“No man ever got very high by pulling other people down. The intelligent merchant does not knock his competitors. The sensible worker does not knock those who work with him. Don't knock your friends. Don't knock your enemies. Don't knock yourself.” - Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom during much of Queen Victoria's reign
Do you find it difficult to make decisions? When you get to know other people do you feel they are much more accomplished than you are? While several weeks ago I wrote about how being arrogant will hold you back from success, having a healthy, balanced self-image is a crucial component of mental fitness.
Have you met someone who no matter what positive thing you say about yourself he one-ups you? If you finally do a five-mile run his response is something like, “Oh that’s nothing. I ran a half-marathon last week.” I find people like that extremely annoying and avoid them whenever possible. They have chosen one of the two paths to building self-esteem: put others down so that by comparison they look and feel better. But,
The problem is even if people profess to be your friend such behavior does not build loyalty or intimacy. After a while, the only person who will tolerate consistent belittling is someone with a poor self-image. So the connection is based on destroying the person’s emotional soundness. How can this be called a relationship?
The other path for raising self-esteem is self-improvement. When you reach a goal or overcome a hurdle in your life you are a different person as a result. You have evidence that you have developed some aspect of yourself be it your abilities or character. As important, your self-confidence is built on a solid foundation of accomplishments, brick by brick.
This is perhaps the best part. By choosing this tool for boosting your self-image, you can help others around you move up too.
But, most people do not pursue purely one or the other tool. They think they are building their self-esteem based only on accomplishment, but they have a blind spot or two. For example, many people disparage lawyers, politicians, or large companies. The message, unintended or not, is that they are better than the group they are criticizing. Yet there are many fine people in all of these groups.
The inability to acknowledge the worth of people in a group you dislike demonstrates weakness in your self-confidence. Evincing a sense of superiority to a group inhibits your develop. Paraphrasing Viktor Frankl,
By hewing ever closer to building your self-image through accomplishment, you keep yourself firmly in the decent group.
Question – What is your plan for intentionally raising your self-esteem?
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