The King

After reading Master Muse Elisa Levy’s thought-provoking piece in last week’s Key West Citizen, I realized I had never truly understood what sets self-esteem apart from confidence. Understanding these differences contributes to the courage we summon when faced with the often daunting and confusing challenge of following our dreams.  Dream-chasing often requires you to stand in the face of dismay, dismissal and strong disapproval by those nearest and dearest.  Dream-chasing often requires bold and audacious action.  Dream-chasing may be one of the most courageous quests you ever attempt.  Giving up some or all of your family’s, your friend’s, your partner’s or society’s ideals and creating your own version is no easy feat. But, if you persevere and weather the dismay, the disapproval, the resentment; you will discover the most amazing portal of possibility and realize your dreams were patiently waiting for you…all this time. Royce


Self-esteem is like good health:  You can never have enough.  The problem is that most people don’t want to believe they could use some help in this area.  We feel badly about the fact that we feel bad.  No wonder it’s hard to do anything about it.  It’s easy to confuse self-esteem with confidence.  We may feel confident in our abilities to do a job, play a sport or learn a new skill, but that doesn’t mean we have high self-esteem. 

Confidence is about what we do.  Self-esteem is about who we are.

 Studies show that approximately 80 percent of 5-year-olds have high self-esteem.  By the time those same children reach the age of 15, less than 10 percent of them feel good about themselves.  What changes?

As children mature, they become aware of the expectations parents, peers, siblings and society have of them.  These standards are often unrealistic and narrow.  Consequently many people feel inferior for not meeting these impossible goals and are embarrassed to admit it.

Low self-esteem is not a weakness.  It is an opportunity.

We strive to be more beautiful, wealthy, intelligent and important, only to realize that no matter how far we come we’re still less than perfect.  So, at some point (usually our lowest) we may begin to question the goals we seek.  Ultimately, self-esteem isn’t about reaching society’s ideals for perfection, it’s about rejecting them.

Improving our self-esteem requires two things:  Honest recognition that we need it, and a willingness to put effort into changing on a daily basis.  Here are a few ideas to start:

1.     TAKE INVENTORY:  How do you know what you’ve got if you never really take stock?  List all the qualities you like in yourself and list the ones you want to change.  Write them down and look over the list when you’re done.  The simple length of each list can be an eye-opener.  You can make separate lists for your physical appearance, intellect and personality.  Next, share your list with someone who cares about you and knows how to communicate honestly.  Ask for this person’s feedback.  You may be surprised by their reaction.  Chances are they will be able to highlight several more positives.  The benefit of the inventory exercise is two-fold:  First, you get to see yourself from your own perspective.  Second, you get the input of someone who sees you objectively.

2.     AVOID SPOILERS:  Do your best to stay away from people and things that don’t make you feel good about yourself…

3.    OBSERVE YOUR THOUGHTS:  Start noticing how many times a day you think negatively about yourself.  We often don’t even realize we’re doing it.  When you catch yourself thinking something self-critical, change the thought to something more positive.  For example, if you say to yourself, “I can never do that right.” Catch the thought and change it to, “I don’t always get that one right, but I am working on it and I am trying.”  The very act of observing our thoughts can be truly eye-opening.  We begin to realize just how self-critical we are.


Another important idea, from a Todd Kashdan presentation, author of CURIOUS:  

BE VERY CAREFUL WITH THE WORDS YOU USE – EVEN IN YOUR MIND.  Words are powerful.  Very powerful.  Especially the ones you use on yourself.  For example, we only share, out loud, 5% of the thoughts we have during an average day.  This means that 95% of the conversations we have are in our head!  So, it’s critically important to pay attention to how you talk to yourself.  Self-talk is often the source of self-doubt and self-sabotage.  Learn and practice “Mindful Presence.”  For example, when you catch yourself saying, “ I feel like an idiot! ”  Stop this thought.  Then, replace it with, “I notice I’m having the thought that I feel like an idiot.”  By simply adding, “I notice I’m having the thought…” you will discover you have taken the emotional stinger out of the negative self-talk.  This takes a little practice, but it’s worth it. -Royce

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