I know your resolutions for 2018 probably revolve around doing stuff better this year. Eating healthier, breaking a bad habit, losing weight, trying to be a better person, going after that dream that’s been sitting on a dusty shelf at the back of your mind, and attempting to get along with your mother or mother-in-law, no matter how much you want to bang your head against the wall every time she talks to you. Those are some noble goals, my friend; kudos to you. But there’s something I’d like you to add to that list – at the very top in fact: I want you to dedicate 2018 to improving your self-esteem.
“My self-esteem is fine,” you’ll say.
“Do you love yourself?” I’ll ask.
“Sure – of course I do,” you’ll respond, a little miffed.
“Really…deep down…do you love yourself?” I’ll ask again.
“Yes! Why are you asking?!”you’ll say.
“Can you say it out loud to me?” I’ll continue. “Can you say, ‘I love myself’?”
“Why?” you’ll say, exasperated.
“Say it,” I’ll respond quietly. “Look in the mirror, look straight in your own eyes, and say, ‘I love myself’.”
Go ahead. I’ll wait……….
If you had no trouble doing that, then feel free to read this blog post for the fun of it. If you had a hard time doing it, then make it your resolution this year to strengthen or, if necessary, completely rebuild your self-esteem. Trust me, it’ll be worth it. I can’t even begin to explain the degree to which high (and low) self-esteem can impact your life. Actually…I can show you:
The following are stats from a study we conducted where we compared people with high self-esteem and low self-esteem on a number of traits from our Emotional Intelligence Test. Here’s where the two groups differed: (Note: The scores on the scales listed below range from 0 to 100. The higher the score, the better):
Self-efficacy & Self-confidence
- Score for people with high SE: 84
- Score for people with low SE: 26
So not surprisingly, people with high self-esteem are remarkably confident. They trust in their abilities and believe that they can succeed at whatever task or goal they set their mind to.
Side-note: Can the terms “self-esteem” and “self-confidence” be used interchangeably? I say, no. Self-confidence is reflected in how you carry yourself…it’s a more visible facet of your self-esteem. I’ve seen people who are very confident at work, who feel in their element, but who have absolutely abysmal self-esteem. Outside of work they often insult and demean themselves, don’t treat their body with respect, struggle to find love or end up choosing partners who treat them poorly. Self-esteem runs much deeper. It’s your core. And while you may be able to fake your way through life without it, it won’t be a very happy life.
- Score for people with high SE: 68
- Score for people with low SE: 24
Whenever you stand up for yourself, diplomatically speak your mind, express your wants and desires to someone, and establish boundaries on how you will allow others to treat you, you are asserting yourself. When you tell a waiter you’re not happy with your food, ask your boss for a raise, ask your neighbors to turn down the music at 1AM, or decline that product the salesperson keeps pushing on you, you’re asserting yourself. People with high self-esteem are more likely to assert themselves in situations where it is required. They may not feel entirely comfortable doing so, but they understand that they have the right to express their opinion and needs.
Need for Approval
- Score for people with high SE: 24
- Score for people with low SE: 77
People with low self-esteem need constant validation. They need other people’s approval before making any decision, and must be told on a regular basis that they are loved and cherished or they will begin to doubt whether their family, friends, and partner still loves them. Many people with low self-esteem and a high need for approval will change how they look and behave in order to fit in and to please others.
- Score for people with high SE: 78
- Score for people with low SE: 27
Much like depression, low self-esteem makes it hard to get yourself going. People with low SE are more likely to struggle to push themselves to take on challenges; they may give up too easily, or set the bar much too low. They may also rely on external incentives to motivate them, whether it’s praise or a pep talk, or tangible motivators like money.
- Score for people with high SE: 79
- Score for people with low SE: 35
I can probably argue with a fair amount of conviction that there are at least a few advantages to being pessimistic…but I’m having a really hard time thinking of any right now. And don’t get me wrong: I’m not much of an optimist – I’m more of a realist. I guess I could probably argue that pessimists are less likely to be reckless, more likely to plan ahead for worst-case scenarios, and less likely to be painfully disappointed (because they already assume the worst will happen). However, the fact of the matter is that there are likely to be more benefits to being an optimist. People with high self-esteem tend to have a fairly positive mindset, and choose to believe in hope and possibility.
- Score for people with high SE: 69
- Score for people with low SE: 23
People with high self-esteem tend to be much better at regulating their emotions. They’ll still get angry, anxious, sad, and frustrated, but they try not to let their emotions overwhelm them. As someone with high SE once told me:
“Your emotions are an important mechanism – an ingenious one. They’re like an alert system on your phone. Every time the feeling of anger or anxiousness arises, it’s a message: ‘Stop. Take a moment to review your situation. There is something happening that you need to be paying attention to.’ But you have to take the time to dig, and try to get to the root of what this emotion is trying to tell you. Don’t just stop at the surface…dig deeper.”
So when I get angry with a stupid driver who cuts me off, what is my anger telling me?
- “I hate it when other drivers are reckless.”
- “I hate that he’s going to get away with driving like that.”
- “Why do bad people get away with doing bad things? It’s unfair.”
- “Life’s unfair.”
- “It’s a matter of showing RESPECT to other drivers.”
- “I hate it when people disrespect me. It makes me feel bad about myself.”
Your emotions are your body’s way of alerting you to a deeper issue. It’s almost never exclusively about the situation at hand (driver cutting you off). But you have to take the time to analyze the emotion and dig a little deeper. “What is this emotion telling me?”
Stay tuned for part 2!