Many people want to change something in their lives: career, environment, remuneration, relationship-status, fitness, appearance… the list goes on. But deep down, do they believe they are worth it?
Most change is difficult. Change involves ditching old familiar habits, for new practices that seem odd and unfamiliar. In the beginning this is exciting. We push off from old familiar shorelines, confident of success. But the honeymoon period soon ends, and as we find ourselves navigating unexpected waters (or becalmed midstream and not moving at all), it’s easy to lose faith in ourselves. It’s too easy to go back to old familiar ways.
Whether we are trying to lose a few kilos, gain a bit of assertiveness or raise the value of our work, we are sure to encounter setbacks. So the crucial question is: do we believe enough in ourselves to continue the journey?
Self-esteem vs. Self-worth
Many people equate this self-belief with self-esteem. However, today’s psychologists seems to be tripping over each other in order to distance themselves from the self-esteem movement, that has swept America over the past few decades.
There are several problems with self-esteem. First, it’s all too often conditional: on achievement, on appearance, on being your best. On many days, we are not at our best: these are precisely the days that we need our sense of self-worth.
Second: the pursuit of self-esteem rapidly leads to narcissism and self-preoccupation. Self-esteem calls us to walk down the street as it we own it. Self-worth allows us to walk down the street and not care who owns it.
The net result of decades of self-esteem focus is a generation preoccupied with Likes. Self-worth does not need this daily dose of validation.
True self-worth is visible even on days when you are not living up to your own expectations of yourself. As in Kipling’s poem, “If”:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools.
Self-worth is the ultimate foundation upon which all improvement can (or cannot) be built. After decades working with people on issues like pricing and value, I’ve seen a single truth time after time: you cannot charge a fee if you cannot get the words out.
In recent years, I’m beginning to realise that the exact same foundation (of self-worth) is just as essential to love, happiness, career-direction, sense of purpose and a host of other domains. In particular, I see a lot of Millennials chasing a sense of purpose at work (no doubt as part of self-esteem addiction), while their innate sense of self-worth is fragile or even unexplored.
All too often, the result is a well-meaning volunteer (or employee) running from project to project, chasing that elusive sense-of-purpose and the self-esteem it’s supposed to bring. Such people make the worst possible colleagues and collaborators. They are often a worse investment than their self-assured, self-serving cousins; at least with them, you know where you stand!
I am currently preparing a handbook for a short program, that can be run either individually or in groups. Hopefully, this will be ready for September 2017, and I’m particularly keen to make it available to young people, even teenagers.
The idea is to work in small groups of 5-10 people, over a 6-8 week period. At present, there is no charge for this program. If you are interested, please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance” — Oscar Wilde