll talk about another issue that holds otherwise great people back, but today, I’d like to hear from you. What holds you back? Do you think you have low self-esteem or a bad self-image? Who has inspired you to change? Whom would you most like to emulate?
Until next time,